"Death From On High!"
Plotted by Steve Englehart.
Written by Chris Claremont.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Jack Abel.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by G Roussos.
The spectre of Naked Betty looms still over The Incredible Hulk, as it's come to my notice that the Grand Comics Database's version of its cover's been doctored by a naughty person to depict Betty in the the buff.
And very buff she is too.
Sadly for fans of such things, in the comic itself, while free-falling from a height of eight miles, Betty's somehow managed to find a sheet to wear as a dress. You can imagine how grabbing something to wear would be a young woman's Number One priority as she finds herself plummeting from the stratosphere. One must, after all, make sure to be the best-dressed splatter in town.
But clearly it's a shock-absorbing dress because she somehow manages to survive the fall, with barely a mark on her. Granted, at the moment of impact, the Hulk's holding her but would that really be enough to save her?
Still, the shock of landing's nothing compared to the shock that awaits her once they're down because she and the Hulk find themselves on an island inhabited by giant monsters.
How the monsters got there's never clear. We're told they're aliens but beyond that, nothing. What was their mission? Why are there so few left when it seems there'd once been a hundred of them? Why have forgotten who they are and just what do they want with Betty anyhow?
It's never said, and it gives us one of the strangest of Hulk tales, as the Hulk and Betty completely fail to understand each other's motives, and Betty manages to blunder into monster after monster before, thanks to the Hulk, the creatures all end up consumed by a volcano.
It's an eerie tale, dreamlike, especially in the free-floating symbols that represent the aliens' speech. You can almost hear the beat of strange and sultry drums in the background as the tale progresses with little rhyme or reason. It's a sense of atypicality heightened by the fact the tale's written by Chris Claremont and therefore has a volume and density of captions we're simply not used to in the strip.
Of course, this is all to the better. Strangeness is no bad thing in the Hulk - and nor is surprise. But ultimately it's a sad tale, with Betty and the Hulk completely failing to find any spiritual common ground, the Hulk wanting nothing but to look after what he desperately needs to see as a friend, and Betty wanting nothing but to get away from a creature she sees as a menace.
And so, when it's all stuck together, with both its literal and its spiritual theme of alienation, we get a tale that, although it's never quite clear what's going on - or why - lingers in the memory with a peculiar intangibility long after you've finished it.