Fantastic Four #25-26
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #25, Fantastic Four #26
I believe this is the first real example of this phenomenon. There have certainly been guest appearances before and even a few examples of villains of hero/team being the antagonist in another book, but this is the first full story that builds on elements from a different book, truly creating the sense that this is all happening in the same 'world'. Of course it also raises the bar; now every time there is a major threat we will wonder why other teams are not helping out.
A lot of why this happened (other than a good opportunity for cross marketing and just plain fun storytelling) is due to the Hulk. After his book was canceled, Stan Lee must have had a fondness for him, because he kept him alive through his appearances in the Avengers. That continues here. After his last appearance in Avengers #3, the Hulk has returned home to New Mexico. He discovers that Captain America has taken in Rick Jones as a partner. The Hulk sees this as a betrayal and returns to New York to defeat the Avengers once and for all. Meanwhile the Avengers head out to New Mexico.
Since the Avengers are not in New York when he arrives, the Hulk goes on a rampage and only the FF are there to stop him. Backing up a bit, FF #25 opens up with a hilarious scene where the Thing is climbing the walls, terrified of Reed Richards, who is holding up yet another potion that is meant to 'cure' him.
Having read all the previous scenes where Richards has tried to cure Ben, it is no wonder that he is refusing the help now, but additionally Ben fears that if he reverts to human form Alicia will no longer want him. He tells Reed that he will only accept a cure that will allow him to transform back and forth at will.
Reed then gets sick. He has been working with viruses in his attempt to devise a cure for Ben and he has become infected.
So when the Hulk is spotted, the FF is not at full strength. The Human Torch flies out to stop him but Sue and Ben stay in the Baxter Building. The Torch is easily defeated and discarded by the Hulk...
...and Thing and the Invisible Girl rush after the Hulk, but Johnny gets back up and attacks the Hulk again even though he can't flame on. Sue protects Johnny with a forcefield but the Hulk grabs the field and jumps high into the air, pushing Sue to her limits and knocking her out.
Dropping Johnny's unprotected body, the Hulk turns to face the Thing.
And they fight. They fight for the remaining 12 pages of issue #25, and it's an awesome thing to read. The Hulk basically has the upper hand the entire time but the Thing keeps hanging in there and coming back. Kirby's art, inked by George Roussos, is perfect for these two giant bulky monster-men pounding away at each other.
At the end of #25, the Thing has lost round 1. As he's shaking himself off, there's another early reference to his Aunt Petunia.
Issue #26 picks up with the Thing and Hulk still brawling. The Human Torch, waking up in the hospital in asbestos bandages, flies off to help the Thing...
...but Johnny is still weak and the Thing is very tired while the Hulk seems to continue getting stronger the more he fights (this becomes the standard, but it is a new development for the Hulk here), and they get defeated.
The Hulk heads to Tony Stark's Manhattan mansion (not yet the Avenger's mansion, even though it is their meeting place, but the Hulk was a member of the Avengers so he knows where to go). The Avengers, having just returned to New York, are waiting for him. They hold back, giving Rick a chance to talk the Hulk down, but the Hulk lunges at Rick, shouting that Rick deserted him.
The Avengers attack and even the Wasp gets in on the action, flying into the Hulk's ear.
Then the FF show up (with Reed having been cured at the hospital) and start attacking without any coordination with the Avengers. The two groups keep getting in each other's way, so the Hulk grabs Rick and leaps away, mentioning that the only one he really fears is Thor.
The Avengers and the FF agree they need to work together better (This is their first meeting. That is so cool!)...
...and they head off to fight the Hulk again, who is at the top of an under construction skyscraper. The fighting continues for another seven pages, including a Hulk/Thing rematch...
...and then Rick manages to throw a pill into the Hulk's mouth that will turn the Hulk back into Bruce. The Hulk jumps into the river and the heroes assume that he will hold his breath for a long time and hide, not realizing that he is turning back into Banner (only Rick knows the Hulk's alter-ego).
The final wrap up page includes a scene with the FF welcoming the Avengers onto the scene, which is cool, and also a little character development for Captain America, who feels sympathy for the Hulk because he knows what it is like to lose a partner.
All in all, a fantastic episode. It avoids a lot of the standard Silver Age corniness due to the fact that it is a giant fight scene, but even so it manages to have good character moments and is just a great issue overall.
Throughout #25, the Hulk and the narrator refer to Bruce as "Bob Banner". This resulted in Banner's full name becoming Robert Bruce Banner as 'revealed' in FF #28's letters column.
"How can something that big move that fast" alert: "But, moving with surprising speed for one so huge, the Hulk lashes out..."
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Captain America joins the Avengers in Avengers #4. Avengers #5 begins in the aftermath of this story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Hulk vs. the Thing #1 (Dec 99)
Inbound References (8): show
I'm not that fond of George Roussos' inking here. Things look a bit sketchy in too many places, which sort of muffles the fight scenes a bit.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 31, 2011 9:40 PM
more examples of Reed Richard's douchebaggery:
1) Alicia shows up with a newspaper she just bought asking if someone could please read it to her, cause, you know, she's blind. what does Reed say? "I could have told you what it was, Alicia! The news just came in over the radio!" that's right, Alicia. quit being so dumb. your ears still work, don't they?
2) forget the ICBM he keeps in Manhattan, now he's working with deadly viruses and microbes without taking any precautions to prevent infecting anyone, including himself.
i'll give the Avengers the benefit of the doubt and say that since they've been following all the wreckage done by the Hulk, it makes perfect sense to assume the boxes strewn on the road were caused by the Hulk. Thor, on the other hand, is harder to convince than I am: "But why would he have strewn all these heavy crates along the road?". because he can, Thor. Because he can.
Reed Richards falls into the most chatty coma i've ever seen. repeatedly. i guess that's the 1960s version of saying "fainted in a manly way".
oh, asbestos. you're so great. we can make hospital gowns out of you with no health hazards. i just want to point out that underneath that hospital gown, Johnny Storm is prolly only in his briefs. but the gown just cramps his style, so he takes it off before flying out to fight the Hulk. i kept turning the pages, waiting for his flames to get blown out so i could get a look at his studliness. i was sadly disappointed.
Posted by: min | June 5, 2012 1:19 PM
why did the Hulk spend most of issue #25 yelling about finding the Avengers? why didn't he head straight for the mansion instead of tearing up random buildings which caused him to get into an unwanted fight with the FF?
also, yay! the Wasp did something!
Posted by: min | June 5, 2012 1:26 PM
Having just re-read the Ultimates, it's good to see that some things - Cap being very quick and able to try to wear down the Hulk while dodging him and the Wasp flying in and messing with his ear - don't change after several decades.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 21, 2014 9:12 AM
First came across this story in Marvel Saga. While the art looked crude to me compared to what I was seeing in '80s comics, it was still pretty awesome to see all the heroes taking on the Hulk. This was the first of what became a Marvel tradition of Hulk losing his shit and everybody trying to stop him. Those stories never got old during the classic era. Nowadays you have Mark Millar write it and I struggle to care.
Posted by: Robert | February 6, 2016 11:27 AM
This was absolute classic early Marvel and the dialogue between the Hulk and the Thing during their fight was great stuff. As far as later art being better it was better to look at but Kirby was a better visual story teller than many of his successors. The Hulk is a truly unique character despite a superficial resemblance to the Thing. He is in the only Marvel (or DC) hero who has fought as many heroes as he has villains.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 28, 2016 9:28 PM
FF #22-#27 all suffer from George Roussos' inks IMO. Not a big fan of Chic Stone's inks either but was glad to see Stone's run start on #28-#38 for a welcome change, and as the better of two less than ideal choices.
In a lot of ways I prefer Kirby's earlier or transitional pencils to his later "more mature style" but he was always at the mercy of his inkers and most (if not all?) of the earlier Marvel inkers were less than the best, again JMHO but others have written similar opinions.
Kirby's style in this phase strikes me as less flamboyant, which is not necessarily a bad thing IMO, but more to the point I'm trying to make, he seems more thoughtful, less stylized, and less inclined to throw in a lot of new things just for the self-indulgent love of showing off his seemingly boundless creativity.
Posted by: James Holt | October 28, 2016 11:18 PM
This is one of my all-time favorite classic Silver Age stories ever since I first read it in "Marvel's Greatest Superhero Battles" (Fireside).
A few minor comments: (a) Hulk leaps from New Mexico to New York in 24 hours, which is making pretty decent time, but he seemed to get dramatically faster later. (b) probably my single favorite part occurs when Hulk slams together two pieces of concrete and the shockwave is so powerful it hurls the Torch AND the Thing far away. (c) Hulk is so fearless (reckless?) here that he's willing to frontally attack the entire Avengers on their home turf. (d) definitively establishes the first meeting between the FF and the Avengers-- Earth's premiere superhero teams.
My only minor complaint is that Hulk never really fights Thor here. I guess it kind of had to work out that way 'cause Thor alone is probably a match for Hulk, but just about everyone else gets to participate more actively, even Wasp, and I wouldn't have minded a stray panel or two of Hulk briefly mixing it up with Thor. JIM # 112 would partly rectify that deficiency later.
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 11:41 PM
This two-issue classic was published in my "wonder years" and I rated the combo in 1969 or 70 as the #1 and #2 best issues in the Marvel Universe. I composed a ranking of my fav 100 comics and mailed it in to Marvel which awarded me with a No-Prize. I wish I would have kept it. Despite the anemic art (as compared to much later in the series.) Reed's fever, the Thing losing in issue 25, the Torch's arm out of commission, the Avengers guest starring (with Iron Man's early persona being a bitch -- early signs of alcoholism ;)) made this two parter the best in my judgement
Posted by: Marcus Bressler | February 25, 2018 4:36 PM
Ive been reading Marvel for 30 years and can't recall ever hearing about this story before. It's strange how seemingly seminal events can get lost or largely forgotten, though I guess it shouldn't really be surprising given the amount of material the company continually knocks out.
Still I think it's nuts. I will have to read it soon as your write up makes it seem very cool fnord.
Posted by: Hugh Sheridan | April 3, 2018 4:54 PM
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