"Re-Enter: The Missing Link!"
Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Jack Abel.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.
We've seen super-villains reform before but the Missing Link puts a whole new spin on the word, as a character we last saw exploding in mid-air returns, his bits and pieces having literally re-formed into the bright pink caveman we all remember.
But if he survived his fall from on high, our other main player has his own plunge to endure.
Sent back to Earth by the Recorder, in a spaceship that seems to have been produced from nowhere, the Hulk loses patience with being inside it and smashes his way out, leading him to plummet several miles into the Appalachian landscape. When he wakes up, it's Bruce Banner who finds himself taken in by a local family; the Brickfords. That's when he finds out he's not the only stray they've adopted because they have a lodger. They call him Lincoln.
And he's the Missing Link.
But it's a different entity from the one we encountered before. Whereas his former incarnation was full of rage and fury, this one, having been taken in by the Brickfords and shown kindness by them, has mellowed into a pillar of the local community.
Still, as the Hulk could tell him, when you're a radiation-spawned monster, life's rarely simple and, despite befriending him, Bruce Banner soon discovers the Missing Link's giving off radiation levels that're endangering everyone around him.
Of course it all leads to a fight between the Hulk and the creature, that, like the last one, ends with the Missing Link exploding. But this time he reforms instantly and, his radiation output back to safe levels, goes off with his friends, leaving the Hulk once more alone.
This is more like it. After the pretensions of the last few issues, we get back to basics as the Hulk comes up against another big ugly monster. Happily, it's more sophisticated than that as we get to see the former menace recast as a good guy, fighting to save his friends from the deadly peril he believes the Hulk to be, while the Hulk thinks he's saving the town from the Missing Link. With its redefining of a former menace, the contrast between the Hulk's outcast status and his foe's acceptance by the society he's found himself in, and the caveman inadvertently posing a deadly threat to his new-found friends, it's easily the best Hulk tale we've seen for a while and, after recent missteps, it's good to see the strip finally back on track.
On the face of it, it's not the only one back on track because Glenn Talbot's finally back on American soil.
But what does this mean for his long-suffering wife?
And just how does it connect to Colonel Armbruster's digital watch blowing a gasket?