Another book that came to me out of one of those plastic-sealed bundles of 5 or 10 coverless comic books being sold by my local drug store. I was reading INCREDIBLE HULK by this point, but it wasn’t a particular favorite, so this reprint wouldn’t have been what I picked up the bundle for. But it was still an entertaining read, the story originally produced right towards the end of Stan Lee’s days as the writer of the series. By that point in time, thanks in part to the smaller original art size, Lee had strippd down his scripting, making his stories read lean and fast. He’d also perfected the Marvel style, and so this particular issue is steeped in it. Not a noteworthy comic book, not incredibly memorable, but solidly crafted and entertaining throughout.
The artwork during this period was very attractive as well, thanks to the fruitful combination of Herb Trimpe on pencils and John Severin on inks. Trimpe was one of those journeymen artists who did a lot of work and whose ability to communicate a story visually was strong and straightforward. he wasn’t as polished as some of his contemporaries, and he had his own particular quirks that generally stood out in his work: flat faces, a certain awkwardness of pose, a stiffness. When paired with John Severin, though, any weaknesses melted away. Severin was by himself one of teh most polished practitioners of the medium, entirely capable of both penciling and inking. But he wasn’t all that wonderful as a super hero artist, too trapped by reality was his approach. So Trimpe provided the bombast and Severin sanded down the rough edges and made everything look smooth and polished. It was a really great combination (as was Severin over Dick Ayers on SGT FURY and the like, where he performed the same duties.)
Hulk stories during this period tended to be relatively short on plot, long on action, and this one is no exception. Last issue, we learned that a group of aliens have left a doomsday device on Earth that will change the rotation of the planet, causing cataclysm. They cleverly purloined said device within the Savage Land, little suspecting that the Hulk would wind up there. As Bruce Banner, he recognized the threat and moved to stop it, but he transformed once again into the Hulk before this could be accomplished, and not even Ka-Zar, who had been Banner’s companion up to this point, could make him understand. Having laid the jungle man low, this story opens with the Hulk being jumped by Ka-Zar’s staunch ally Zabu. Ka-Zar was merely stunned, and he tells Zabu to relent, that they need Banner to turn off the deadly machine–but by this point the Hulk is wound up and there’s no stopping him.
As Ka-Zar and Zabu attempt to stop the Hulk and get him to understand their plight, the aliens, having realized that their machinations have been uncovered, unleash another deadly menace upon the Savage Land. This is Umbu, a colossal machine designed to look like an enormous stone idol and which has been the subject of worship from the assorted Savage Land tribes. As prophesied years before by the aliens to the hapless savages, Umbu comes to life, seeking out teh one who threatens the great Golden Machine–the Hulk. By this point, the Hulk just wants to quit the Savage Land and leap away, but Umbu fells him mis-leap with an energy beam, and the battle is on.
One of the things that Trimpe was always really good it was visualizing the tremendous strength and power of the Hulk, especially when the Green Goliath went up against much larger foes. Here, we get a great sequence where the Hulk brings down an entire mountain cliffside upon his four-armed foe–but to no effect. For a number of pages, the two creatures battle it out, until Umbu decides to employ gas against the Hulk. When that happens, the Hulk gets groggy and transforms unwillingly back into Bruce Banner. This confuses Umbu’s sensors–it doesn’t recognize Banner as the being it had been pursuing just seconds before. And so while Banner only narrowly escapes getting stepped upon, he is left behind as Umbu moves on in pursuit of his prey. And fortunately, Banner remembers about the aliens’ machine, and races back towards the cave where it is positioned.
Meanwhile, having been battered by the Hulk, Ka-Zar finds himself the prisoner of the Savage Land tribes, who intend to roast him as an offering to Umbu and his creators. But the jungle hero is able to break free of his bonds and effect his escape, with a little bit of last minute assistance from Zabu, whom he also frees. Elsewhere, Bruce Banner has reached the doomsday machine once again–but having done so, Umbu detects his presence and makes a beeline for his position, striking at Banner even through the mountainside into teh cave in which the Golden Device is held.
As Umbu attempts to crush or kill Banner, the scientist works feverishly on the doomsday machine, absorbing a lethal amount of radiation while he does so. And ultimately, he’s able to render the device inert–which has the added benefit of rendering Umbu inert, and the giant idol topples over, lifeless. This signals a turn in fortune for the tribesmen as well, and they flee off into teh underbrush, having been abandoned by their god. As quiet falls over teh land, Ka-Zar goes in search of their savior–only to find that, for Banner, the exposure has proven to be too much. Lifting the scientist’s lifeless body, Ka-Zar declares that Bruce Banner is dead! And on that note, things are To Be Continued–or HULKinued, as in the case of these stories!