Incredible Hulk Issue #6
Artist: Steve Ditko
Story: Stan Lee
Lettering: Art Simek
Here we are in the last issue of the Incredible Hulk, as if I turn to the next story, he will meet the Giant Man on the pages of Tales to Astonish. Apparently due to the lack of popularity of our green giant, the series was shelved. Considering how hard the X-Men had it in their first ten years or so, the Hulk must have not have been that much like. Common criticisms may be that they didn’t focus on Banner’s struggle enough, pitting him against easily defeatable villain after villain that rarely gave the Hulk a challenge as compared to his cousins, the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, who had to solve their way out of a problem. I suppose Lee and Kirby could’ve done more with the character, as future writers have, but let’s face facts, considering both creators had to juggle several series at once, there would’ve been practically no time to write a more serious Hulk story. Have more modern writers done a better job fleshing out Banner’s character? I’m not at liberty to say, though I am irritated that they made General Ross, Rick, AND Betty into Hulks. The past 50 years have given us so many twist and turns, the Wikipedia page on just about any comic book character will drive anyone to madness.
The final issue of the Hulk is one long and exciting adventure, filling up all 24 pages, as he pits himself against the Metal Master. Ole’ MM is obviously a person that can control molecules, changing the shape and density of anything metal in the universe, though he’s apparently not using magnetic energy as the Toad Men did.
Steve Ditko takes on the duty of drawing the story, and although I already miss Jack Kirby’s art, he does a pretty good job. The human characters in his style are drawn thinner, emphasizing their weakness and frailty compared to our hero. The brutish qualities of the Hulk are also highlighted, with his flat top hair cut being even more flatter than before, and his ugly mug looking less like the golem and more like a caveman.
At the base, everyone is waiting for Bruce Banner and he’s nowhere to be found. General Ross is agitated once again, as today they are supposed to test a new type of missile. It looks like he’ll have to wait a little longer. Meanwhile, the Hulk is struggling to go back into Banner’s lab to transform back to normal, but an entire regiment waits outside his desert bunker, looking for him. If he doesn’t turn back on time, the Hulk fears he will remain in his thuggish form forever. Desperate, he decides to jump over there and destroy anything in his way. Before he can do anything, the emergency alert is sounded, providing the Hulk a chance to slip in unnoticed, while the military decides to return to base.
Bruce does manage to transform back to normal, but the constant usage of this gamma ray machine has now left an odd side effect, he has retained the strength of the Hulk! However, that strength is short-lived, and Banner grows weak again. He blames new configuration of the machine, though it is obvious that it is months of exposure to gamma rays off and on over and over.
On the screen, everyone at the base is terrified at the scene happening outside, and Bruce finds out that his space probe rocket is melting right before everyone’s eyes. A bald man stands in front of Ross and company, declaring himself to be the Metal Master, and the one who caused that rocket to melt. Coming from “the planet Astra, many galaxies away!” he has come to conquer Earth by manipulating the atoms (I think he meant molecules) of anything metal, forcing them to change shape. On his home planet, sculptors use this ability to make magnificent statues, but ole MM is deemed a criminal because of his despotic tendencies. Instead of locking him in a prison, the people of his planet decide to cast him out into the universe, where he is free to terrorize anybody, rather than to reflect on his actions. Those aliens must think there aren’t any other planets with life if they allow somebody as dangerous as him out there.
Demonstrating more of his prowess, the Metal Master melts a tank and some soldiers’ helmets, and contains everyone in a prison made of what he just melted. The Earth has only 24 hours to stop this molecular menace! Ross tries to escape to warn his missile hunter squadron, but it is futile, as the Metal Master easily disposes of them in a matter of seconds. Rick rushes back to the bunker and finds Bruce already transformed, although his head remains his body is the Hulk’s!
Having no choice, the Hulk takes a mask in the shape of his usual ugly face and charges toward the Metal Master. They begin to fight, and the man from Astra easily pushes him away with a few diversionary tricks, encasing the Hulk in a little jungle gym. The Metal Master has a change of heart and decides to make peace with the Hulk, promising him the world if he joins his cause. The lonely Hulk considers it, for a second, and decides that if everybody still hates him, what’s the point?! Changing the hardness of his weight, the Metal Master manages to knock out the Hulk with a good hit to the head. He leaves the scene, as the Hulk is blacked out.
Shortly after, the military finds the knocked out Hulk and notice that he’s wearing a mask. Instead of finding Banner’s face, it is the Hulk’s! That machine must have given a delayed reaction, as the Hulk’s secret identity is safe. Back at the base, the Hulk is put into a solid steel prison. Seeing Rick, he feels the sting of betrayal, as the Hulk thinks he told the army about the mask, even though it was clear he was wearing one in the first place. Jones turns to General Ross and asks him how he can enlist, as he is old enough and still hurt by the Hulk’s words. The General rejects his request, and surprisingly gives a speech about the importance of staying in school, so every organization, not just the Army, can find him to be a useful member of society.
The first act closes with oil wells and European bridges melting, it has to be the Metal Master wrecking havoc upon the world.
Later, Rick finds his friends cheering him up, after feeling worthless that he can’t do anything about the Metal Master and help the Hulk. They show him a neat new invention, a ham radio. What cool teenager doesn’t have one of babies these days? Rick gets the idea that he can help the Hulk by picking up military and police radio frequencies. Linking ham radios together around the world, they can create a network of kids ready to help each other. Rick forms the Teen Brigade, a neat group of groovy teens! Keep in mind this was a time before Twitter and Facebook.
Constantly pounding and pounding at the same place in his prison, the Hulk manages to get out. Meanwhile at the base, General Ross still can’t find that milksop, and Betty worries about what happened to her love. Thunderbolt receives the news that the Hulk has escaped, and of all the “blanketty-blank” he can’t do anything right these days. At the Banner Bunker, the Hulk manages to change back to normal, but Bruce is entirely weakened because of the overuse of his machine. While he rests, he formulates a plan to defeat the Metal Master, but he needs the Teen Brigade’s help!
Rick manages to convince his friends that Dr. Banner needs some pieces of equipment to defeat the Metal Master, and the Teen Brigade is ready for action, ordering parts from as far away as Pittsburgh. Bruce’s plan is almost complete, all he has to do is transform into the Hulk.
Meanwhile, the armies of the world are still struggling with the Metal Master’s mayhem, as nothing seems to work on him. MM grows tired, and begins to implement his scheme for world domination!
Whatever Banner wanted to build is now complete, and it appears to be some kind of giant bazooka. The Teen Brigade marvel at the Hulk, and quickly tell him that the Metal Master has been found in Washington D.C. Using his powerful leg muscles, the Hulk leaps to the nation’s capital in a matter of seconds.
The Hulk points his giant gun at this menace and all the Metal Master can do is struggle and struggle to melt the weapon. Our hero lures him closer to the gun, and MM can’t do a damn thing about that blasted bazooka! At the same time, the Army arrives, only to witness this spectacle. The Metal Master still struggles, until the Hulk charges at him, forcing him to break his concentration. Under the tight grip of the Hulk, our villain is made to undo all of the damage he has caused to the world and leaves the Earth in his rocket, never to return. Seeing that it’s best to blow this kegstand, the Hulk jumps away right before the Army prepares its assault.
Later, Betty continues her search for Bruce, and nobody has seen him in weeks! Finding her upset, the Teen Brigade tells Rick about her, and gives the Hulk a special message. The President has given a pardon to the Hulk for his exceptional handling of the Metal Master. The pardon appears to be not enough for the Hulk, as he goes on a rampage, breaking the lab’s equipment. “Miserable, ungrateful Human!” he shouts. The tantrum has allowed the Hulk to turn back in to Banner, as the ray didn’t work instant the last time around.
Upon hearing news of the Presidential Pardon, General Ross grows furious that the Hulk has been free of his crimes. The doorbell rings, and who could it be but Banner himself, after all this time. Betty becomes overcome with joy that his beau has returned, and Ross is still his usual grumpy self. All ends rather happily, but one fact still remains, how long can Banner remain his milksop self?
And so ends the first series of the Incredible Hulk. It’s a shame that the series wasn’t as popular the first time around, as this was quite an exciting story in the Merry Marvel Manner. Romance, thrills, science, smashing, anguish, it had it all! What happened to the Hulk after 1963? Why a few guest appearances including a meeting with the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, and even in the Avengers. Finally in October 1964, the Hulk gets his own regular series, sharing the spotlight with Henry Pym, the Giant Man, and later the Submariner.
Next post, if I ever get around to it will feature the combination of a few issues, considering the 12 page format of the then-newly revived Hulk.