Monday, April 16, 2018

Re-Enter: The Hulk!

A year and a half after the original six-issue run of Incredible Hulk ended with a whimper, the title character was brought back in the pages of Tales To Astonish in the fall of 1964 to share the book in its split format--bringing down the curtain on its long-running sci-fi/monster tales once and for all and replacing them with a man-monster that would hopefully find new life after a long hiatus.

But it doesn't look like the Hulk is too keen on sharing his new book with anybody--much less an overgrown Avenger who was probably looking forward to finally having the book all to himself.

Come on, Thor, show us your moves on those still rings! (Who knew the original Avengers just chilled together?)

It's the broadcast* of the Hulk's battle with Spider-Man that's brought the green goliath to Giant-Man's attention. But unlike his fellow Avengers, who depart once their meeting concludes, Giant-Man becomes preoccupied with the Hulk--and Henry Pym's partner, the Wasp, finds that he's suddenly made other dinner plans for them.

*How there can be news footage of a fight that took place in a hidden cave is anyone's guess.

We also see that Giant-Man's old, persistent foe, the Human Top, is out on parole and holding a grudge for his past defeat at this pair's hands. And so when Hank and Jan take off for New Mexico, where the Hulk was last reported sighted, the Top tags along in his civilian guise and waits for an opportunity to strike.

As for the Hulk, no one yet knows of his connection with physicist Bruce Banner, who continues to work at the missile base commanded by General "Thunderbolt" Ross. Banner isn't pleased at Giant-Man's arrival, having apparently ceased using his gamma ray machine to trigger his transformations and now only wishes to be left in peace and keep his pulse rate down. Bruce Banner is thus a complication that will doom Giant-Man's mission before it starts, since Banner has no wish to transform to the Hulk just to accommodate the Avengers; but as we'll see, the Hulk misinterprets Giant-Man's reason for seeking him out.

And if you think the Human Top is going to pass up an opportunity like this, brother, think again.

Following a failed attempt by the Top to meet and team up with the raging man-monster, the Hulk is spotted by Giant-Man as he begins leaping from town to town in an effort to locate the Avenger. Using a rocket tailored to Ant-Man, Pym races ahead to the town the Hulk is headed for and evacuates it so that he can confront the Hulk there without endangering the residents (though it never occurs to Giant-Man to simply stand in the desert and wave the Hulk down to him, thereby assuring their confrontation results in no damage or casualties). Instead, someone else intercepts the Hulk; and to hedge his bets, the Human Top arranges for the military to blast Giant-Man off the face of the Earth.

If you feel like you've suffered whiplash in seeing how this one man has managed to so easily manipulate two of the most powerful forces on Earth to do his bidding in as many minutes--and set in motion a nuclear strike in the process--believe me, I'm headed to the E.R. right behind you.

Meanwhile, if you were expecting Giant-Man to somehow be able to reach the Hulk--well, you're new in town, aren't you?

It's interesting that, thus far, Giant-Man is clearly under the impression that he and the Hulk are fighting as equals--which is perhaps understandable, if he's going solely by his very brief experience with the Hulk in the Avengers and none of the team was ever briefed on his clash with Thor. Knowing that his foe is in Thor's class probably wouldn't have deterred Giant-Man from pursuing this mission, but it might have better determined his tactics; instead, he's fighting with the standard methods of the Giant-Man playbook, against a raging foe that will grow tired of such tricks very quickly.

Elsewhere, old blood-'n-guts Thunderbolt Ross gives the order to fire, and the now "small bore atomic shell" which will only "damage a minimum of property" is on its way. It's news to me that there were such things as small-bore atomic weapons in the '60s, since the term is usually applied to firearms ammunition that penetrate objects (or people)--but I guarantee you I'm not going to feel any better about it if I see even a small nuclear shell heading my way.

Nor does the Wasp, as she desperately tries to disarm the shell but fails. (Props for catching up to the thing at all, Jan. You must have atomic-powered wings to overtake military ordnance.) Yet she does manage to broadcast a warning to her partner, who finally succeeds in breaking through to the Hulk--if only to convince him to sacrifice himself by sending him on a one-way ticket to his death. Gee, Giant-Man, with friends like you...

"If this is gonna be the end of the Hulk, then who cares?? It'll be the best thing that could happen!! I'm no good to myself--or to anyone else!!" The Hulk may have just summed up his entire career in comics up to this point.

Despite the utter chaos and drama of an atomic blast--from what now is described as a "modern, low-yield atomic shell" (pretty soon we'll probably be talking about a spitball)--we're presented with an all's-well-that-ends-well ending, as everyone dusts themselves off and call it a day. And the Hulk turned out to be right on the money: no one seems to care that he's presumed to have met his end in the explosion. Not Ross, certainly; but not even Giant-Man? Jeez, look where his priorities are.

Maybe Bruce Banner ought to pop the champagne at dodging the Avengers' bullet.
If not the small bore, low-yield, modern, atomic nuclear warhead shell.

Talk about product placement!
Here's the house ad that was ready to lasso readers at the end of the story.

Tales To Astonish #59

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Dick Ayers
Inks: Paul Reinman
Letterer: Art Simek


Anonymous said...

When dealing with the Hulk, one really doesn't have a lot of options. I might suggest some kind of knock-out gas, which has worked before, or exiling him to outer space, which also serves as a temporary respite.
Speaking of which, I just caught "Thor Ragnarok" and enjoyed it quite a bit! I groaned at first, because it looked like it was just gonna be a comedic farce, but it grew on me pretty quickly.
I won't give away any spoilers out of consideration to any other Fellow Frantic Fans of PPOC (FFFPPOC for short)who haven't seen it yet, but there is a scene where the Hulk shows up, violently, on an alien world on which Thor and Loki have found themselves stranded.
Loki, startled, blurts out, "I need to get off this planet."
The movie's worth seeing just for the Dr. Strange scene. And Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster is eerily similar to a couple of bosses I had in the past.
In fact, I think a lot of people who see the film are gonna say, "Yeah, I used to work for that guy."
But I digress, as usual. Interesting post. I remember seeing the cover but I hadn't seen the story before, and I wondered how Giant Man got outta that situation in one piece.

M.P. (I come from the land of the ice and snow but this is April so enough already)

George Chambers said...

The second panel you posted is so goofy! It looks like Hank is weightlifting (fair enough), Thor is doing gymnastics (yeah, OK Thor, I guess), Jan is doing... nothing? Cap is practicing his Jack Kirby legs-apart poses, and Iron Man is testing his toys, including his new, built-in BUTT MAGNETS!

Comicsfan said...

As usual, George, you're right on the money! (Though Iron Man looks like he's getting a little stability help from Giant-Man's shoulder, I guess?)

M.P., I'll probably view "Thor: Ragnarok" at some point, mostly on your recommendation. The film Thor always catches my eye for the wrong reason: that disproportioned hammer that makes me want to crush my TV's remote control in my hand. But the recent film does open some doors to other Marvel concepts, and I really like the fact that Strange is making an appearance.

Anonymous said...

It's curious how both the Hulk and the She-Hulk had their original books cancelled after a short run (25 issues in the She-Hulk's case) and could have disappeared from the Marvel Universe but both were given a second chance.

Jared said...

Your observation of the broadcast of Hulk's fight with Spidey is the best spot on commentary I have seen in a long time.

I think it is amazing that Hulk was finally able to take off like he did. Compared to virtually every other classic Marvel character, there seems to have been much more trial and error in creating his mythos. He was also able to survive through more starting and stopping. And not all of the Tales to Astonish stories are exactly 60s Marvel gold in my opinion.

Comicsfan said...

Colin and Jared, you raise a good issue about how Marvel was reluctant to let the Hulk just fade away. I was thinking just the other day about this particular reappearance, and how odd it was that, after the Hulk's tussle with Giant-Man, the character's stories basically returned to the same status quo as before--Banner back at Ross's missile base, surrounded by the same cast of characters that failed him before. But with the novelty of the Hulk's mysterious and menacing appearance having worn off, they were free to give Banner a more prominent role as well as bring in other people like Glenn Talbot to enhance the military angle. (It also didn't hurt to have other super-powered characters start showing up in the desert to stir up trouble.)