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Incredible Hulk 125
"...And Now, The Absorbing Man!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND March, 1970

STAN LEE Editor

ROY THOMAS Writer

HERB TRIMPE Artist

SAM ROSEN Letterer

On the cover, a man-made rocket is returning to Earth, with the Absorbing Man using his ball-and-chain on the green-skinned goliath!

In the previous issue, Bruce Banner's mind had gained control of the Hulk's body... and he was about to marry Betty Ross! But the Leader struck... and now the monster has once again re-emerged in place of the man...! He doesn't remember... remember anything at all! He only knows that he was trapped... held prisoner by Bruce Banner! No one will ever capture the Hulk again! No one!!

He sees two humans... a boy and a girl out for a picnic! The Hulk recalls something about a picnic... and a girl... like the one by the lake! He remembers being happy... but is unable to retain the thought for long! In his mind's eye, he sees Betty Ross... a lake... of great happiness... and the vague image of a wedding ceremony... KRRNCH! The thought causes him pain, and the green goliath's hand crushes the car door of the waiting automobile! The girl sees the Hulk and tells her boyfriend to run!

His brain hurts, and the Hulk must do something to make it stop! SKRUTCH! The fleeing couple see what's happened to their new convertible... which has been converted to junk! Hearing the noise, he sees the couple run away... like everyone else who runs away from the Hulk! Why shouldn't they run? Is he not the Hulk? And isn't he the strongest one there is? He can do anything, such as hurling the wreckage into the lake... SPLOONSH! Anything... but stop the pain when he remembers... the girl named Betty! There is something in his mind... so powerful that even the Hulk can't fight it...!

As he rests on the soft ground, the music from the radio soothes his savagery... and whether he is the hapless Hulk or the battered Bruce Banner... he who is before us can't escape the emotion of love... not even in the far-off land of dreams! At a California Air Force Base, Major Talbot listens as an airman confirms that a giant comet is heading for Earth... from a point in space where a few hours ago, there was none! The Major notes the sound of fear in the airman's voice, and knows that the planet has passed through the tails of comets before! The image of the comet is brought onscreen, and spectrum readings shows that the comet is radioactive! If it makes contact with the Earth... all who dwell on the planet will be doomed!

The next thirty minutes finds Major Talbot studying the incoming reports from a number of scientific sources...! (Holy Selegue, Batman!) He knows that the world may only have hours left! He heads for the base's medical center... recalling how General Ross was injured during the ceremony, and how he cannot be moved! Instead of feeling like a soldier on his own ground, the Major feels like a guest -- an outsider! (Holy Winick, Batman!) The bedridden General Ross had though that Bruce Banner had been cured for good, and he asks his daughter if there's been any word on him... or the Hulk! Betty Ross fears that she may have lost the man she loves for good! She remembers how the Hulk smashed the home... where she was born! Major Talbot enters and fills General Ross in on the news, which Washington has kept from the public in fear of causing panic! Ross knows what this news means... while Betty wonders if this could be some sort of mad dream...

The Major assures her that this is all-too real, and he shows the General satellite photos of the comet! Seeing the pictures, "Thunderbolt" Ross momentarily forgets where he is... and orders all leaves cancelled... a staff car to be on standby. It sinks in how helpless they truly are, and after years of giving orders, of getting results... he suddenly feels like a tired old man...! Miles away, Bruce Banner awakens, and knows that the slightest excitement will turn him into the Hulk once again... The special radio bulletin from the station tells how a weird, uncharted comet has suddenly appeared in space! Even though the Air Force officials have denied it, it is clear that all life will be in danger from this threat!

The astronomer who first spotted the comet believes that it can be desroyed by a nuclear explosion from within the gaseous tail! No missiles, however, would be able to reach the comet until it clears the Earth's atmosphere... and then, it would be too late! Bruce calms himself and is determined to volunteer his aid at the base... There must be some way to stop the comet... there must be! Many minds work around the clock on this dilemma, but none have found a solution. The Major has spent many hours on the problem, and then answers the Base Commander's summons! He wonders why General Morris would want to see him...

If only Bruce Banner were there, he would be able to think of something! He has always envied the scientist for Betty's love, but also recognizes his genius! Entering the room, the Major is asked to identify the man before him. Talbot sees Bruce Banner in his tattered purple pants, and asks how the military men could just have him standing there... when he could become the Hulk at any moment! Bruce assures him that he had already asked General Morris for some tranquilizers... When asked why he arrived, Bruce tells him that the comet must be stopped, and Talbot knows that even though the scientist hadn't asked for Betty, he must not recalls how the Hulk hurt General Ross. With no time to lose, and reports that the comet's tail might poison Earth's atmosphere, Bruce Banner has shown them that their new X-890 rocket could be their only chance! A nuclear warhead can be fitted and be placed in space... if the pilot is scientifically trained! The pilot must be... Bruce Banner!

The scientist is willing and able. The warhead has been outfitted and the rocket is ready for firing. The General regrets that the tranquilizers has slowed Bruce down. If not for them, Banner could become the Hulk before he hits the comet! And then... the Earth would be lost! With Bruce in the cockpit, the countdown to blastoff begins! Ten seconds later, Bruce Banner is on his way... alone... save for the unspoken prayers of the world.

Bruce tracks the comet... which is just now outside of Earth's atmosphere! When he enters its tail, Bruce will have to jettison the warhead quickly... and withdraw! If he doesn't succeed, the planet will be saved, but he won't be around for the ceremonies. The military watch as Bruce makes his approach! The X-890 has entered the comet's tail! Bruce Banner has twenty seconds! After that... it's nothing! The rocket emerges from the tail, and he has jettisoned the warhead on time! He must pilot the rocket quickly before the warhead blows any moment... The comet is destroyed! Bruce Banner has made it! He's made it!

He is thankful, especially for being able to control his pulse rate... near the end! He relaxes... and lets the rocket return most of the trip on auto-pilot! While the scientist relaxes... he is no longer alone on the edge of empty space...! From out of the black void of space... a most unexpected passenger has hitched a ride... A being who was once the escaped criminal known as Crusher Creel... but who is now known by the name which the Thunder God once knew him... The Absorbing Man!! As the rocket makes its descent, a savage mind within a body of metal begins to recall...

He recalls being thrown into outer space by All-Father Odin ---! In his helpless state, he drifted for several months... until a comet crossed his path ---! Using his ability to become whatever substance he touched, he became one with the comet ---! It was he who steered the comet towards his home... Earth! His triumphant return is almost upon him... for he had made contact with the rocket... had become steel... as the craft itself... and now Crusher Creel is back... Soon The Mighty Thor will regret his return! They will land in minutes... but Bruce Banner sees something in his rear monitor! He sees the man clinging onto the ship's outer hull... a man made from the same metal as the rocket! The living being... his eyes blaze with sheer hatred! The scientist can almost sense his rage... like a living thing! Bruce Banner has become excited! He begins to change once more... once again becoming the monster who dwells within the man...!

Crusher Creel has seen how the pilot has reacted... and knows that he's just been spotted in the rocket's rear-view mirror! It's a shame that he won't be able to tell anyone about it! SMAASH! He figures that the ball-and-chain has finished off the hapless pilot... but someone's coming up... from the rocket...! Something which cannot be human --- The HULK!! Not knowing how the green goliath found his way into the cockpit... but Crusher Creel has come a long way through outer space to arrive on Earth! And if he must kill someone in order to get there... why that's just a shame!!

Before any more words or punches can be thrown... SHROOM! The rocket has crashed to Earth, with the green goliath believing that the metal man must be dead from the blast! Anyone else would have been killed... anyone but the Hulk! The next moment finds him caught in the ball-and-chain, while Crusher Creel notices that the emerald man-brute is as full of himself as the son of Odin! Even the Hulk doesn't have a hammer to back up his boasts! The green goliath has seized the ball, while noticing that this new foe fights better with his mouth... than with his fists! The Hulk may have a limited vocabulary... but he can smash better than any!! THWUMP!

Creel regrets having changed back to flesh and blood, and again touches the metal of the rocket! His ball-and-chain is avoided by the swiftly ducking Hulk! Even if his foe is different from other men, still he is a man! And no mere man can defeat the green goliath in a fair fight... no man! Creel wonders how the brute could believe that he'd fight fair? He watches as the Hulk lifts up an entire nuclear engine! Another moment, and the whole blamed thing comes crashing down on him... WHRAK!

Creel had wanted him to throw the engine his way... so that he could absorb the radiated energy... and be able to do... THIS! SKRUNNCH! The Hulk sees his foe stick his hands into the ground... melting it... melting the area all around his feet! He is sinking... and is unable to even jump! Crusher Creel knew it had to end this way when the green goliath went up against the Absorbing Man! At last he knows the name of his foe! This does not help the emerald man-brute in any way... not as long as he sinks into the red-hot mud... He must think of a way to save himself... a task which Crusher Creel thinks is out of his league!

Suddenly, the Hulk dives into the mud! He disappears and Creel knows that a certain Thunder God will be receiving the same treatment... but he senses the ground shaking beneath him! The green goliath... is digging his way towards... BRRAK! He sees that the fight has gone out of the Absorbing Man... but doesn't know why the villain won't leave him alone! However, if he wants a fight, the Hulk will give it to him!

Seizing the ball, the green goliath whirls Creel around, and throws him up the hill... towards the sheer cliff in front of him...! KUH-WOOM! The Hulk thinks the battle is over... but then he can't believe what he sees next...! The Absorbing Man has turned into solid stone... and is ready for the final round!

As the two continue to fight, neither combatant notices the group of young people watching from a nearby hillock...! The Hulk is determined that the ball-and-chain will not help his foe against him, but the Absorbing Man was not reaching for it... because he just remembered something he never should have forgotten! He can absorb the strength of living things... as well as metal and rock! He can add the Hulk's might to his own! And no one can beat someone whi is a little stronger than they are... no one! The green goliath goes down... making Crusher Creel the first man ever to beat him! And he'll be the last! KRUKK! The young people watch... as the Absorbing Man lifts up the entire hillside... intending to bury the Hulk by using his own power to do so... just by standing over him!

Unbeknownst to Crusher Creel, it was not only his strength which caused the Hulk to fall... but a transformation which is taking place... one which turns him back into Bruce Banner... And if the Hulk is gone... how long can the Absorbing Man hold on...? Creel begins to feel weak as a kitten...! Banner points out that there's no longer any Hulk for him to steal power from! In a moment, Crusher Creel will be on his own...! Not knowing what's going on... and knowing that the mountain will fall on him! The Absorbing Man changes to rock... but is too small to support the entire mountain! He begins to crack... THROOM! He has said enough -- and will say no more...! An exhausted Bruce Banner loses consciousness... just as a group of people stand nearby like guardian angels... or are they more like... waiting vultures...?

I first read this story when it was reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes, back in 1978.

Crusher Creel has been a favorite of mine ever since I first read about him in Incredible Hulk #208.

The lettering of Sam Rosen is quite enjoyable, from the title page to the various sound effects during the Hulk's battle against the Absorbing Man and himself.

When this story was reprinted, the sequence with the young couple was omitted.

Since it was his plan, Bruce Banner is naturally the ideal choice to pilot the rocket.

The sequence with the discovery of The Absorbing Man on the rocket by Thomas and Trimpe is unforgettable.

Even though he was originally a Thor foe, Crusher Creel has made his own place when returning to fight the green goliath time and time again.

I would consider this issue among the best and most memorable Hulk-fights ever, along with Sub-Mariner in Incredible Hulk #118.

Crusher Creel, along with the Leader, Abomination, Tyrannus, and the Rhino made appearances in the 1990's Incredible Hulk video game on the Sega Genesis and Nintendo game consoles.

In the game, the Absorbing Man would whirl his ball-and-chain at the Hulk, while changing from wood, to steel, and finally to glass.

It's interesting that Creel didn't absorb the mountain instead of absorbing its properties. With his abilities, he could have literally brought the mountain to the green goliath.

In the Green Skin's Grab-Bag letters page column,

"Dear Stan,

It all started one evening in August of 1966. I was desperate for a comic book! I had to read a comic book! I dashed down to my neighborhood candy store in three seconds and began to hunt through the magazines in a desperate search for entertainment. I panicked! There was no Brand Ecch books left! None! I began to hallucinate, to bite my fingernails - until I spied a copy of Hulk lying there in the rack. I quickly whisked the book from the stands, paid for it, and ran all the way home. After locking myself inside my room, I opened the book... read it... and then it happened! I was hooked! Completely! More Marvels, I said. I had to have more Marvels. I needed bigger doses all the time... even Millie The Model! But it still wasn't enough!!

That is until 1968 rolled around. Iron Man, Captain America, Nick Fury added to my habit!! And I buy almost twenty-five Marvels a month!!! Believe me, I've tried to kick the habit... locking myself in my room, putting chains on my wallet, nothing worked! Psychiatrists, rehabiliation programs - all have gvien up on me!! In desperation, I tried MA (Marvels Anonymous); they, as soon as they saw me pick up a Marvel, would quickly grab it away from me!! Naturally I reported this group to the Committee of Un-American Affairs at once! I am still a Marvel-ee, but no longer an addict! Every week I buy three Brand Ecch mags, but this discourages me to no end, and I am so depressed I have to buy five more Marvels... but I don't have to depend on them any more, do you hear me?? NOT ANY MORE!!! Ha ha ha ha!! I'M COMPLETELY NORMAL AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

Comic Books Anonymous Rehabilitation c/o Alan Brennart, 90 Lupton Lane Haledon, New Jersey, 07508"

Marvel replies: "Glad to hear it, Al! Now if you'll just buy six of those other mags, so that you'll get discouraged enough to buy ten more Marvels...!"

Alan Brennart has written among other things: "To Kill A Legend!" in Detective Comics #500, "Interlude On Earth-Two!" for Brave and Bold, "The Secret Origin of The Black Canary!" in Secret Origins #50, and a Gotham Knights back-up featuring the first meeting between Batman and the Golden Age Green Lantern.

Steve Chung
"...And Now The Reviewing Man!"