Title: “The Incredible Hulk”
Credits: Written by Stan Lee, Art by Jack Kirby, Inked by Dick Ayers, Lettered by Art Simek
Supporting Cast: Thunderbolt Ross, Rick Jones.
Villain: The Wrecker
Hulk Intelligence: Not-so-crafty brute, but still nowhere near “dumb Hulk”
Plot: Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters are leaving the City Symphony Auditorium (Ben in trenchcoat, hat, and sunglasses) when a man bumps Ben's sunglasses and hat off as he gestures at infantrymen marching down the street. The man gets Ben's temper going, and the resulting interaction causes one of the soldiers to think that Ben's the Hulk! When they surround Ben, the Thing reacts by pulling a hydrant out of th street and using it to douse the soldiers, but then one of them shoots a special flexible steel band shell at him. Ben easily breaks free of the trap, but then he's hit by a gas shell. Minutes later, when Ben awakens, the captain of the soldiers apologizes, saying they mistook Ben ffor the Hulk. Alicia talks Ben into returning to the Baxter Building, but the Thing fumes all the way. Later, at the Baxter Building, Ben's temper gets the best of him when he realizes he's lost the special key to the FF's private elevator, rips the doors off it, and climbs up the cables, only to see his partners waiting for him. Reed tells Ben that they just had a call about the Hulk, and almost immediately, General Ross and his aid, Captain Nelson (whom I don't recall seeing in a previous Hulk tale) arrive to brief the FF about the Hulk, since Ross wants their help finding and destroying ol' Greenskin. The hunt's been intensified because missile installations in the desert have been sabotaged, and the Hulk is believed to be the only one who could've done it. Ross shows them film of the Hulk, as well as footage of the damaged special cannon that was later destroyed by the Hulk. Sue's so startled by the footage she becomes invisible. Ben then tells Ross how he would take out the Hulk, followed by Johnny Storm's rendition of how he'd handle the beast, and then Mr. Fantastic tells his version of how he sees things happening. Sue doesn't believe she has anything to offer, but Ross says a pretty young lady can always keep men's morale up (a sentiment Reed agrees with, male chauvinist pig that he is). Ross is then shown the Fantasti-Car, and later, the FF take their amazing vehicle to the site of Project 34, one of the sites damaged supposedly by the Hulk. Ross orders a conference with Reed, Bruce Banner, Rick Jones, and Dr. Karl Kort. Banner, of course, doesn't believe that the Hulk is responsible for the sabotage, but his theory is put on the back burner. Kort excuses himself from the meeting, bumping into the Thing and the Torch (Sue's there too, just invisible) on his way out, and dropping his wallet on the way. The remaining members of the FF burst in on the meeting, causing a ruckus that's quickly toned down. When Ross accuses the Thing of being afraid of the Hulk, Ben grabs an armload of Ross' bound set of telephone books and tears them in half. Banner offers his and Rick's help in finding The Wrecker (their name for the real saboteur), and Sue remarks how odd it is that they are so sure the Hulk isn't the guilty one. The Torch gives Rick Kort's dropped wallet, and shows off to Rick as well (the Torch has a habit of doing this – he showed off to Peter Parker in Spider-Man's mag the first time he met him, too). Later, Bruce and Rick decide it's up to them to prove that the Wrecker exists. Rick goes to take Kort's wallet back to him, and finds a membership card to a subversive communist-front organization in the wallet. He's about to report this to the Hulk when Kort discovers him, and Rick realizes Kort is the Wrecker! In the meantime, the FF have decided to test a rocket sled, which Reed's worked out the kinks in so Ben can test it for the base (I don't know why Reed figured this was more important than finding the Hulk). As the test proceeds, Ben spots a kink in the tracks, causing a crash of the rocket sled, which Johnny and Reed manage to sae him from. Banner shows up at this time, saying Rick is missing, and he's afraid the Wrecker has him. Ben still thinks it's the Hulk who's responsible. Banner walks away, and looks at the note he found from the Wrecker telling the Hulk to drive the FF from the area or Rick will be killed. He goes to his underground lab, and transforms himself into the Hulk! Meanwhile, Kort and Rick are using an underground catacomb system to go to Kort's own lab, which is apparently hidden near a Western ghost town. Kort is not aware that the Hulk also knows about the tunnels, nor that the FF has found them as well! The Hulk runs into the FF in the tunnels, and the battle soon begins, with the Hulk taking on the male members of the FF, who take him on one at a time, although still using some teamwork. The Hulk takes out Reed and Johnny before the Thing wades back into the battle, but before the Thing can get in more than a minor blow or two, the Hulk is struck by an atom-powered ray from below, which puts the Hulk down! Sue spotted the ray, though, so Ben tears into the earth, finding first a giant robot that Ben immediately decides belongs to the Wrecker, and which was used for the sabotage. It's the work of a single panel for Ben to destroy it, and then the Thing and Sue (who's invisible again) confront Kort. Kort's about to fire the same ray at Ben (set at full intensity), but Sue gets the drop on him. Seconds later, Reed and Johnny show up to learn that Kort is the Wrecker. On the surface, the Hulk's recovered from the ray, and decides to leave to change back to Banner. The FF learn the Hulk's gone when the emerge from underground, and before very long, Bruce arrives with Ross to get the news. Reed tells Banner that he'd like to talk to Banner more about himself, Rick, and the Hulk... leading Rick to ask Bruce later if he thinks Reed suspects. After the FF get an honor guard passing in review for their efforts, they return to New York, unaware that the Hulk's watching them leave!
Invention Exchange: Flexible steel band shell (inventor unknown), Project 34 (Bruce's electro-magnetic projector that would make any city invulnerable to enemy missiles), Rocket Sled X 2 A-7, the Wrecker's robot.
Reprinted In: Marvel's Greatest Comics #29, Marvel Masterworks #6, Essential Fantastic Four #1, Fantastic Four Omnibus #1.
Notes: Interestingly enough, the splash page title for this story simply uses the Hulk's logo as the title! So far as Karl Kort goes, isn't it strange that he'd have his communist organization membership card in his wallet while he's on base?