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Tales to Astonish 68
"Back From The Dead!"


Story And Art By Marvel's Modern Masters: STAN LEE and JACK KIRBY
Lettering: ARTIE SIMEK

In Eastern Mongolia, Bruce Banner and Major Glenn Talbot are on the run from ruthless bandits, when they suddenly fall from a high cliff -- heading for certain death! In the shock of the moment, the hapless scientist begins to transform, and he once again becomes -- The Incredible Hulk! On the splash page, the man-brute recovers and clings to the side of the mountain!

Above the Hulk, where he has found a handhold, the falling form of Glen Talbot loses consciousness... as he blacks out from the force of the fall --! He is then unaware that the next moment finds him gripped by the most powerful hand in the world, which reaches out with an iron grip... Brutish eyes study the unconscious security officer -- and the cloudy mind within tries to recall who he is -- and why they are there! With no reply from Talbott, the Hulk turns away, then leaps into the air with the force of a projectile -- his leg muscles carrying him over the nearest peak!

The green goliath leaps from peak to peak, and as he heads west, his leaps become ever higher, ever longer! Even the Pacific Ocean is not enough to stop him, for the Hulk continues to leap from isle to isle, even from passing plane to passing plane, never slowing, never stopping! (Holy Frequent Flier Miles, Batman!) In the United States, the gamma-irradiated mutate known as the Leader is engrossed in a project of his own... With his intellligence multiplied a hundred times by an accident, the scientist has set his sights on Bruce Banner's latest invention, the Absorbatron, which resides on Astra Isle -- and it is his plan to steal it! He has reduced his artificial humanoids to microscopic size, but this will soon change... Once they are placed on Astra Isle, at a radio-activated impulse from him, they will grow to normal-size, and take over the isle with ease! The Leader will soon have the Absorbatron, a device which can make an H-Bomb seem like a firecracker by comparison!

In the meantime, the Hulk has arrived at a missile base in the great southwest -- the base which Bruce Banner wishes to return to -- ! The green goliath seeks Banner's home, for he senses that he'll be safe there, but he fails to recall that he, too is Bruce Banner! Entering the home, the man-brute finds no one there, and so, he slowly rests on the couch, and sleeps for the first time in hours... During his slumber, his heart-rate slows, his blood pressure returns to normal, and... once more, his body undergoes a chemical reaction, until the nuclear scientist has taken the Hulk's place on the couch! Bruce awakens to the sight of General Ross and his men placing him under arrest, while Betty Ross is pleased to see him, but tells the physicist that her father thinks he has deserted them to work for the Reds! (Holy Beatty, Batman!) Since he is unable to disprove this accusation, he is placed under arrest!

Days pass, and Glenn Talbot has been rescued by the air force, and is granted a special meeting in Washington, D.C... The Major tells the commander-in-chief that Banner couldn't have escaped without the Hulk's help! He believes them to be in cahoots, and he knows that the scientist must be a Red spy! The President tells Talbot not to jump to conclusions and for them to reason together! Only he and Rick Jones know the Hulk's secret! He cannot betray the secret -- but he can't allow any harm to befall Bruce Banner! The President is interrupted from his thoughts by the Major's insistence... and a phone call! The call involves the readiness of the Absorbatron on Astra Isle, where Doctor Banner and the Major will perform the test! Despite his objections, Talbot obeys! Neither man could guess that others would be in attendence on Astra Isle! The Leader prepares his flying craft, and reaches the isle in seconds! He sees the task force approaching the isle, but is confident that he'll finish his errand before they can land!

He finishes the spraying, and has the ship hover above the isle in order to send out the signal which will enlarge his humanoids! The absorbatron will soon belong to the Leader! In the southwest, Rick Jones visits Bruce at a military compound... The teen shows the scientist a headline about how the army is holding him as a communist agent -- and wonders aloud if he couldn't really be a spy?? Bruce wonders if Rick left the Avengers and come all the way just to question his loyalty?? Even Rick is struck by the certainty of Major Talbot's accusation -- and no one knows where Bruce disappears to all the time! The Major arrives to greet the scientist, and tell him in person how he escaped the fall in Tibet --even though he was left for dead! Gripping the bars, Bruce insists that he isn't a spy, and that Talbot is a fool, even as Rick warns him to calm down! The guard has his weapn at the ready, while Rick drags Bruce into a corner of the cell, and the scientist feels the stress of the past few days!

Bruce tells Rick to leave quickly before the change takes place, but the teen gives him a tranquilizer! Major Talbott orders Bruce to his feet so that he can free him, and expresses clearly that it's not his choice! Since the scientist is the only one who knows how to operate the Absorbatron, he is to be freed so that they can run the test! The two men head by helicopter to Astra Isle, where the island has been cleared! Upon landing, Bruce notices the pink powdery substance on the ground, while the Major tells him to keep moving or else he'll place him back in his cell! Once the two men have entered the subterranean, lead-lined shelter... the powdery substance begins to expand, and to grow...

The humanoids have grown to normal size, and are ordered by the Leader to seize the Absorbatron! Inside the shelter, Bruce hears the commotion above, and even Talbot has to admit it! Ordering Banner to stay put, he goes up to investigate, but once he sticks his head out of the chamber, he is grabbed by inhuman hands! Ever defiant, the Major starts to punch at his captors, but his courage is not enough for the sheer numbers which pull him down!

The humanoids see Bruce near the Absorbatron, and are ordered to seize him or destroy him! The scientist sees their approach, then grapples with them, while the others head for the Absorbatron!! Determined that they not have it, he begins to struggle, and his pulse rate begins to change! (Holy Contino, Batman!) As the humanoids begin to pile on, his heart beats faster, his blood pressure goes higher -- until --!

It is the Hulk who shoves the humanoids aside, and the Leader (who has been watching through one of his humanoids) is pleased to meet the only other green-skinned human in the world, so that they may become allies! He orders the two nearest humanoids to release their gas vapors! Since they are artificial beings, the gas has no effect on the humanoids, but the Hulk inhales mass quantities of it in his mighty lungs... All he wants to do is sleep! ...sleep! The Leader has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams! His humanoids will soon bring the Absorbatron -- and the Hulk, as well! With those words of triumph, he returns towards Astra Isle, where one of the most incredible sagas of all is about to take place!

Taking over from Steve Ditko, who drew the previous issues, The King returns to the pages of The Hulk, who is more brutish, more massive, and more bestial under his pencils! The inks of Mike Esposito complements the art quite well.

The Hulk manages to escape from this particular cliffhanger, but Bruce Banner awakens to the situation of being called a Red spy during the Cold War.

We see in this story that the green goliath is able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, as well as traverse half the world in several of them. He is also able to rack up those frequent flier miles, too.

The Leader experiments with microscopic humanoids, and a powdery pink substance which resembles Nestle Strawberry Quick. With the movie coming soon, kids can re-enact the Leader's experiments with Quick and milk!

Betty is her usual loving self, while General Ross is his usual cheerful self. It's as if he had a feeling that the one-time gutless milk sop would end up with his daughter! (Holy Nestle Quick, Batman!)

Lyndon Johnson is the commander-in-chief at this time, and we never get to see his face quite clearly.

Glenn Talbot is his usual understanding self, convinced that the man who is loved by Betty Ross is also a Red spy! Either that, or he's being a jerk as usual. If high-school athlete Flash Thompson had been drafted, he'd probably turn out to be Major Talbot. Of course, Flash was more outgoing, and if Talbot tried anything with "Puny Banner," he'd soon regret it!

I'm surprised that the humanoids weren't a toy in the '60s. Merchandisers could have made "humanoids" made out of sponges, which would expand in water.

In a way, the humanoids did Bruce a favor by tearing off his shirt (much like girls would love to have done to The Beatles before a concert) so that he could save some wear and tear during the transformation.

What is the appeal of The Hulk?

As a kid, I found it cool to read about a character who would be pushed around by a domineering General, but loved by his daughter. To be treated shabbily by a would-be suitor for the General's daughter's hand, but still be more sympathetic than the Major stiff.

When he lost his temper, or was caught in circumstances beyond his control, his frustation would manifest itself in the form of a half-ton green goliath called... The Hulk!

Not the most cheerful of creatures, the Hulk would size up the situation, and use his strength to put things right, even if it meant making mincemeat out of his hapless opponent of the month.

Capable of feats of strength, as well as the ability to leap away at a moment's notice, the emerald man-brute certainly captured my imagination at an early age.

With such recurring foes as The Leader, The Abomination, The Rhino, The Absorbing Man, The Incredible Hulk would make for many memorable stories.

I could root for Bruce Banner, who always sought a cure for his condition, but who managed to hold together during troubling times, and even found that his alter-ego served a purpose in the scheme of things.

As a kid and as an adult, I must agree that "HULK IS THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!"

Steve Chung
"Back From The Review!"