166. If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be The Hulk

Fantastic Four 166 cover

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Six, Jan 1976

“Why do you four have all this sentiment about a monster that tried to kill you?”

The Fantastic Four travel to Nebraska on a mission from the U.S. Government to capture the Hulk. To this effect, Reed has brought a miniaturized psi-amplifier. On the way, their plane is hit by the Hulk and they are forced to make a crash landing. Briefed by Colonel Sellers, the FF gain his assurance that he intends to turn the Hulk over to them once he has reverted back to Bruce Banner. The FF find the Hulk by tracking his gamma radioactivity and render him unconscious fairly quickly. In the military lab, Reed manages to revert the Hulk back to Banner, but when Colonel Sellers reveals that he doesn’t intend to give Banner to the FF, The Thing frees him. This changes Banner back to the Hulk, but instead of recapturing him, The Thing says that he’s going to fight with the Hulk for his freedom.

Hulk vs Fantastic Four George PerezThis is a low-key issue with some up-front annoying elements, but also some quiet, deft touches. The annoyances are easily stated — neither Perez nor Thomas are, superficially, up to their best. The faces never quite fit on the heads, art-wise, and the pages are absolutely filled with needless narration boxes that don’t inform, that just add noise and clutter.

However: the story is very well paced and there is great flow between the panels and the pages — something that is hard to do, something that is often only noticed when it’s done badly. From a story point of view, it’s nice to see the FF (or any superhero) use their powers for something other than violence. And when they do actually fight the Hulk they do it very quickly, very methodically, and with no joy. In fact, this joylessness is important to the story, being one of several plot points that add to Ben Grimm’s reversal on the last page of the issue — a reversal which actually makes sense. This unexpected inevitability is quite hard to pull off, but it’s done very subtly and very well here.


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