Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #68

Credits:

Cover Date: June 1965

Cover Artists: Bob Powell, Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta

“Peril From the Long-Dead Past!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Bob Powell

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Bob Powell

Inker: Vince Colletta

“Back From the Dead”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Mike Esposito (credited as Mickey Demeo)

What’s Going On?

Giant-Man and the Wasp adjust to their new power levels, but will they be adjusted fast enough to confront the Human Top?

Meanwhile, the Hulk escapes from Soviet captivity in time to be attacked by the Leader’s Humanoids.

Details:

In the Giant-Man & Wasp story:

  • Giant-Man is struggling with the loss of his shrinking ability last issue. He is now doubling down on maximizing his giant-sized abilities, but it’s not going great.

  • Meanwhile, the Human Top develops a new costume that will allow him to fly, so he can finally defeat Giant-Man.

  • When the Top finally strikes, he looks to have Giant-Man outclassed, if only because Giant-Man is still getting used to his new power set.

  • The Human Top then captures the Wasp and escapes, with Giant-Man vowing to catch the villain.

  • To be continued…!

In the Hulk story:

  • Picking up from last issue, Bruce Banner and Major Talbot were falling to their deaths. Talbot blacks out before Banner transforms into the Hulk. The Hulk saves Talbot, and then leaves.

  • While Hulk makes his way back to the American Southwest, the Leader is coming up with a new plan to steal Banner’s latest invention, the Absorbatron. He has shrunk his Humanoids down to microscopic size, so they can infiltrate the island military base with the Absorbatron.

  • When the Hulk finally reaches Bruce Banner’s home on a military base, he sneaks inside and falls asleep, transforming back into Banner is his sleep. When he awakes, he is placed under military arrest for treason!

  • He doesn’t stay imprisoned for long. The US President —- who knows the Hulk’s true identity, and knows that Banner isn’t a spy —- instructs Major Talbot to allow Banner to test the Absorbatron. Talbot personally escorts Banner to the island, where the test will take place.

  • When they arrive on the island, Banner notices a curious pink powder covering the island.

  • The pink powder was, in fact, the Leader’s microscopic Humanoid army; they grew to their true size and attacked Talbot and Banner.

  • It doesn’t take long for the swarming Humanoids to stress Banner enough to transform into the Hulk.

  • The Hulk’s strength wasn’t enough to defeat the Humanoids, though. They released a sleeping gas that subdued him.

  • To be continued…!

Is It Good?

It was okay, I guess. I already miss Steve Ditko’s art and storytelling in the Hulk feature. Jack Kirby is no slouch, but I was really enjoying Ditko’s run.

The Hulk story wasn’t bad, but it feels like it is trying to clear the decks of the subplots that have been building up for the past several months. The tough situation Banner found himself in last issue —- he really needed to transform into the Hulk, but he couldn’t in front of Talbot —- was waved away, as were the potential treason accusations. Those would have presented unique obstacles for the Hulk, so I’m sad to see them dismissed in a few panels.

The Giant-Man & Wasp story is successful in setting new baselines for Giant-Man’s powers and what Wasp is capable of. That’s about all it does well. The Human Top isn’t a good villain, and his new costume is idiotic. The changes to Giant-Man’s power set make him a lot less interesting, even if it is nice to finally see his powers more definitely defined.

Continuity:

  • The Human Top last appeared in Tales to Astonish #59.
  • The Human Top has a new costume. He added extra fabric to drape between his arms and legs (like a flying squirrel) and has infused his suit with helium so he can fly.

  • Giant-Man lost the ability to shrink below his normal human size in Tales to Astonish #67.
  • Giant-Man’s optimal size (meaning the largest he can get without becoming weak) has increased from 12-feet tall to 35-feet tall.

  • Giant-Man can no longer change size rapidly without getting faint. The strain is too much for his body. Going forward, he will grow more slowly, and he will vary from normal size to 35-feet tall only.

  • The Wasp has given up the trained bee she was given last issue for a pet wasp named Boopsie.

  • The Wasp’s helmet has been updated so she can now communicate with wasps when she is tiny.

  • It is implied that Giant-Man will be unable to communicate with ants, now that he cannot shrink.
  • The President learned that Bruce Banner is the Hulk in Tales to Astonish #64.

  • This is the first time Banner’s invention, the Absorbatron, is named. However, it’s changed from an unspecified (but volatile) nuclear device to something that absorbs radiation.

  • The Hulk apparently doesn’t always remember that he and Banner are the same person. This isn’t necessarily a retcon, but it certainly has not been conveyed consistently. I guess we’ll see how long this remains the status quo.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Giant-Man, whose powers have nothing to do with nuclear anything, needs to expose his helmet (that controls his powers) to nuclear radiation? Sure, why not?

  • You don’t see characters making fun of their own costumes too often.

  • The Leader believes that there is a connection between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. He wants to capture the Hulk. Naturally, when his Humanoids find Banner, the Leader gives them strict instructions to…kill Banner? Sure. That makes sense.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • I don’t know when kids started using “endsville” as slang, but I can guarantee that they stopped after this:

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