Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #69

Credits:

Cover Date: July 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia

“Oh Wasp, Where Is Thy Sting?”

Plotters: Al Hartley, Bob Powell

Scripter: Al Hartley

Penciller: Bob Powell

Inker: John Giunta

“Trapped in the Lair of the Leader!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Mike Esposito (credited as Mickey Demeo)

What’s Going On?

The Human Top has kidnapped the Wasp and wants to make her his sidekick/love interest! Can Giant-Man save her?

Elsewhere, the Hulk has been captured by the mysterious Leader.

Details:

  • Last issue, the Human Top kidnapped the Wasp. Now, he explains to her that he wants Giant-Man to find them so he can spring a trap on the hero!

  • Unable to escape, the Wasp remotely contacts her pet wasp. Noticing the wasp’s agitation, Giant-Man decides to follow it to Janet.

  • Since Giant-Man can no longer shrink to ant-sized proportions, he enlarged the wasp and rides it instead.

  • Once he arrives, Giant-Man immediately falls into the Top’s trap.

  • The Human Top uses his trap to quickly freeze Giant-Man and the Wasp.

  • Ah, but the heroes shrank down once the icy coating formed, which allows them to break free!

  • Giant-Man knocks the Human Top into his own trap, where he freezes and is easily captured. The end.

In the Hulk story:

  • Picking up from last issue, the Leader has captured the Hulk and is preparing to take the unconscious hero to his secret base for study.

  • After the Leader’s Humanoids load the Absorbatron onto the Leader’s aircraft, he destroys them and takes the device and the Hulk away.

  • The Navy rushes in after seeing the Leader’s aircraft leave. They didn’t see the Leader, so they assume that Bruce Banner was piloting the ship and stole the Absorbatron, with the Hulk’s help.

  • In the Leader’s base, the villain uses sleeping gas to keep the Hulk sedated while he is studying him.

  • When the Leader leaves the room, though, the sleeping gas has the unexpected (for the Leader) side effect of calming and transforming the Hulk into Bruce Banner!

  • Banner immediately understands the situation and begins broadcasting an SOS.

  • Rick Jones and the US Army both notice the SOS and head towards it. Curiously, the Army still considers Banner a traitor and plans to shoot anything they see.

  • Back in the Leader’s base, the villain notices that the Hulk is not where he left him. Realizing that the containment unit he has the Hulk in is large and has not been opened, the Leader concludes that the Hulk has not left the containment unit, but is simply hiding inside. The Leader fills it with more sleeping gas, which causes Banner to transform back into the Hulk and break out!

  • The Hulk destroys the Absorbatron to prevent it from falling into the Leader’s hands. While the Hulk destroys his base, the Leader escapes in a hidden tunnel.

  • When the Army arrives, they shoot at the Hulk, but have difficulty seeing the results with the smoke and fire surrounding them. When things settle down, they find the body of Bruce Banner, who appears to be dead!

Is It Good?

The Hulk story has its moments. I’m still enjoying the ongoing saga in this feature, but I wonder if Jack Kirby is wrapping up the plot lines from Steve Ditko’s run so he can have more control over the story; it just feels like the plot has moved very quickly since Kirby took over, and there’s a lot of hand-waving to bypass situations that, a few months ago, might have had an entire issue devoted to them. For example, Banner trapped in a room where the Hulk cannot stay awake has some potential as a story plot; here, it is a mild inconvenience.

The Giant-Man and Wasp story was not good. The script ignores Giant-Man’s new status quo with his powers (he can’t shrink) that were established only one issue ago. Having the Human Top set up an elaborate trap for Giant-Man makes no sense, given the haphazard attacks he made last issue. Having the Human Top see the Wasp as an object whose love can be won through violence was a bizarre choice, too. It was just all-around bad.

I am very excited that this is the final Giant-Man story in Tales to Astonish. It has consistently been one of the two weakest features in Marvel’s superhero line thus far in the Silver Age, and it deserved to get cancelled months ago. I’m not very excited to see Namor take over this slot, though; if I’m lucky, they won’t bother too much with Atlantis and focus more on Namor being a jerk.

Continuity:

  • The Human Top kidnapped the Wasp at the end of last issue.
  • The Wasp’s mask changed between issues. Instead of having a red “W” on her otherwise black mask, the front of her mask is now red, leading to points at the top. She didn’t have this last issue, so I guess she changed while the Human Top was kidnapping her? Sure, we’ll go with that explanation.

  • I had assumed that Wasp could only communicate with wasps when she is tiny, but that apparently isn’t the case.
  • Giant-Man can apparently shrink down to insect-size still, despite last issue going to great lengths to explain that he cannot shrink below his normal human size.  I’m calling this a retcon for now instead of just a mistake; we’ll see what his powers are the next time he appears.

  • It is implied that Giant-Man and the Wasp are retiring from super-heroics.

  • This is the last time Giant-Man and the Wasp will headline a feature in Tales to Astonish. Beginning next issue, Namor will replace them.
  • The Absorbatron can apparently absorb the “power” of an atom bomb, which makes it sound like it can help them survive the explosion as well as the radiation.

  • The Leader’s Humanoids have been destroyed by the Leader. Time will tell how replaceable they are.

  • Bruce Banner knows what happened to him as the Hulk. This is a change from the last time the Hulk transformed into Banner.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • This is very “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine.” Janet, you need to get a life (and some self-esteem) after this.

  • He’s dangling from a ledge, people! “Damn, he just got humiliated,” shouldn’t be your first response.

  • That’s not how partnerships work, dude.

  • So…why can’t the Wasp warn Giant-Man? She’s not even going to try to change size to get free?

  • Also, it’s worth noting that the Human Top built this elaborate trap as Plan C. Plan A was to hit Giant-Man with a biplane last issue. Plan B was to leave a Giant-Man dangling out of a window, but not stopping to see if he died or not. The Top likes his contingencies.
  • Perhaps, one day. Perhaps not, creep.

  • Hank, your inner monologue is embarrassing.

  • This sort of reference will be funnier when Patsy Walker becomes part of the Marvel Universe in the 70’s.

  • In case you thought that Giant-Man shrinking down to “insect-size” was a typo, they double-down on it here. This is what happens when you don’t let Stan Lee co-plot & script every issue.

  • Why would Banner be immune to sleep gas?

  • Wait…I thought Banner was immune to the sleep gas. Why does it now change him into the Hulk, and why is the Hulk now immune to the gas?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • The way Marvel treats their female characters is very telling of their attitude towards women at this time. Female characters aren’t seen as anything close to equals of the male characters. They are treated like mascots and love interests without personalities. Despite the constant danger they find themselves in as superheroes, hitting a female character is considered crossing a line. And I get (and appreciate) Marvel taking a stand against misogynistic violence, but it would be a lot better if they just allowed women to kick some ass.

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