This was a cool surprise to greet me at the 7-11’s spinner rack that Thursday afternoon. I had taken to following MARVEL SUPER-HEROES regularly by this point, but a story that guest-starred the Fantastic Four was incredibly welcome. Even though I’d never experienced one firsthand, the concept of a Thing vs Hulk fight being something primal and wonderful was already familiar to me, and so this seemed like an opportunity to see what all of the fuss was about. It didn’t really quite turn out that way, the story wasn’t specifically about a battle between the FF and the Hulk. But still this was a good issue, and I enjoyed it.
By the time this story had originally been produced some years earlier, Stan Lee had turned over the writing of the series to his right-hand man Roy Thomas. Roy brought a bit of renewed energy to the feature, and he paired well with stalwart artist Herb Trimpe. Oddly, a word drops out in the credit for Art Simek in this particular reprint, making the lead-in sentence a bit awkward. But it seems like not a whole lot of effort was put into these reprints, aside from cutting out the additional pages needed to bring the adventure down to the smaller page count of the modern comic book era.
During the time at which this story was first worked on, Jim Steranko had made a huge splash with his wild graphics and cinematic storytelling, and editor Stan Lee was encouraging his other artists to follow suit. Steranko-style psychedelia wasn’t really in Herb Trimpe’s wheelhouse, but freed from some of the conventions that he’d been laboring under, he often produced pages such as this one, which broke down the action into a number of smaller film-like moments. As Roy does here, often the scripters would leave much of these pages silent and let Trimpe’s storytelling carry the moment. It was an effective approach.
So what’s the story about? Well, Reed Richards thinks he’s come up with a way to cure Bruce banner of his transformations into the savage Hulk. But with no idea where in the world Banner may be hiding, the FF, aided by General Ross and the military, blanket the nation with news stories detailing the situation and asking Banner to come to the FF’s New York headquarters, the Baxter Building. Banner becomes aware of Reed’s offer, and makes his way across the country over the course of a number of pages. But when he finally arrives, a security guard, one who is subbing for another man and so wasn’t present for the briefing about Banner’s impending arrival. Bruce gets agitated–and you know what that means.
That’s right–Banner transforms into the Hulk. And realizing that he’s inside the stronghold of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk assumes that he must have come here in order to polish off the super-team that had given him so much difficulty in the past. So he climbs towards the FF’s quarters at the top of the building–meeting the Thing, who is descending in an elevator, part way and thereafter hurling the elevator, Thing and all, through the top of the building. The fight is on.
But the Fantastic Four don’t really want to fight the Hulk–they’re hoping to cure him. But confronted by the rampaging beast, they have no choice. As he did while working on the Fantastic Four Big Little Book:
Trimpe peppers his depictions of the Fantastic Four with swipes from Jack Kirby comics, some of them very recent when this book was initially drawn. That shot of Reed in Panel 2 on this page, for instance, was pulled from a shot of him getting zapped by the Mole Man in FANTASTIC FOUR #89.
It wasn’t that Trimpe couldn’t draw the Fantastic Four, he was just attempting to maintain some consistency with the established style. Still, those many swipes leapt out at me as a reader.
Anyway, it’s fight, fight, fight in the mighty Marvel manner until the Thing knocks the Hulk out of the building and to the ground below. Taking advantage of the Emerald Goliath being momentarily stunned by the fall, Reed uses a sonic blaster to incapacitate him. So the Fantastic Four have triumphed–but that may mean good news for Bruce Banner as well, as now that the Hulk has been contained, it may be possible for Reed Richards to cure him. We’d find out next issue (although the fact that the Hulk was still running around in the new not-reprinted comics may have provided a clue as to the outcome.)