The second issue of The Incredible Hulk helps to expand out the Marvel 616 universe. For the first time, more than just superheroes become aware of aliens that might threaten Earth. To be clear, there were plenty of Marvel stories involving aliens before this issue. Still, as far as 616 goes, the public becomes aware of these invasions thanks to the rather forgettable enemy of the Toadmen. These aliens want to invade earth but first want to know how advanced humanity is scientifically. They capture the most brilliant scientific mind they can find who happens to be Dr. Bruce Banner. Now, I think there is an argument that perhaps they should have set their sights on Reed Richards, but this is Hulk’s book, so Bruce is the target.
The issue starts with establishing that the Hulk is known to the public and he is considered a menace. Townsfolk run and hide when they see him coming, they gasp in horror at his appearance. Speaking of his appearance, he is now green like we all think him to be. Hulk does some property damage as truckers plow into him and law enforcement attempts to capture him. They are not successful. The only person that might have a chance at quelling his rampage is Rick Jones. We are treated to a flashback to the previous issue which reminds us how Bruce Banner was changed by an accident involving a Gamma Bomb test. Rick managers to get Hulk away from the crowd and he changes back to Bruce Banner.
Bruce is smart enough to realize he needs to barricade himself every evening to keep the Hulk from going on a total rampage against humanity. He has found a cave with a huge underwater outcropping that he can barricade with a ten-foot thick solid concrete wall. He expects Rick to let him out every morning but more importantly, make sure the Hulk stays in at night. Before they can get set, the Toadmen teleport Bruce and Rick to their ship.
There they tell the pair that the Toadmen are masters of magnetism (a power that will be used to great effect in the pages of The X-Men) and unless Bruce tells them what they want to know they will destroy the earth. This does seem a little backward since they already have the power to threaten the earth. The Toadmen realize Rick is not necessary to their plans so they send him back home. Unfortunately for the Toadmen, they go to the dark side of the earth, and at this point in the series, Bruce changes to Hulk at night. He easily overpowers the aliens and on the tenth page gives us a hint of what horrors could be expected if Hulk’s rage is truly unleashed as he says, “With this flying dreadnaught under me, I can wipe out all mankind! Now the Hulk will be the hunter instead of the hunted.”
Back on earth, General Thunderbolt Ross is ready to shoot down the spaceship. Rick tries to warn the base Bruce is on board but he’s too late. Bruce Banner survives the crash and Ross assumes he is a traitor to the country. While Bruce is imprisoned the Toadmen decide to attack. The world is now aware there are intelligent species from space that have made contact with the earth. This moment is the reason that in 616 continuity, it’s unusual for people to be surprised aliens exist.
Soon Bruce changes back to the Hulk and breaks through the prison walls. Hulk declares Ross to be his enemy as he smashes through the army base. He makes it to Betty Ross’ house and the General is forced to attempt to save her. He wants to try tanks but Rick convinces Ross to let him try reasoning with the creature. Hulk is not having it and knocks Rick down. For the first time, he grabs Betty Ross and leaves the house. Betty tries to ask him why he is doing this and why he hates humans. Hulk’s answer is, “Look what men have done to me!” and goes on to declare, “…now the Hulk will fight back! On my own terms!” This sets up the pattern of the comic for years to come. Humans misunderstand and hound the Hulk until he has had enough and turns on them. He doesn’t harm anyone that we can see but he does do plenty of property damage.
A well-timed attack by the Toadmen allows Hulk to transform back to Bruce Banner at dawn without Betty seeing. He goes from green to gray to his normal human skin tone. Bruce acts quickly and uses one of his Gamma inventions, a ray gun, to stop the aliens. Again we see atomic energy as both blessing and curse here. Bruce defends the planet and even Thunderbolt Ross has to admit that this one time Bruce cleared his own name. He’s still suspicious of both Banner and Hulk though.
At the end of the issue, Hulk is imprisoned for the first time in the cave that Bruce will come back to over and over.
This issue is fairly typical of The Incredible Hulk. The villains are never able to truly outshine the star of this book. Hulk is such a force in and of himself that villains almost feel unnecessary here. The series will continue in this manner for years, although Hulk does get some key moments outside of his own book soon as well.
Next on the reading list is Amazing Adult Fantasy #14 (B Story). (This title will eventually be shortened to Amazing Fantasy).
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