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Tales to Astonish 77
"Bruce Banner Is The Hulk!"


Script By: STAN LEE!

Layouts By: JACK KIRBY!

Pencilling & JOHNNY Inking By ROMITA!

Lettering By: SAM ROSEN!

Reviewed By: STEVE CHUNG!

(Originally Reviewed On 10/25/01)

On the cover, Rick Jones reveals the secret of Bruce Banner and The Hulk to Major Talbot within the cave laboratory of Dr. Banner!

In the far future, The Executioner emerges from the tripod war machine to pelt The Incredible Hulk with debris, while The Green Goliath stands defiant!

As an immortal of Asgard, The Executioner is unimpressed with The Hulk's brute strength and is confident that his own powers will enable him to defeat his feeble-minded foe, while Jade-Jaws isn't too impressed with Skurge's vocabulary and is intent on showing the Asgardian what true power is! The Hulk is determined to smash everything in his path until he is returned to his own time, with The Executioner having the power and knowledge to accomplish the feat at will, but the secret will not be revealed, as he intercepts the thrown debris with his gloved fist! The Hulk braces himself as he is showered by the steel shrapnel, and then bounds forward, slamming his two green fists on either side of The Executioner's head!

Before The Hulk's unbelieving eyes, The Executioner rises to his feet, then replenishes himself with his limitless energy, then returns to the fray, and both combatants fall off the advancing tripod war machine.... In the present, Thunderbolt Ross orders Rick Jones to reveal where The Hulk disappeared to, and the youth tells the general that he thought The Green Goliath destroyed by the T-Gun (whose burst sent The Hulk into the future) Ross disbelieves that The Hulk is dead and is convinced that it's some sort of trick, and that Rick and Banner have some sort of arrangement with The Hulk, with The T-Gun being a sort of smoking gun.

Ross orders the M.P.s to escort Rick from the base, and the youth asks Ross why he won't let Bruce and The Hulk rest in peace, and The General tells him that Banner is considered a traitor, just as he is for withholding information. Rick knows that Bruce is no traitor, but a patriot, and can't betray his secret since he saved his life from that Gamma Bomb. Betty Ross sees Rick leaving and asks Glenn Talbot where he's going. Ross orders the Major to follow Rick, while Betty wonders if her father will hound Rick like he did with Bruce. Major Talbott is determined to find out the connection between Banner and The Hulk, especially since he wants Betty to forget about the scientist. Within another tripod warmachine, The Executioner's men watch the battle and seek to employ the stun gun, which will not harm Skurge, and will prove lethal to mere mortals... THWEEE! At point-blank range and at full intensity, it is fired!

The Executioner laughs, as the stun beam erupts in their midst, and it is now Skurge's turn to be surprised as The Hulk rises, and is now intent on battering his mortal foe into submission. THUD! WRAK! The Hulk is driven to the ground, with The Hulk angered that he has been knocked down...

So enraged is The Green Goliath, that he rips the very ground beneath The Executioner with his bare hands, but The Executioner's men fire upon him with some sort of heat ray, and even The Incredible One wonders how long his body can sustain injury from those beams? The trio of Tripods continue their march towards a battered city, firing their heat rays, while in the past, Rick Jones wanders through the desert, wondering if General Ross was correct in calling him a traitor, and with both The Hulk and Bruce dead, would it harm anyone to know that they were one and the same? Perhaps this revelation would let the country know that Bruce Banner wasn't not a criminal, nor did he betray his country...

Rick enters the cave laboratory of Bruce Banner, remembering how the scientist saved him from the Gamma Bomb blast, only to be caught in it himself! In his mind's eye, Rick remembers Bruce pleading with him in aiding him to control The Hulk, as well as the changes the physicist underwent each night, and he hears those sounds in his mind, then Rick Jones screams, for The Hulk is dead, and Bruce Banner will never have to worry again! Now running, Rick trips over a small rock, then sees a figure standing in the shadows...

Major Talbott wants the teen-ager to tell him the secret he carries so that he can be free from the memories. In the future, The Executioner orders the tripod warmachines to fire upon the city, confident that the establishing of an empire on Earth will give him favor on Asgard as a conquering hero! On a hillside, The Hulk sees the carnage, concerned for his own well-being in travelling back to his own time, but then he leaps to attack the warmachines...!

The Hulk slams into the warmachines, slamming them against one another, dodging their heat-rays, then hurling a steel girder through one of them with the force of a missile! The other tripod warmachines retreat, finding themselves no match for The Green-Skinned Goliath, who then turns his attention towards The Executioner and a return trip to his own time, and Skurge can only wonder how it is possible for a mortal to contain such power, and that at another time, he must defeat his foe completely, as to be worthy of the name of Executioner. The city gates open, with an army about to surround The Hulk, and in so doing, perhaps doing Skurge's work for him! The inhabitants believe that The Hulk drove off the invaders so that he could claim the city himself, as they prepare for battle, willing to die in the attempt.

The armored men bid The Hulk surrender, but before their eyes, he begins to disappear, a manifestation The Hulk dimly recalls as having occurred when The T-Gun struck him! Within the cave, Major Talbott points out that with both Bruce Banner and The Hulk dead, it doesn't matter if Rick tells him what he knows. The teen relents and tells Glenn Talbot how Bruce Banner wasn't a traitor, and that it was he who was in fact... The Hulk! Now, The Major sees why Banner couldn't explain his absences or why he and The Hulk were never seen together at the same time, and then, he wonders if The Hulk and Banner are still out there somewhere, as he and Rick leave the cave, which is quiet for a time, then the sound of an approaching whirlwind begins to form, and what this means for The Hulk would be seen in the next issue.

A most memorable cover as Rick spills the beans about Bruce Banner and The Hulk.

With layouts by Jack Kirby, Johnny Romita delivers a spectacular fight between The Hulk and The Executioner, complete with props from The War of The Worlds.

One wonders if this was the actual future or an alternate one, where The War of The Worlds raged on?

With The Mighty Thor forced to return to Asgard during the war (in the pages of The Guardians of The Galaxy '90s mag), did Skurge seek to gain favor from Big Daddy Odin, even get resurrected by Hela in order to redeem himself?

I supposed that General "Thunderbolt" Ross and company thought that The Hulk was an alien, a robot, or somesuch, not the gutless milksop nuclear physicist who caught his daughter's eye.

This Review Is Dedicated To Leonard Bellew

Steve Chung
"Bruce Banner Is The Review!"