12. The Incredible Hulk

The Fantastic Four Issue Twelve (12)

Issue Twelve

“I’ve come to enlist your help! I want you to find and destroy The Hulk!”

Ben Grimm is out with Alicia when a passing infantry garrison attacks him, mistaking him for The Hulk. Going back the Baxter Building, he and the rest of the Fantastic Four meet General “Thunderbolt” Ross who wants them to find and kill The Hulk. Taking off in their new Fantasticar, they travel to “a large missle base in the south west” where they are introduced to Rick Jones and Bruce Banner. Investigating, they find that someone is sabotaging the base, making it look like The Hulk is destroying things. The Wrecker kidnaps Rick Jones and Bruce turns himself into the Hulk to make the FF leave, a condition of the ransom. The Hulk attacks the FF and through the course of the conflict, they find out who The Wrecker actually is and rescue Rick Jones.

This is the first proper cross-over issue for the Fantastic Four, where a character with its own series title enters their world. Previously, that hasn’t happened, Namor not having his own title at this time. The FF have appeared in other comics as guest appearances, but so far no one has entered this title. This is also the first time that Dr Reed Richards meets Dr Bruce Banner.

It’s a good one. The story is fairly formulaic, but it’s a mixture of two formulas. The first is what has become a fairly familiar FF opening: The Thing taking Alicia for a date on the town (although previously, they have always met at her apartment, this is the first they have gone somewhere) and while on the streets, he is mistaken by a passing army squad (?) for the Hulk. That is a fairly entertaining engagement — Kirby served in the regular army during World War II, and his army scenes are always extremely well portrayed.

This tale operates under the very early HULK formula, which proves to be quite rigid, probably the main reason for the title’s early demise. In this story, Banner doesn’t turn into the Hulk due to becoming angry, but by re-exposing himself to gamma radiation. Thus, in every tale, there would have to be a threat to Banner great enough to make him bring out the Hulk.

This issue is interesting for the appearance (much earlier than I’d expected) of the much snazzier Fantasticar mk II, which Reed says has been modified (from the original) by Johnny.  We have already seen Johnny monkeying around with cars several times (issues 1 and 4) and it is an aspect of his character that has unfortunately fallen away from his character. Why should Reed be the only one to build anything? This change was apparently due to popular demand, although the ‘bathtub’ version it replaced won’t stay gone for long. It remains iconic and shows Jack’s early abstract flair for advanced science — like Doom’s Time Platform, it wasn’t always crazy-looking machinery. It’s a fun tale, and it’s enjoyable to see the FF in a different setting with another cast of already well-developed characters. It’s as fun to see The Thing tackle The Hulk as it is to see The Torch interact with Rick Jones. Again, for its aims and promises, it delivers.


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