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Fantastic Four #12   Leave a comment

FANTASTIC FOUR #12

Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

SYNOPSIS:

This issue begins with Alicia and Ben Grimm leaving the symphony after hearing a performance of Beethoven’s fifth. Alicia was mightily impressed with the performance, while Ben longs for some New Orleans jazz. As they leave the theater, a man spots a company of infantrymen, and while pointing them out to his wife, accidentally knocks Ben’s hat and glasses off. Ben realizes the man made an innocent mistake and lets the incident drop without any action.

Just joking.

Ben does his usual routine of blowing his top and picking the man up, lifting him up into the air with ease to give him a better vantage point of the action. The military men see the strength of the Thing and his monstrous appearance and think he may be the one they are looking for. The army men spring into action, attacking Ben and trying to subdue him. Ben fights them off and escapes all of their tactics with his great strength, before they finally gain the upper hand with some special knock-out gas. Before they can pounce on the weakened Thing, their captain shows up, telling them they have made a mistake. They are fighting the Thing, when the one they are looking for is the Hulk.

Ben is enraged he was mistaken for the Hulk and is in a foul mood as he drops off Alicia and makes his way back to the Baxter Building. He dropped the special key that opens the elevator door to the FF’s headquarters at the top of the building so he does what any of us would do in his situation: he rips the door out of the wall and climbs up the elevator cables to the 35th floor, where his teammates are waiting for him to return from his date with Alicia.

Ben tells them what happened, still angry that the army thought he was the Hulk. Reed explains that they just got a call from a General “Thunderbolt” Ross concerning the Hulk. Ross shows up and says that he needs the Fantastic Four’s help. Some military missile installations in the desert have been sabotaged and the Hulk is the only one that could have done it. He needs the FF to find and destroy the Hulk.

The FF start to argue amongst themselves over who will be the one to capture the Hulk. The Thing says that his super-strength will allow him to defeat the Hulk. The Human Torch says Ben doesn’t have a shot, as the Hulk will first fall to his flame powers. Reed claims that if the Hulk can get past Ben and Johnny, he will be ready to use his elastic body to ensnare him. Sue has no idea how she will be useful at all. General Ross claims that a pretty lady is always useful, as she can help keep the boys morale up just by being around them. Reed says that is pretty much her purpose. It is basically a giant condescending, male-chauvinist speech which Sue takes in stride. 1962 was a special, special time.

Johnny, who has been “flamed on” for this entire issue for some reason that was not made clear, runs out of flame and falls on the ground. General Ross questions having Johnny along on such a dangerous mission, seeing as how he is so young. If Johnny was a pretty girl, Ross would have no problem with it though. Reed sticks up for Johnny, saying his flame is one of their most potent weapons, along with Johnny’s mechanical skills. He shows these off by showing Ross the adjustments Johnny made to the Fantasticar. It seems the fans have been writing in and complaining that the Fantasticar looks like a flying bath tub, so Johnny redesigned it, making it more cool looking. The FF decide to show off the Fantasticar by flying General Ross in it to their destination.

They arrive at the military base, where they meet up with Dr. Bruce Banner, his assistant, Dr. Karl Kort, and his “young helper,” Rick Jones. Bruce is convinced the Hulk is not the culprit. The missile installations look like they were destroyed from the inside out, while the Hulk clearly would have destroyed them from the outside in. Ross will hear none of it and Reed doesn’t seem to be in the mood to even acknowledge this very basic piece of scientific evidence that proves the Hulk is probably innocent.

It’s been a few pages since Ben threw a temper tantrum, so he flies off the handle for no real reason. At first he is mad because Kort is surprised that a walking, talking pile of rocks is standing next to him. Mid rampage, Ben decides he is mad because Reed is having a private meeting with Ross and Banner while the rest of the team is hanging around being on fir and invisible and foul tempered. He bursts into the room, complaining about being left out of the meeting. The rest of the FF start to fight with Ben in the middle of the office. General Ross is flustered, but Reed lets him know that this kind of thing happens all the time.

After the FF stop fighting amongst themselves, Ross yells at them for acting the way they do. I’m surprised they don’t get this lecture every issue. Thing decides to yell at Ross, who fires back that Ben is probably scared of the Hulk. Ben reacts by taking a huge stack of books off of the shelf and tearing them all in half at the same time, claiming he will do the same to the Hulk when he meets him. Ross is very upset at this, because Ben has destroyed his “bound set of telephone books.” Reed tells him that they will reimburse him for the collection, but to be careful what he says to the Thing in the future. This is probably the strangest thing I have ever seen in my thirty years reading comic books. Why would anybody collect phone books? And who has them bound in leather? No wonder General Ross fails all the time while trying to capture the Hulk. The man is clearly insane.

Speaking of insane, the next plot point is pretty bizarre, even by Lee and Kirby standards. When Karl Kort left, he dropped his wallet, which Johnny found. Johnny gave it to Rick to return to Kort, and Rick goes to do so. While walking towards Kort’s room, he sees a card sticking out of the wallet, which turns out to be a membership card in a subversive communist organization. No wonder the Soviet Union collapsed, they sent their secret agents to the USA with cards in their wallets identifying them as Communist spies!

Meanwhile, the FF get ready to capture The Hulk by fixing a “rocket sled” for the military. The rocket sled resembles a bizarre chair on a track and the Thing is strapped into it like an astronaut. He goes flying down the track, but some mysterious metal prongs jut out of the ground and break the track, sending Ben flying into the air. The Human Torch flies over and grabs Ben, but Thing is too heavy and Johnny can’t hold him. He slows the Things descent just enough to give Reed time to get underneath them and form his body into a trampoline and catch the falling Thing.

Just then, Bruce Banner comes rushing onto the scene, saying Rick jones is missing and has been captured by “The Wrecker,” which is what Banner calls the mysterious saboteur. The FF balk, saying they know it’s The Hulk who is causing all of the damage. ┬áBanner says the Hulk is innocent, but will not tell the Fantastic Four how he knows this. with the FF not listening to him, Banner decides to take matter into his own hands. Using a machine that reenacts the effects of the gamma bomb on his body, Banner transforms into the Incredible Hulk.

Karl Kort takes Rick Jones into the secret tunnels underneath the military base, where he is holding him hostage. The Hulk also knows about the secret tunnels and goes down them, looking for Rick. While he searches the secret tunnels, he hears the fantastic Four, who also found out about them. I don’t think Stan lee is quite sure what the word “secret” means, as every character in this story knows about the supposedly secret tunnels.

The Hulk lies in wait as the much anticipated meeting finally takes place. The Hulk comes face to face with the Fantastic Four! Hulk wastes no time proving who is the strongest one there is, knocking the Thing for a loop with a left hook. Johnny tries to get in on the action, but the Hulk just picks up a bunch of the ground and throws it at Johnny, covering him in dirt and dousing his flame. The Hulk heads to the land above, packing the hole he created with dirt and rocks, but there is just enough of a crack left in the ground to allow Mr. Fantastic to pop his elastic arms through and grab the Hulk.

Reed can’t hold the powerful Hulk, who breaks free and responds by throwing a house at the FF. Hulk decides he needs to take the FF out one at a time, but before he can attack the Thing, Reed wraps his body around the Hulk. This didn’t work five seconds ago and it doesn’t work this time, either. Johnny tries to attack the Hulk again, but Hulk defeats him easily, slamming his hands together and creating a sonic boom that flattens johnny, Reed, and even Sue, who Kirby and Lee finally remember is supposed to be a part of the fight. Only the Thing remains, and he grapples with the Hulk, the two of them talking a lot of trash to one another. Hulk is overpowering Ben, but before he can decisively win the fight, an “atom powered ray” shoots out of the ground, hitting Hulk in the head and knocking him out cold.

Thing thinks he won, but sue informs he wasn’t what defeated the Hulk. Thing is angry that his victory was stolen from him and tears into the ground where the beam originated from, finding a gigantic robot. Thing makes short work of the giant robot, which they theorize the Wrecker used to simulate damage caused by the Hulk. Thing then discovers a giant door, which he enters, followed by an invisible Sue. They discover the Wrecker, who is still brandishing the gun he used to defeat the Hulk. He tries to shoot the Thing with it, but Sue uses her invisibility to sneak up to him and knock his aim off. thing grabs the Karl Kort, who they realize is the Wrecker, just as Johnny and Reed make their entry to the secret room.

Up above, the Hulk realizes the FF have captured Kort and saved Rick Jones. Feeling weak and not wanting to risk another fight with the Thing before regaining his full strength, the Hulk jumps away, content with Kort being captured and his friend Rick safe. The FF say their goodbyes, but get a ceremony rewarding them with medals before they fy off, being watched by the Hulk, who wonders if they will meet again.

COMMENTS:

This is a very historic issue, as it is the first ever meeting between the Fantastic Four and the Hulk. It seems as if in the early days of the Marvel universe, the heroes spent as much time fighting each other as they did super-villains. The confrontations between the FF and the Hulk are easily my favorite “hero vs hero” fights in comics. Power wise, they match up well and the fight is usually very even. Also, Hulk holds a special place in the FF rogues gallery (and I do consider the Hulk an FF “villain” as they will clash many times over the years). While almost all of the FF villains either have an issue with the entire team or with Reed Richards, Hulk is one of the only opponents who is primarily a Thing rival.

The Hulk and the Thing are very similar. Both were normal men turned into monsters by accident. Both are feared by the public and both are known for their tempers. The main difference between them is that the Hulk spends art of his time as a monster while the Thing is a monster full time. When Bruce Banner is in Hulk form, he is more powerful than Thing, but he also takes on a separate personality. Thing is not as powerful, but he retains his mind while in his monstrous form. The Thing shouldn’t be able to stand toe to toe with the Hulk, yet he always does, because his enormous heart and determination make up for his lesser power level.

The first ever fight between the Fantastic Four and the Hulk is a lot of fun, as the Hulk uses his power and cunning to go toe to toe with the entire FF. At this point, both the FF and the Hulk are in the early stages of their time as heroes, and are at a much lower power level than they will be in the future. Sue in particular is very limited, as there is nothing she can do at this point to even be of use against the Hulk. Reading these early issues, where Sue is mostly useless, it is hard to remember that today she is, by far, the most powerful member of the FF.

Outside of the brawl between the FF and the Hulk, this issue doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. The story is kind of weak, and has some bizarre touches, like the military not knowing that the Thing isn’t the Hulk, and General Ross’s collection of bound phone books. However, there are a few nice touches. The continuation of the relationship between Ben and Alicia is particularly nice. Ben shows he is willing to do something he doesn’t necessarily enjoy himself for the benefit of his girlfriend, as ben prefers jazz to classical music, which is a nice little character touch.

The Wrecker is not a good villain and his identity is never really a mystery, even without the benefit of the fact he carries an ID card proclaiming himself to be a Communist spy in his wallet. However, the Wrecker isn’t meant to be a great character, just an excuse for the FF to come into conflict with the Hulk, and in that capacity, he succeeds just fine.

Having the FF do battle with the hulk in this issue was a great move, especially at this time. The book was on the verge of getting into a rut, with the FF seemingly coming into conflict with Dr. Doom and/or Namor in almost half of the issues so far. Not only do they have a new opponent in this issue, the opponent is another Marvel hero instead of a new villain.

All in all, while it isn’t the best issue of the Fantastic four so far, it has enough going for it that it was a fun read and another brick in the foundation that future FF stories will be built on.