This issue of The Incredible Hulk starts off with a fun and interesting sci-fi adventure full of great feats by the Hulk and memorable situations and enemies. It ends with a dull story filled with unfortunate stereotypes that is just not an entertaining tale at all.
In the first story we see General “Thunderbolt” Ross showing Bruce Banner and Betty Ross footage of all the ways Hulk has defeated modern military weaponry. General Ross is smart enough to understand he can’t beat Hulk with brute force so he needs some brains behind his plans. That’s where Banner is supposed to come in. He swears he’ll do his best but needs Rick Jones to help. General Ross is not real keen on Rick but he can’t really tell Bruce what to do because apparently he’s only answerable to the president.
We soon switch to a scene of Betty struggling with the fact she loves Bruce but her father hates the man. We then get our first glimpse of the villain here, a man named Tyrannus. He’s got some sort of machine where he can see Betty and he can drink from the fountain of youth far underground. He was banished there by the wizard Merlin. This establishes further magic and lore that will be used in the 616 universe in pages to come.
Not only does Tyrannus have this fountain to drink from he has a legion of loyal minion creatures who seem to worship him. They are able to build machines and weapons for Tyrannus which he uses to trap Betty. He disguises himself as an archeologist but Bruce picks up on it pretty quick. Somehow Tyrannus takes Betty underground and basically Bruce has to become the Hulk to free her.
He has no real trouble getting down there but he’s instantly gassed and knocked out cold. This is still in a period where Hulk has Banner’s brain so he doesn’t just switch from Bruce to Hulk whenever he goes unconscious. Tyrannus uses Hulk as a slave and it’s here underground where we get the very first instance of “gladiator Hulk”. He’s basically dressed up like a Spartan warrior and forced to fight a robot. Hulk easily destroys it but he can’t stop Tyrannus because Betty is still captive. Rick jones sneaks away and frees her though and soon Tyrannus learns he’s messed with the wrong green dude. Throughout the story Hulk has a bit of a harder edge than in previous stories and he’s a little more hateful toward humanity, excepting Rick and Betty. Of course they all get away and live to fight another day.
And so we lead into the next story which starts out fine. General Ross fires an “Iceberg Rocket” which shoots out foam that freezes the Hulk. Unfortunately for Ross Hulk gives off intense body heat, which makes some sense if he’s pretty much gamma powered. That melts the ice and Hulk is free again. He goes back and turns back to Bruce Banner who admits, “Each time I become the Hulk, I grow more and more unwilling to return to my normal self!” As always, Bruce Banner’s truest enemy is himself.
Soon Bruce hears on the radio about a tiny asian village in the principality of Llhasa where a “General Fang” has come to take over. It’s here where the story takes a turn into unfortunate stereotypes of the time and we see some less than flattering imagery of people becoming helpless when an aggressive dictator wants to take over. Hulk hops on an airplane of all things to fly there. He’s discovered on the plane and he and Rick Jones have to jump out the emergency exit. We’ll just assume everyone else on the flight was fine.
As you might predict, Hulk comes and obliterates this army by doing things like blowing wind at them and um… dressing up like the abominable snowman. Yep, apparently General Fang’s forces are more afraid of the abominable snowman than they are of General Fang or the big green dude who literally blew them off their feet a few panels before. Turns out Fang has been winning all his battles by projecting a hologram of a dragon at the opposing forces. Hulk straight up tries to attack it and ends up trapped. Well, no trap holds Hulk for long so he goes back to fighting off this army single handed. He drops Fang off near some U.S. soldiers and that’s that.
It’s not a good Hulk story and it borders on the ridiculous but we haven’t seen the last of the big green guy and he’ll eventually get much better action happening.
Next up on the reading list we’ll be checking in on the Norse god of thunder, Thor, in Journey Into Mystery #88!