The excitement of the last issue isn’t quite carried over here, but this issue is not an unsatisfying conclusion of the two-part Hulk & Thing storyline. The only thing that disappoints is the lack of closure that is felt at the end.
But up to that point, it still pleases. We pick up just seconds after the last issue and find an exhausted Fantastic Four still trying to contain an unflagging Hulk. This is a point that we see the FF at the very end of their powers’ abilities, pushing themselves further than they thought they would be able to go. The Torch can barely fly straight, Mr Fantastic can hardly stand, and Sue is still feeling the limits of new powers she doesn’t fully understand. A dogged Thing is still on his feet but unable to muster any real opposition after the events of the last issue.
Add to this the return of The Avengers to New York. Swaggering in, they attempt to wrest control of the situation from the FF, and they all end up getting in each other’s way. They never quite seem to spark off each other, and so it doesn’t turn out to be a true team-up (not that anyone said that it was). That in itself is rather gratifying, however. Instead of a cheesy “I’m glad we were able to put our conflicts aside and work together,” instead we have a considerably less cheesy “Next time we should put our conflicts aside and work together.” It makes a difference. But yes, the ending is a little deflating, considering the stakes that were raised in the last issue.
The Hulk, as Banner, is allowed to just slip away along the Hudson river’s tide after being fed a “gamma irradiated pill” by Rick Jones. So The Hulk disappears and they all look around at each other and say “well, maybe next time…”. Why doesn’t Reed cobble together a gamma-tracing device and they all go after him again? That’s what they’d do if this moment came at page 12 instead of page 21.
A better ending would have been the FF finding it within themselves to take down the Hulk, in the face of all adversity. The BEST ending would have been The Thing finding it within himself to take down The Hulk, in the face of all adversity. Either way, it should have ended with him being carted away in an armored cage lifted by helicopter, than with him slinking off into the sunset.
Still and all, an above average tale, and a fun ride.