The Incredible Hulk. Ol' Jade Jaws. The Not-So-Jolly Green Giant. Marvel's Mightiest Mortal. Born of rage and gamma radiation, the Incredible Hulk has for the past fifty years, smashed anyone who stands against him. He's been seen as a hero, an outcast, and a monster. He's been green and gray. Through it all, he's become one of Marvel's greatest characters.
Among the many threats he's faced over the years are a group called the U-Foes. First appearing in The Incredible Hulk #254 (December 1980), they were headed by a power-hungry rich businessman named Simon Utrecht, the U-Foes duplicated the spaceflight that empowered the Fantastic Four, giving them twisted versions of the Fantastic Four's powers. In-universe, they got their name as a nod to Utrecht, but in real life, it was a nod to the 1979 Graham Parker song "Waiting For The UFOs".
Funny enough, I don't think they ever fought the Fantastic Four. It's such an obvious face-off there. Anyway, let's take a look at one of Hulk's encounters with this fearsome foursome: Incredible Hulk #276 from October 1982.
The cover is pretty cool. The Hulk is under siege from the U-Foes! This twisted wannabe Fantastic Four is giving ol' Jade Jaws quite a fight, using their numbers to their advantage. It's a very well-drawn cover.
"The Return of the U-Foes!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Penciller: Sal Buscema
Inker: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Al Milgrom
Editor-In-Chief: Jim Shooter
The story begins with Rick Jones lying on a slab, the gamma radiation in his system slowly killing him.
In a previous issue, Rick Jones had exposed himself to massive doses of gamma radiation in an attempt to give himself the power to aid the Hulk against a group of aliens. However, reality decides to ensue for poor Rick. Instead of turning into a powerful green monster, Rick Jones ends up with the mother of all instances of radiation poisoning.
The apparatus over him belongs to Bereet, an alien filmmaker who uses advanced technology to film her art films. The Hulk is a favorite subject of hers. Her Life-Support Spider is able to stabilize Rick, but it's unable to heal him. That's where Dr. Bruce Banner came in. Banner attempts to use a gamma ray projector to draw the excess gamma power out of Rick.
Banner turns the machine to reverse, saying that he tried using this method to cure himself of the Hulk, but it didn't work due to his system have so much gamma radiation in it. The process does work on Rick, but something is wrong. The machine won't shut off, much to Betty Ross and Bereet's horror. Banner realizes that the machine won't stop siphoning energy out of Rick, including his "life energies". Okay. Science in the Marvel Universe is weird.
Banner then changes into the Hulk willingly. As Hulk, he's easily able to destroy the machine, saving Rick. Bereet applauds, while Betty is shocked. Betty demands to know how this happened. Bruce theorizes that essentially he had been exposed to gamma radiation during his various recent adventures (which included the debut of Rocket Raccoon), including his attempts to cure himself, altered his system allowing him to not only change into the Hulk willingly, but also retain his mind.
I love this sequence. It gives a sense of motion to the action. My mind's eye can picture Bruce changing to Hulk and back with the dialogue. I love it.
Rick and Bereet are overjoyed to hear this, as it means that Bruce has finally found a way to live with the Hulk. Betty, though...is not quite as enthused. She's angry at Bruce because he wanted to be cured of the Hulk, but now seemingly doesn't mind this new status quo. Well, to be fair, maybe Bruce is trying to make the best of things. Think about it. Every attempt Bruce has made to cure himself has failed miserably. But now, thanks to all the recent adventures he's had, Bruce has actual control over the Hulk now. He can still be Bruce, and access the Hulk's power. In essence, if he can't get rid of the Hulk, he has the next best thing.
Bereet, though, tells Bruce she is overjoyed for this new turn in his life, and then he realizes for some reason that not only is she there, she's an alien. Bruce, you mean you never noticed the alien woman with the Red Sonja goes sci-fi outfit and bag of tricks with you this whole time? Bruce then decides he'll table the issue of Bereet filming him later, as he wants to talk to Betty.
Betty and Bruce then converse over this new status quo. Betty dislikes it basically because basically...she wants to have a normal life with Bruce. She wants to be a regular housewife, with a kid while Bruce does a regular job, not turning into a green rage monster who goes around getting into brawls with monsters and supervillains alike.
There is one good point that Betty raises. I'm not quite sure at the time if Bruce's identity as the Hulk was public, but if it did end up public, supervillains would attack him at his home, endangering his loved ones. There certainly were supervillains ruthless enough to do so, even back in those days. Bruce counters that he would only use the power of the Hulk when it was absolutely needed, to stop natural disasters and the like. He promises her he'll never change into the Hulk unless Betty wants him to. However, he may have to break that promise.
Yup! The U-Foes are back, and they are fighting mad! Betty is unfamiliar with them, and Bruce basically explains that they are a twisted version of the Fantastic Four, created when Simon Utrecht (Vector), re-created the shuttle flight that gave them their powers. They did this out a desire to gain power so people would give them respect and adulation. Using their powers, they attack Banner, and give him a beating. Bruce then decides that if they want the Hulk, they'll get the Hulk.
Ironclad figures that Bruce's brain in control of the Hulk won't save him from his steel-like fists. He thought wrong. He easily sends Ironclad flying with one punch, and then disperses Vapor with a thunderclap. Vector and Hulk get into a fight involving them tossing debris at each other. Bereet uses a special sphere to protect herself, Rick, and Betty from the fight.
X-Ray flies in, realizing the U-Foes need a plan and to work as a team to fight Hulk. He blasts the Green Goliath with "Negative Gamma rays", causing him to change back into Bruce Banner. Ironclad returns and downs the scientist with one punch. To ensure he gets knocked out, Vapor flies in and turns her gaseous form into an anesthetic, taking Banner on a trip to Dreamland.
Vector decides to give the Hulk a public execution, saying it will give the U-Foes the fame and adulation they desire. Not to mention, if they could kill the Hulk, then no one might dare take them on. Yeah, about that...the Hulk is a former Avenger. Somehow, Vector, I don't think Earth's Mightiest Heroes would take too kindly to you killing one of their own, even if his relationship with the team could be rocky at times.
One of Bereet's toys witnesses this, and alerts her to it. Rick Jones is shocked, as he believed nobody could beat the Hulk. Bereet states they must save Bruce Banner from the U-Foes. Betty furiously refuses. Bereet takes it well.
A furious Bereet reminds Betty that she aided them when Rick was dying, and that she has a duty as a human to help someone in danger. Betty reminds her that she was helping Hulk while Bereet was back in her homeworld making movies. She agrees to help, but it will be the last time. Rick states they'll need a plan. Bereet has a simple one. Her spatial distorter is a literal bag of tricks, you see. It contains more than just her equipment she uses to film her movies. She also creates techno-art that can be used for more utilitarian purposes, like...personal defense. As she shows with her Defendroids.
The plan is a simple one. The Defendroids will engage the U-Foes, and Bereet, Rick, and Betty will take advantage of their distraction to find and free Banner.
I am not exactly sure what to say about this comic, to be honest. It's not a bad comic, not a bad comic at all. I have to say it's a rather enjoyable comic. It feels like a bit of a breather in a way. But that's not a bad thing, considering the epic adventures Hulk had previously. The fight with the U-Foes was good. It's neat to see a team of villains working as a team. I do think Betty's portrayal is a bit iffy, though. Can't quite put my finger on it. Sal Buscema turns in some good art, and Joe Sinnott's inking makes it look very clean. I got the scans from the Incredible Hulk trade paperback The Incredible Hulk: Pardoned, and I highly recommend it. Bill Mantlo was a rather underrated writer in my opinion, especially on Hulk.
Next time, we'll take a look at a daring adventure of Supergirl...