April 12, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #375: The Pantheon

A secret group of heroes once recruited the Hulk.

Every so often, I realize some character or group tailor made for this weekly feature has been, for one reason or another, completely ignored when I write these up. These are characters that appear sporadically if at all, may or may not have cool backstories, and in some cases, are just a favorite of a particular creator, so they don’t appear too often in other books.  Many times when I skip them, it may have as much to do with a general inability to find too many pictures I can borrow off Google Images.  Other times, I just forget about them.

That includes the Pantheon, a group of superhumans that appeared for quite a bit during writer Peter David’s run on The Incredible Hulk.

The Pantheon first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #368 in April of 1990.  Shortly after the Hulk had been “combined” into the persona of Professor Hulk, a Hulk that was supposed to have the green Hulk’s strength (and coloring), the gray Hulk’s wiles (and haircut), and Banner’s intelligence (and face), he was approached by members of the Pantheon looking to recruit him for their group.  He had initially said “no,” but casually swatting aside a woman calling herself Atalanta really angered the large, armored member Ajax.  Ajax wasn’t very bright, and he was smitten with Atalanta, so even though she wasn’t really hurt, he attacked the Hulk.  The other members present–Atalanta, Ulysses, and Hector–joined in, and after the obligatory fight, the Hulk took up their offer to join the group.

If you remember a period, around the same time as the original Infinity Gauntlet story, where the Hulk wore some kind of brown jumpsuit he couldn’t zip over his massive chest, or even some kind of a tank top, that was essentially his Pantheon uniform.

The Pantheon were essentially a secret group of do-gooders who lived in a Nevada mountain they called “the Mount.”  They all had some resistance to injury, enhanced strength, and some healing abilities alongside long lifespans.  Some of them had additional powers on top of those.  All of them were in some way ascended from their leader Agamemnon, and he was mostly just immortal.  Agamemnon initially appeared as a very old man but that turned out to be an illusion as he’d stopped aging in his late teens, and there was a running joke that he might have been Bucky since the Winter Soldier concept hadn’t been created yet.  As for the more prominent other members that weren’t the Hulk…

  • Ulysses had an energy sword and shield.  He was the one who seemed to be the Hulk’s closest friend on the team.
  • Hector could fly and carried an energy mace.  He was also openly gay at a time when you didn’t see a lot of characters like that.
  • Atalanta had an energy bow.
  • Ajax needed special armor to keep his massive body from crushing him.  He had the mind of a child and his strength increased with his anger…and yes, the Hulk did note that sounded familiar when he found out.
  • Delphi could see the future in a pool of water, but she had to be naked to do so.  Both Ulysses and Paris had a thing for her.
  • Paris had some empathic abilities and was something of a schemer, the one most likely to be seen as a bad guy if one of them had to be.
  • Achilles was indestructible unless in the presence of low level gamma radiation…you know, like the Hulk gives off.  He was something of a cocky asshole, though, so when he went bad, that vulnerability came in handy.
  • Cassiopea was a hippie woman who could absorb energy and use it to fire off blasts of all kinds.
  • Jason had one eye and used guns.
  • Prometheus had a deformed face, but he was able to track anyone in his supped-up car, even across the vacuum of space.

Now, for all that the rank and file of the Pantheon had long lives and tended to heal injuries quickly, they weren’t necessarily immortal outside of Agamemnon.  And, as a result, he didn’t really form any real attachments to them.  It eventually came out Agamemnon was the son of Loki and an unnamed mortal woman, but why someone descended from an Asgardian trickster god used a bunch of Greek mythological names, I have no idea.

Agamemnon eventually took a leave of absence, and the Hulk opted to use the group to do more public good.  It turned out Agamemnon might not have been that sane or benevolent, eventually coming back to attack the others with cybernetic versions of the corpses of dead Pantheon members long gone called the Endless Knights.  That story ended with Achilles, the only one to side with Agamemnon, killed by Ulysses while Agamemnon himself blew up in a manner that did seem familiar to, well, anyone who knew Bucky’s story.  Delphi had already left the group, so Ulysses went after her.  Paris took over the remains of the Pantheon with a vague threat issued toward the Hulk, who was also leaving at that point.  That was walked back later when the Pantheon faked the Hulk’s death to try to get him to come back, but it didn’t work.  And, until Peter David came back to do some Maestro mini-series for Marvel, I think that was the last anyone saw of the Pantheon since he seemed to be the only writer who cared to use them for, oh, anything.

Though why they opted to recruit the Hulk, since he was not descended from Agamemnon like all the others, I haven’t the foggiest notion.  Who knows?  Maybe Agamemnon and Achilles would have lived longer if they hadn’t…