Thursday, November 13, 2014

Marvels: Fantastic Four #26

"The Avengers Take Over!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos
(May 1964)

This is the big one. The biggest cast of characters yet gathered in a single issue of a Marvel comic.

Picking up where we left off last issue: the Hulk is rampaging through New York City, headed for Tony Stark's mansion and, he hopes, a showdown with Captain America and the Avengers. Reed has fallen into a coma after being exposed to a virus; Sue and Johnny have proven no match for the Hulk; and the only one left to slow him down is the Thing.

Still, as we found out a year ago in Fantastic Four #12, the Thing will ultimately be overpowered by the Hulk. They batter each other for a few pages, and even with an assist from the Human Torch, it's no use. The Army's response is futile; the Hulk literally catches the shell fired at him in midair and throws it back. And remember, as big as the Hulk is, he's incredibly fast and agile, so he manages to slip away and finally makes it to Stark's mansion.

When he gets there, the Avengers are waiting for him, and despite Rick Jones' protests to hear out the Hulk, everyone piles on him at once. It's too hard to fight in such close quarters, though, and the Hulk is too powerful for everyone. He grabs Rick and takes off with him.

Meanwhile, Reed is able to recover and lead the Fantastic Four back into the fight, just as Captain America catches up with the Hulk.

I love that Stan & Jack have chosen to make Cap a real match for the Hulk. It's kind of a surprise; remember, this is only the second time we've seen Captain America in the new Marvel Universe, so we're not totally sure how powerful he is. Here, he's lithe and acrobatic, and a seasoned veteran who know how to use Hulk's power against him.

In fact, he's doing so well against the Hulk that an outside complication has to be introduced in order to prolong the fight, and that comes in the form of Cap's new teammates and the arrival of the Fantastic Four. They're all so eager to take down the Hulk that they keep getting in each other's way, in some cases literally tripping over one another until the Hulk simply picks Rick back up and leaps off.

The main problem, once again, is that no one is taking the time to listen. I mean, sure, the Avengers and the FF take time to patch things up and agree to work with one another, but no one wants to listen to the Hulk and, obviously, the Hulk doesn't want to listen to Rick. The Hulk feels betrayed; Rick knows all of the Hulk's secrets, but now he's run off to team up with Captain America. The Hulk has Rick at the top of a skyscraper under construction, and before anyone can say what needs to be said, the heroes show up and the fight resumes.

The Hulk actually manages to get the best of the Thing, and I believe the only thing that stops him from just straight up murdering Benjamin J. Grimm is the intervention of Captain America. Cap is actually able to use Hulk's leverage against him and flip him!

But to my great surprise, it's actually Hank Pym who defeats the Hulk. Actually using his powers creatively for a change, Hank keeps changing between his three sizes but, realizing that the Hulk is inexhaustible, he gets his ants up to the building and has them crawl all over the Hulk, who becomes so distracted by his itching that Rick is able to shove a gamma pill in the Hulk's mouth just before Hulk falls into the Hudson River. Only we, the readers, see Bruce Banner pop up from the water and, unconscious, float away...

For all that's happened, Captain America feels sorry for the Hulk, noting that "It's a tragic thing to lose a partner! Perhaps I, more than anyone else, realize what a loss it can be--how it can affect a man of action!"

I'll buy that, but I won't buy into Reed's protestation that neither the Fantastic Four nor the Avengers are Hulk's enemies, that it's too bad the Hulk doesn't realize that, and "we want to save him from himself!" They all just seem to hate the Hulk so much. I understand the Hulk is dangerous and hard to reason with, but it's not like anyone's exactly trying anymore.

All of their great minds, and no one's tried to just talk to the Hulk.

Stray notes:

:: I almost feel bad that I find it so satisfying when the Hulk bashes his own head into Iron Man's chest, nearly knocking Tony unconscious. Sorry, Tony, I'm on Team Hulk here, and you've always been a dick about it.

:: Literally the only thing the Wasp does in the fight with the Hulk is to get up to his ear and just annoy him long enough for Captain America to take over.

:: In the letters page, Stan says that the Thing isn't bulletproof, but his rocky skin is thick enough to stop a .22 caliber bullet. Readers want the Hulk back in his own book, and Stan says they're going to redesign the Wasp's costume, but I have no idea why, because her costume is pure sci-fi goodness.

Oh, and apparently the next issue of Fantastic Four will feature the return of the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange in his first crossover with the rest of the Marvel Universe! They're going to have a hard time topping this epic, that's for sure.

Next Marvels: the story of the Hulk continues as the Lava Men invade the surface in Avengers #5!


bliss_infinte said...

I have always felt that these issues (FF24,25, Avengers 3, 4, 5) were the natural climax of the early days of Marvel and really solidified what Stan and Jack were doing, maybe somewhat unknowingly. The year or two after this just solidified these concepts but here it really comes together in a solid way. Always great posts!

SamuraiFrog said...

It does feel, reading in this order, like the end of the beginning, like the real creation of the unified Marvel Universe.