Quote: That would just give us another updated Merged Hulk again and it seems like we have been there done that. Originally The Maestro was just an older Merged Hulk?
For me, I have believed that the Maestro was Bruce's true form--him finally accepting all aspects of himself, without his moral compass (Betty)--asserting control so that he would no longer be a victim (so far, no treatment plan or therapy have focused on the effects of Bruce being abused).
I am more inclined to agree with the latter part of your question--it was a strategic strike by the Leader/Rick(it has a Middletown-ish feel about it). Why did only the handful of reporters, which included Jackie, survive the explosion? Is it coincidence that McGowan could not translocate anyone due to the fluctuating levels of gamma? The Leader, in my opinion, is the only Marvel villain where it makes sense that his contingency / long-term plans make sense due to his intelligence and cunning.
Also, there is another Easter egg in the issue, but you will have to look closely at one of the full-page panels to see it. You should have a nostalgic feeling after seeing the panel.
Otherwise, this was a good set-up issue. Leader is more powerful than ever. Samson's comment about the Hulk's rage infecting everyone reminds me of how the Sterns (Madman and Leader) were able to infect the Hulk. Since the latter now has complete control over Rick, it could be that he is manipulating gamma to cause people to become angry. Also, a nice call-back to Fortean's comment--Creel becoming something other than the usual and common environmental objects shows what he is capable of doing. Then again, is this not part of the Leader's design?
Hmm, have any of Bruce's mental therapy sessions ever focuses on the abuse?
I would think so, but having trouble remembering if they ever did.