My brother Ken also picked up this issue of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES featuring his Marvel character of choice, the incredible Hulk. As I mentioned yesterday, he liked monsters, and ever since the Hulk TV movies had aired, he had begun to peruse the occasional Hulk comic. I have a vague recollection that I helped egg him into buying this rather than something else, I assume because by this point it had struck me that I’d be able to read it as well.
For the whole of the 1970s, Marvel maintained a robust reprint program, with most of the mainstay features becoming the headliners of different reprint mags which would re-present their older adventures. There were no payments yet for reprinted material, so this was a cheap and easy way of throwing off some additional revenue, even if the books didn’t sell all that great. It also helped to reinforce the concept that the Marvel Universe was a single entity spanning all of the assorted releases the company pointed out, so these years-old stories still held value. Some of that value lay in the fact that most of the 1960s Marvel output was pretty good, so the reprints were often better than the new issues they were racked alongside. But even as kids, we understood that the reprints were “worthless”, that they weren’t ever going to be worth anything as back issues, and so they were considered second class citizens in a comic book collection.
As usual, the story in this issue picked up mid-stride, with the Hulk’s eternal foe the Leader having resurfaced and captured the Hulk in an unbreakable sphere. In this, he’s had the help of Thunderbolt Ross and the folks at his missile based. But as you’d expect, the Leader’s true objective here is to take control of the base and use its missiles to trigger World War Three, after which he’ll emerge from his bunker and rule over the smaller and more decimated population that’s left. In preparation for this plan, the Leader has summoned his largest and most powerful Humanoid to the base, despite the objections of Ross and Major Glenn Talbot.
But the Leader can’t stop himself from spilling his plan to his unresponsive Humanoid, and so Betty Ross overhears what he’s got cooking. She seeks out Major Talbot, and the two of them determine that the only course of action is to release the Hulk to defeat the Leader. Unfortunately, Talbot doesn’t have the rank to get the job done, so instead he takes over the base’s P.A. system and issues an order to capture and detain the Leader and his android, even though he has no authority to do so.
But this is too little too late, as the Leader and the Humanoid have little difficulty in mopping the floor with the crack troops that show up in response to the alert. T-Bolt Ross sows up too, pissed off and wanting to know what’s going on, but the leader simply mind-blasts him. But perhaps needing an audience, he gives Betty Ross a headpiece that will shield her from the mesmerizing effect that he sets off across the base, putting all of its defenders to sleep.
And so, the Leader commits super villain mistake number one, for as soon as his back is turned, Betty makes for the area where the Hulk is trapped within the plasti-thene globe and is able to reverse the weapon that created it, thus freeing the Hulk. The simple-minded Hulk isn’t sure what to make of this–last issue, Betty helped the Leader and the army to trap him. But old jade jaws always was a sucker for a pretty face, and so it’s only a few panels before the stakes are the Hulk and Betty against the Leader, his Humanoid and the entire mesmerized base.
But it’s a short zero-sum fight as the Leader pulls his sidearm, which works on the same principle as the larger device which imprisoned the Hulk, and once again seals the green goliath in a plasti-thene trap. With his enemy once more under wraps, the Leader sees no reason to delay in his destruction of the world, and so moves to trigger the fateful missiles. And that’s where things are To Be Continued–or, in this case, HULKinued! I can remember that upon first reading, I didn’t get the pun in that last panel. I read it as four words: Hulk inued–and how! and I couldn’t figure out what it meant to be inued. Even the dictionary was of no help to me. So, yeah, I was a dope, but then maybe Stan Lee was being a little bit too clever by half with that last caption as well.