"A Clash of Titans"
Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Herb Trimpe.
Lettered by Artie Simek.
Btam! Rzok! Throp! After the overly-drawn out events of the last few issues, the strip suddenly goes volte face and opts for twenty pages of almost pure action. The Sub-Mariner's squeeze, Lady Dorma, finds Bruce Banner floating unconscious in the ocean. Not knowing who he is, she takes him back to Atlantis for treatment.
However, thanks to Dorma's scheming love rival, Fara, Namor gets the wrong end of the stick, thinks the Hulk was threatening his girl and, as sure as night follows day, Marvel Comics' two most short-tempered characters are going at it like there's no tomorrow.
Because the plot's so straightforward - a quick set-up and then a fight - it feels like an incredibly short tale. Is it really twenty pages? On top of that, the action's piled higher than Scooby Doo's sandwich. In panel after panel, we're left in no doubt we're seeing a scrap of epic proportions between two beings of immense power as they literally hit each other with everything they can find. Entire buildings collapse from the shock waves of their encounter, nearby islands are hit by tidal waves, mighty ships are tossed around like toys.
And of course it all ends in a draw.
Actually it doesn't. I'm sure it's meant to be taken as a draw. This is Marvel Comics after all, in which all super-hero battles must end in a stalemate. But there's no getting round it. When all's said and done, the Sub-Mariner's still conscious after their head-on collision, while the Hulk's out cold. Doesn't that make Subby the winner? It's actually not the only tale in this era in which the Hulk loses in his own comic. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone right now by naming the others but there does seem to be a willingness to have the Hulk defeated that's absent from other Marvel Comics of the time. Was this down to Trimpe exploiting the freedom he was given by the Marvel Method? Was it an editorial decision that the strip would lose its dramatic tension if we know the Hulk never loses?
Then again, was it just an accident?
Interesting that this issue ends the same way as the previous one, with the Hulk falling from the sky, only to be overlooked by his foe-of-the month as he becomes Bruce Banner again. I assume this is coincidence, as there doesn't seem to be any kind of thematic reason for it.