Hulk has returned to Jarella’s world of K’ai to bury her body. Having found the world decimated since he last visited it he was taken to the Valley of Life to bury his love. There he was attacked by The Gardener who refuses to let any living humanoid set foot in his small paradise.
Bound in vines, the Hulk demands that the Gardener to let him free so he can bury Jarella. The Gardener refuses, and as the Hulk continues to struggle, the Elder of the Universe realizes that he cannot explain himself to the Hulk in this state of mind. Using his Soul Gem, the Gardener awakens the mind of Bruce Banner….
Although they are all referred to as Soul Gems here, these are actually the Infinity Gems which are not called by that name until Silver Surfer Vol 3 #44. Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #5 clarifies that the Infinity Gem that the Gardner had in his possession on the moon was actually the Time Gem. It also confirms that the Gem used by Adam Warlock was specifically the Soul Gem.
He explains how he, like the other Elders of the Universe, have one single obsession to govern the eons-long lifetimes, with his being Gardening. He tells how he obtained a Soul Gem and used it recently to create a lush garden on Earth’s Moon. When the Stranger came to his paradise, the Gardener got assistance in dispelling the invader with the aid of Spider-Man and Adam Warlock. Warlock and the Gardener combined the power of their Soul Gem’s in order to repel the Stranger.
However, thinking that he had tainted his Gem’s ability to sustain life on the moon, the Gardener left, leaving the Gem behind. This Gem ended up in the possession of the Mad Titan known as Thanos, who was collecting all the Soul Gems to power a massive synthetic gem which he plotted to use to snuff out all the stars in the universe. Thanos was stopped thanks to the combined efforts of the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Thing and Adam Warlock. However, Warlock perished while turning Thanos into stone. The heroes then buried Warlock’s body on an asteroid and left his Soul Gem there on his grave. The Gardener later came and collected the Soul Gem and took it with him to K’ai where he created the Valley of Life. Remembering how his last paradise was tainted, the Gardener vowed to never allow man to tread in his gardens again.
With the tale finished, Banner asks the Gardener to at least allow him to give the woman he loves a decent burial. The Gardener refuses and carries Jarella’s body away, assuring Banner that she will be buried. Having yet another thing taken away from him causes Banner to burst into tears. His sorrow is so great his body reverts back to human form, allowing him to get free of the vines he is caught in. However, Banner refuses to give in and vows to find Jarella and bury her himself, even without the power of the Hulk.
Jarella’s followers wait outside of the Valley of Life fearing that their would-be king had been killed there. Suddenly, a stampede of animals come rushing out of the forest and begin attacking them. While inside the lush region, Banner stops by a stream to get a drink of water when he is suddenly attacked by the very thing he tried to drink. As he is being pulled into the liquid, Banner’s pulse races enough to trigger another transformation into the Hulk. The Hulk fights his way free and then leaps across the Valley in order to intercept the Gardener and his animal followers. The Gardener orders the animals to attack the Hulk, but they are no match for him. Seeing signs of the battle, the people of K’ai are reinvigorated and start fighting back against their attackers. Meanwhile, with no more animals to set upon the Hulk, the Gardener tries to fight the brute one-on-one.
The two struggle and the Gardner begins to wonder how powerful the Hulk really is. As they fight, the Soul Gem levitates off the Gardener’s brow and the Hulk knocks the Gardner aside and plucks it out of the air. Hulk comes to the conclusion that if the Soul Gem could create the Valley of Life it could also restore Jarella’s entire world. With that, the Hulk throws the Soul Gem into the ground and it burrows its way directly into the planet’s core.
As the planet begins springing to life, the animals quit fighting. The people of K’ai soon join the Hulk as he buries Jarella in the Valley of Life. When her grave marker is constructed they are all surprised by a flower that suddenly pops out of the rocks. This is the work of the Gardener who has realized how selfish he was being and asks the Hulk if he can stay. The Hulk tells the Gardener as long as he remains peaceful, he may remain on K’ai. With his lover finally buried, the Hulk tells the Gardener to send him back home. With a wave of his wand, the Gardner causes the Hulk to resume his normal size, leaving the people of K’ai leaderless but with a bright future ahead of them.
Read More: Thanos takes the Time Gem from The Gardner. (Thanos Quest)