Tales To Astonish #75-77 (Hulk)
Issue(s): Tales To Astonish #75, Tales To Astonish #76, Tales To Astonish #77 (Hulk stories only)
Review/plot: The Hulk is hopping around holding the Watcher's knowledge sphere ("Ultimate Machine") and ranting about how the world is against him. He's still got a few shreds of Banner's personality but they are fading. Even when he's Banner-less, however, he's still talking in complete sentences and in the first person.
Meanwhile General Ross is assigned the task of testing Banner's T-Gun, which was built from Banner's plans but no one knows what it does since Banner is presumed dead. (I'd say i was surprised that the army just lets their scientists go off and do whatever they feel like without supervision, but i just read this article so i know it's true.)
Rick is being held prisoner or more accurately as bait to lure the Hulk back to the missile base (although as one soldier correctly points out, it's not like the army could actually do anything if the Hulk did show up). Apparently the President of the United States has been let in on the secret of the Hulk's secret identity, so Rick is demanding to speak to the president. Naturally he's considered a crackpot. But the Hulk decides to put on the Ultimate Machine at this moment. He can't handle the influx of information, but he does pick up Rick saying that he needs to go to the White House to tell the President. This was actually the work of the Watcher, who is apparently addicted to interfering with the Earth. Every time we see this guy, it's "I'm sworn not to interfere, but just this once....".
Everyone assumes that the Hulk is heading towards the White House to attack it, so they zap him with the T-Gun. This isn't a very smart move. First of all, this is its first usage - General Ross was meant to be testing it, not using it as a last defense for the President. Second, they just got over talking about how they didn't trust Banner and suspected him of being a traitor. They even raised the possibility that the T-Gun might be a giant booby trap. And Talbot has for some time suspected Banner of being in cahoots with the Hulk in some way (man to get that close to the truth but not being able to figure out that the guy they keep finding wandering around in the desert in a pair of torn purple pants after ever Hulk attack isn't actually the Hulk... it's like a mental block or something). So using a device with an unknown purpose on an ally of the man you suspected to be a traitor isn't in the top ten list of brilliant things to do.
Or at least it wouldn't be something i would do. I must be wrong though, because it works out just fine. The "T" stands for time, and the ray throws the Hulk into the far future.
From people in the present's perspective, he's just been disintegrated. Actually, the next scene involving the army is written very intelligently, with Ross calming down an outraged five star general and making good observations about how the gun worked. For a brief moment it almost feels like i'm reading a modern comic.
Meanwhile the Hulk is dealing with standard "character in the future" comic book plot #1, where everything's a dystopian wasteland and resistance movement is fighting a powerful tyrant.
The twist is that the Hulk has no interest in helping these losers, which is nice, but in the end he winds up in a fight with the enemy leader anyway, who turns out to be a future version of the Asgardian Executioner*, which is another nice twist that keeps this from feeling too generic.
That's a proto-version of "Hulk is strongest one there is!" above. Issue #76 also contains the first mention of the Hulk smashing. Hat tip to CBR for noticing both.
After an inconclusive fight, the Hulk is spirited back to his own time. But Rick thinks the Hulk is dead, and he spills the beans to Talbot about the Hulk's alter-ego.
Gil Kane is credited under a pseudonym of "Scott Edward".
*The Executioner will actually 'remember' this encounter the next time he meets the Hulk, so it seems to actually be a time traveling present day Executioner as opposed to a future version.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: Hulk annual #4
Could this future world be related to Kang's war-torn 40th (or 41st?) century? I'd like to imagine Stan was being parsimonious about his dystopian futures.
Quite a few Asgardians had demonstrated time-travel powers by this point, including the Enchantress if I remember the Masters' of Evil encounter with Immortus correctly. The Executioner himself says here that he can send the Hulk back to his time. So I think this was always meant to be a time-traveling Skurge, not a future version-- at this point in the MU I don't think we'd seen any future versions or alternate universes; that's something Roy Thomas adds with the Scarlet Centurion's Avengers annual (#2?) story.
Is there any reason the Executioner doesn't have his axe in this story?
He doesn't have or mention his axe and he's uncharacteristically reliant on technology - he's got those cool tripods (which almost suggests Killraven's not-yet-published time period than Kang's, but of course it's just a War of the Worlds nod), which originally had me thinking "future version" although that turned out not to be the case.
We did have the Ranma-Tut/Dr. Doom speculation in FF annual #2 at this point so it's not completely out of the realm of possibility for Stan to be thinking about "future versions".
Wouldn't have minded a Kang/Executioner battle here, in any event.
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