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Tales to Astonish 97
"The Legion of The Living Lightning"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND November, 1967

The Latest, The Greatest Smilin' STAN LEE and Madcap MARIE SEVERIN Literary and Artistic Smasheroo!

Inked By: Howlin' Herb Trimpe
Lettered By: Scowlin' L.P. Gregory
Reviewed By: Followin' Steve Chung

(Originally Reviewed On 01/16/02)

On the cover by Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe, The Green-Skinned Goliath is introducing himself to The Legion of Living Lightning and their awesome apparatus!

In mid-air, The Hulk's path crosses with a low-flying jet, with both suffering a collision, of course!

Since Green-Skin can leap rather than fly, he falls to the ground below, as any of us would, if we could leap that high, or cross the street against a red light, for that matter. On the ground, The Hulk watches the falling jet crash to earth, knowing that if the pilot dies, it'll be his fault, but since it was flying low, the craft glided most of the way down, and perhaps the pilot still lives. He had not intended to hit the plane, and has no desire to hurt any innocent person. (Holy Innocent Bystander, Batman! I thought he regarded them as Puny Humans!) The pilot has fallen clear of the wreck and the flames have not reached him yet, but The Hulk must get him out of there. Still alive, The Hulk feels the beating of his heart, and prepares to take him away from the flames, to where the air is clear. The Hulk reasons that if the pilot tells others he saved him, the humans won't hate him, and he can stop running and hiding, and live like any other. (Holy Good Neighbor Sam, Batman! Who's gonna tell him otherwise?)

Atop a peak, which only the leaping ability of The Hulk could reach, the pilot arm has stopped bleeding, and a splint has been placed on his leg by his Green-Skinned samaritan. Seeing the stricken figure on the ground, The Hulk wonders why men are so weak and helpless, and why there are none as strong as he? Thinking that his great strength has been a curse as well as a blessing, The Hulk's thoughts are interrupted, for the pilot begins to revive... The Hulk figures that the pilot will try to run away from him, not listen, and try to kill him, and then thinks that perhaps he should have left the pilot where he fell. The pilot sees The Hulk and asks why he attacked the plane, to which The Hulk replies that he cares nothing for puny humans. The pilot thought he was only a monster, but The Hulk can think and reason, plus with his great strength, he can aid him! The Hulk has little use for friends, but the pilot points out that he's an outcast, but this can change, and asks The Hulk to take him to The Living Lightning, where all things are possible!

The Hulk offers to carry him there, but warns him that if he is lying, which the pilot points out would be a bad idea. He leaps, with the pilot giving him directions west, past a river with a yellow diamond-shaped marker on the ground. After two leaps, they see the marker, but the pilot believes they are falling too fast, and that the shock will be too much. The Hulk's legs cushion the fall, but the pilot is rendered unconscious, not seeing the giant doors which open up in the side of the mountain!

At one of the many ham radio stations of The Teen Brigade, Rick Jones has finished contacting their members from coast to coast, and there's no sign of The Hulk! A Teen Brigader wonders why he's so concerned about the green-skinned goliath, especially since the army will take care of him, an outcome which Rick dreads, for he knows the truth of The Hulk, and wants to help him. General Ross orders Glenn Talbot to cease his search for The Hulk, with The Major confident that he's getting close, and Thunderbolt Ross admitting that he doesn't want to stop. His daughter is in love with Bruce Banner and he'll never rest easy till he's locked up, but there is a new mission which is of vital urgency. Major Talbot salutes, then leaves the house of General Ross, assuring him that Operation Lightning will begin. He is aware how Glenn feels about Betty and regrets that it isn't the Major she's in love with. In his car, The Major knows that he'd have her love if Bruce Banner were not in their way. Once The Hulk is destroyed, it will mean the end of Bruce Banner! With the threat of The Living Lightning, the only thing known about the group is how dangerous they are.

ZAK! The Hulk has been shot by a lightning bolt, a trap, but he is confident that no mere lightning can stop him, for he will tear it apart, and smash it into nothing! SKRUNTCH! Nothing can hurt The Hulk, for the madder The Hulk gets, the stronger he gets! ZSISK! The second tentacle arm of The Lightning machine strikes him, and as formidable as The Hulk may be -- he is only a being of flesh and blood, which falls to the ground!

Work crews arrive to take The Hulk inside the mountain, and to erase the marker. The pilot is placed beneath a transistorized truth inducer, as The Lord of The Living Lightning approaches, and demands an explanation for his failure. Since the missile base was too well guarded, he had no choice, but to return, and was also fortunate to bring a captive for them to fool into serving their cause. With the might of The Hulk, The Lord of The Living Lightning is intrigued by the notion of having The Hulk for an unknowing ally. It shouldn't be so hard to fool such a dimwitted behemoth, and so, The Lord of The Living Lightning heads alone to face The Hulk. The lightning which keeps The Hulk at bay is removed at The Lord of The Living Lightning's behest, for he is their guest, not a prisoner.

Introducing himself to The Hulk, The Lord of The Living Lightning tells him that they are in his debt for saving the life of one of their men, and asks that he join them. As Earth's Mightiest Heroes could tell him, The Hulk is not much of a joiner. The puny human before him tried to capture and kill him, with no difference from those who hunt him. Making his pitch, The Lord of The Living Lightning points out that though all men are his enemies, he assures The Hulk that he and the group are not, for they will accept him and welcome him. The Hulk hesitates, then he is led for a tour of their headquarters, where the sub-leaders are dedicated to their common cause. Each from every nation, united in brotherhood, just as The Hulk is united with them. The Hulk begins to calm down, and their purpose is explained...

The Hulk is offered some coffee and a feast, while the green-skinned goliath can only begin to speculate about his benefactors, he is shown a film of men at war. He is told that The Lightning Legion is pledged to destroy war, and once they have control of the country, they will outlaw war and hatred, and offer him a place in their organization! The Hulk begins to aid them, moving large generators... Outside their stronghold, Glenn Talbot is spying on them with a pair of binoculars, having found their headquarters. It was SHIELD who tipped them off about the group, which they thought were a bunch of cranks, but with their new weaponry and their fanaticism, they are one of the most dangerous threats to freedom which the country has known! Major Talbot prepares to alert the troops for this location, unaware that he's about to be knocked out by a rifle-butt wielded by a Lightning soldier!

The Lord of The Living Lightning smiles at The Hulk, and tells him that they've just captured an enemy spy! Seeing who is being hauled in by two Lightning soldiers, The Hulk recognizes Glenn Talbot in his army-issued civilian clothes (colored green for easy identification). Talbot roars at him for being a spy -- a traitor -- and his affiliation with The Legion of Living Lightning proves it. No matter what happens to him, Glenn Talbot is confident that The Hulk won't get away with it, for freedom cannot be destroyed by murderous fanatics -- even if aided by a monster like him! Not willing to hear more, The Hulk slaps him to sleep, for The Legion of Living Lightning are his friends, and if the army dares to fight them, he will smash them, for no one hurts his friends! Seeing an opportunity, The Lord of The Living Lightning urges The Fighting-Mad Hulk to go to the army base and destroy it before they can attack! The Hulk will smash the base, as easily as the rock wall his fists have smashed through, for nothing will stop The Hulk!

The Severin/Trimpe Hulk has got to be The Strongest One There Is! My heart goes out to this version, as well as the Sal Buscema/Staton/Chan one, too. As far as writers go, the Bill Mantlo Hulk would have to be my fave from my elementary school to high school days.

Ol' Green-skin does a fine job of explaining what's happening in the panels of the stories.

As was the case in the Namor/Plunderer story in this issue, the letterer was Gaspar Saladino using a nom de plume. No doubt a sign of the dreaded deadline doom or the upcoming format change from two ten-pagers to one twenty-pager.

The Hulk no doubt uses some of Bruce Banner's first aid training to heal the injured pilot.

I love this incarnation of The Hulk, who was the ultimate outcast and outsider, but who yearned to live in peace and have a life of his own.

Some guys have giant gold keys for their hidden fortresses, and here, a gold marker gives the tip-off.

In the Silver Age, such fighting men as Major Talbot could pause for a smoke in their car.

I get a kick out of Talbot's undercover clothes which scream "army", right down to the white hat.

His speech about freedom to the monster and the madmen in the mountain is a timely topic, no?

Earth's Mightiest Heroes would gain a member for their west coast branch from the remains of the headquarters, as written by Rascally Roy Thomas in the late eighties.

A fighting-mad Hulk who will smash, for nothing can stop The Hulk! Darn straight and as it should be! Super-Who?

Steve Chung
"The Review of The Living Lightning"