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SILVER-AGE FLASHBACK: Incredible Hulk 122 (December 1969)

March 28, 2002

This week's review is from a story published toward the end of Marvel's Silver Age--from December 1969, Incredible Hulk 122.

I first read this story approximately 20 years ago when it was reprinted in the long-since defunct Marvel Super-Heroes series. During this era of the Hulk's tales, he'd been meeting guest-stars galore. This is, technically, the 21st issue of Incredible Hulk since his title began with issue 102 (the previous issues were titled, as long-time fans know, Tales to Astonish, a titled the Hulk shared with Sub-Mariner, among others). Since the start of his own title with issue 102, guest stars had included the Sub-Mariner, Ka-Zar, and others. Issue 122 features the fabulous Fantastic Four and is fashionably scripted by Roy Thomas who seemed to be having a lot of fun with this series.

While the story is not heavy on plot, it has plenty of action and continues various themes that had been introduced earlier in the Hulk's Astonish stories. The Hulk, tired of being pursued, sees a freight train passing by. Believing the freight cars might be full of soldiers with guns, he becomes enraged and smashes the train with as little effort as one might smash a model HO-scale train set. Herb Trimpe's visuals depicting this scene were quite pleasing to the eye. Afterward, as the panicked train crew flees, the Hulk sleeps and becomes Bruce Banner once again. Upon waking and seeing the destruction, Banner laments how desperately he wants an end to the Hulk nightmare. Moments later, a newspaper blows by and lands directly at his feet (I wonder how comic book characters in the 60s ever found out what was happening in the world were it not for the stray newspaper blowing by). The paper's front-page it states "Reed Richards finds cure for Hulk--Searching for Bruce Banner" or words to that effect. Banner reads this then jots down some additional notes (apparently the newspaper article disclosed the exact means by which Reed's device would cure Banner) and ties the notes to his waist (thinking that if he finds the FF but becomes the Hulk these notes will help Richards). Thus, Banner boards a passing freight (one that hasn't been derailed by the Hulk) and ends up in New York.

Richards has posted a security crew in the Baxter Building's lobby to screen for Banner, knowing that (because its a comic book) Banner will have seen the newspaper headlines. The guards are there to keep out the riffraff who would impersonate Banner but to grant access to the real Banner. Of course Banner arrives just when an unbriefed guard is posted at the elevator. He hassles Banner, not at all believing Banner to be who he claims he is (you'd have thought Reed would have left a huge mug shot of Banner in the lobby with a note saying, "This is what he looks like you over-rated rent-a-cops. PS: Don't get him angry; you wouldn't like him when he's angry").

Alas, a struggle ensues and the Hulk is once more at large. He realizes where he is and remembers that the FF is his enemy. He begins to ascend toward the FF's headquarters through the elevator shaft while at the same time the Thing is descending in an elevator car. You'll recall that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. The elevator car and the Thing are sent crashing thru the roof of the Baxter Building. The Hulk then takes attacks the rest of the FF. During the encounter, the notes Banner had written earlier fall from the Hulk's pants and are picked up by the inhuman Crystal (the late-60s equivalent of Kato Kaylin who often stayed with the FF). Reed peruses the notes with a kind of "Of course, that's the answer I was looking for!" revelation. The Thing returns in the nick o' time as Reed tells him to keep the Hulk at bay for a few minutes while he adjusts his weapon based on Banner's notes. The Thing obliges, and the Hulk is knocked through a window and plummets to the earth below, miraculously injuring no one. Reed then stretches down to the street and zaps the Hulk with his weapon. The Hulk plummets into unconsciousness and as the FF stand over him they say, "He's down, and the Hulk must never rise again" (again, or words to that effect). Is he down for good? Did he ever rise again? Considering that the series ran another 300 or so issues, I'd likely say "yes." But quite a cliffhanger nonetheless. This issue also features several wordless pages that really showcase much of Herb's art when his passion for comics was really apparent.

Hulk on!

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