Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #64

Credits:

Cover Date: February 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

“When Attuma Strikes!”

Plotters: Leon Lazarus, Carl Burgos

Scripter: Leon Lazarus

Penciller: Carl Burgos

Inker: Paul Reinman

“The Horde of Humanoids”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: George Roussos (credited as George Bell)

What’s Going On?

When the Wasp falls into the clutches of some evil Atlanteans, it is up to Giant-Man to save her!

Meanwhile, the Leader once again tries to steal Bruce Banner’s later weapon, and only the Hulk can stop the villain. Or can he?

Details:

In the Giant-Man & Wasp story:

  • While assisting Hank with an experiment, Janet drops some equipment, and Hank snaps at her. Upset, Jan decides to leave Hank and take a flight to somewhere far away.

  • Hank was oblivious to how much his sniping hurt Janet, naturally. When he comes out of the lab and finds a “Dear John” letter, he freaks out.

  • As luck would have it, Janet’s flight is targeted by the villainous Attuma, looking for an easy victory after his recent defeat to Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Attuma has a gigantic subaqueous ship and an artificial island to trap passers by.

  • Attuma wants to capture the plane so his scientists have humans to study. Once they understand the strengths and weaknesses of the humans, Attuma plans to attack the surface world.

  • Having captured the plane, Attuma selects Janet to be the first test subject. Before she complies, she found some remnants of an old shrinking capsule. That doesn’t help her much, especially without her suit, but it is enough to communicate with some ants.

  • When the ant finally reaches Hank, hours later, he immediately leaps into action. He follows the ant-signals to Attuma’s island and attacks.

  • Impressed by Hank’s size (he grew to 50-feet to seem extra imposing), Attuma asks Hank to join his forces as an ally. Not surprisingly, Giant-Man turns him down.

  • Changing size at will, Giant-Man keeps Attuma’s forced off-balance. Eventually, Attuma decides to flood the ship to put his soldiers at an advantage.

  • That doesn’t do the trick, though. Shrinking allows our heroes to breathe in an air bubble, which gives them enough oxygen until Attuma pumps the water out of the room again. When he sees that he is outmatched, Attuma retreats and Giant-Man & the Wasp reconcile.

In the Hulk story:

  • Bruce Banner has been jailed, under suspicion being a Soviet spy. He’s clearly not guilty, but he doesn’t want to clear his name by showing the public that he is the Hulk; enemy nations would then try to kidnap him and replicate the accident that gave him powers.

  • Rick Jones decides to clear Banner’s name by appealing to the President.

  • The President agrees to keep Banner’s secret identity safe, and he issues an order, clearing Banner of the spy charge.
  • Meanwhile, the Leader is sending more of his Humanoids to capture Banner’s latest atomic device.

  • At the testing site, Banner prepares to test his device, but Major Talbot is stressing him out. Talbot doesn’t trust Banner, despite the White House clearing him of the spy charge. Talbot thinks that Banner calls the Hulk to help him do spy stuff. Unfortunately, when the stress becomes too much for Banner, he begins to transform.

  • Banner transforms into the Hulk, just beyond Talbot’s field of vision. When Talbot spots the Hulk, he is certain that Banner contacted the brute.
  • When the Leader sees the Hulk at the testing site, he orders his Humanoids to capture him.

  • While the Hulk is clearly stronger than the Humanoids, they are able to withstand his attacks. As the fight goes on, the Hulk starts to get frustrated.

  • Little does the Leader realize that stressing the Hulk out will cause him to transform back into Bruce Banner! Major Talbot called for reinforcements when the Hulk showed up, and they are approaching just as the Hulk is about to change back into Banner. To be continued…

Is It Good?

It’s pretty good. The Giant-Man & Wasp story is better than usual, and that makes a huge difference in how enjoyable the issue is. While the romance between Hank and Janet seems to be going nowhere, this story tried something new; I didn’t like it, but at least it was different. I did like seeing Hank changing up his size in battle and seeming legitimately powerful. The past few issues have been trending in this direction, but this issue has the payoff.

The Hulk story continues the ongoing serial that’s been ongoing since Tales to Astonish #60. Every other Marvel title at this time is telling one- or two-part stories, so the ongoing nature of this really makes it stand out. The story itself isn’t particularly impressive, but I am definitely enjoying the storytelling craft at work (and Ditko’s pencils help).

Continuity:

  • Attuma last appeared in Fantastic Four #33.
  • Janet has equipment maintenance instructions on the inside of her closet door.

  • This is the first time Giant-Man or the Wasp have encountered Atlanteans with blue skin. Until now, they had only seen Namor.
  • Janet can apparently communicate with insects without her costume/helmet; she just needs to take a shrinking pill, and then she can mentally transmit information to ants.
  • Major Talbot has romantic feelings for Betty Ross.

  • The Chameleon is still an active spy for the Leader, in case you thought theirs was a one-time interaction.

  • This is the second time a US President has helped Bruce Banner with legal problems. In Incredible Hulk #6, the Hulk received a Presidential pardon for his past crimes. In this issue, the President forces the charges against Banner to be dropped.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Henry Pym, expert in biological miniaturization, has built…a gigantic robot ant? I mean, I guess it makes more sense than when he was making bank alarms, but still…this doesn’t seem like this field of expertise.

  • I don’t think “cybernetic” means what you think it means, Jan.

  • How are Attuma and his men breathing air? They needed helmets when they were in the surface, but in Attuma’s ship, where Giant-Man and Wasp can breathe freely, they don’t?

  • I don’t think I realized just how far back it was apparent that this romance was toxic. I had no idea that Jim Shooter / Roger Stern we’re working in continuity when they made Hank an abuser.

  • This might not much sense in the real world, but it is pretty logical in a comic.  If something or someone looks a lot like something else, they probably are somehow connected.

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