Title: “The Avengers Meet... Sub-Mariner!”
Credits: Written by Stan Lee, Illustrated by Jack Kirby, Inked by Paul Reinman, Lettered by Sam Rosen.
Supporting Cast: Rick Jones
Villain: The Hulk and Sub-Mariner
Hulk Intelligence: Average Intelligence, Bullying Mentality
Guest-Stars: The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men (all cameos)
Plot: At the monthly Avengers meeting, Iron Man insists that they must find the Hulk. He attempts to use Tony Stark's Image Projector, sending an image (with sound) of himself to the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men in search of leads to the Hulk's whereabouts, but comes up empty. Then it occurs to Thor that they contact Rick Jones, and do so via short-wave radio. Rick starts searching, and finds Greenskin in half an hour, where the Hulk is pulling a jeep out of a lake (the driver drove it in there, having been scared of the Hulk). Rick talks the Hulk into going to the hidden cave lab, where Rick uses Banner's Gamma Ray machine to turn the Hulk back to Banner, which leaves Banner weakened. Rick stands vigil outside of Bruce's bedroom in the lab in case Bruce changes back to the Hulk, but Bruce can't sleep, tossing and turning in bed. Finally he transforms back to the Hulk (Banner reasoned that Rick didn't give him a strong enough dose – but that feels like a cop-out). The Hulk bursts out and takes off, and Rick heads to the Teen Brigade's nearest location and calls on the Avengers for help. Alerted, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Thor all head to the scene in their own ways. Iron Man is the first to arrive, spotting Rick, who's trying to wave Iron Man off. Shellhead finds out why quickly, as the Hulk is hiding in wait, slamming the Golden Avenger with a massive fist. Iron Man adjusts his repulsers and uses them to bast a bunch of boulders at the Hulk. In response, the Hulk grabs a cactus and starts squeezing it, sending thousands of needles at Iron Man (the Hulk figures one may get in through an opening of the suit). Ant-Man and the Wasp arrive next, and they contact local ants, ordering them to block a fast-rushing underground stream, which then runs upward, causing the ground to crumble beneath the Hulk! This puts the Hulk on the defensive, and Iron Man engages him to push the advantage as Thor arrives. The Hulk then tricks Thor and Iron Man into flying upward at great speed, while he himself crashes under the ground into an abandoned mine shaft, which he escapes through, hopping a ride on a passing train. Thor and Iron Man spot him, however, and the Hulk tosses the caboose at them. Thor smashes it with his hammer, and the fight begins anew, as the Hulk wraps up Thor in a cable, and knocks Iron Man aside with a crane. When Giant-Man makes his way to the Hulk, the Hulk grabs some sacks of flower and dumps them into the smokestack of the train, creating a smokescreen so that Giant-Man doesn't see the oncoming tunnel, which knocks him off the train and stuns him. When the Avengers recover, the Hulk is gone. The search for the Hulk continues as he makes his way to the Gulf Stream and into the Atlantic Ocean, where he makes his way onto a passing ship. Meanwhile, beneath the waves, the Sub-Mariner is watching all this! The Hulk, shortly, spots a small deserted island and leaves the ship to make for it. The Sub-Mariner is waiting for him, and his attitude causes the two of them to start fighting in the time-honored Marvel tradition. Eventually, Namor tricks the Hulk into getting into the water, where Namor's strength is replenished, and Namor makes his point that the Hulk is strongest of the land creatures, he is the strongest in the sea, and they both hate the human race. The Hulk agrees to team up with Namor, and they agree their first target shall be The Avengers! The alliance is already shaky, however, as both plot agains t the other. Later, the duo arrive at Gibraltar, and send a message challenging the Avengers to battle. The Avengers head to the sea in a submarine invented by Tony Stark, and arrive on the scene where they are attacked by cannon fire from vintage WWII weapons operated by the Hulk and Namor. Thor's hammer makes short work of the weapon, but then an emery dust pellet is launched at Iron Man, which will cause his metal joints to stiffen. Giant-Man tries to help Iron Man, while sending the Wasp to search for oxygen equipment. Thor, meanwhile, throws his hammer again, which ricochets from wall to wall, holding the Hulk and Namor back long enough for the Wasp to bring Giant-Man some oxygen equipment, which Giant-Man uses to pump out the emery dust. Meanwhile, the Wasp is trailing Namor and the Hulk (who is itching to attack, since Namor's been doing everything so far). The Hulk slams a wall with his fist, inadvertently stunning the Wasp, who falls to the cave floor. Thor, Iron Man, and Giant-Man arrive on the scene and almost step on the fallen Wasp, but she found a crack in the ground to hide in, and then hatches a ride on Giant-Man's shoulder. Above the Avengers, Namor prepares to fire a modified air raid siren, which will destroy any living being who comes too close. However, the Avengers arrive from the rear, and Namor doesn't get a chance to use his weapon. Namor attacks Giant-Man first, who throws Namor to Iron Man. Iron Man gets punched by Namor hard enough to damage his armor, and then Namor attacks Thor. The Hulk steps in here, to aid Namor in taking down Thor, and then tries to take Thor's hammer away. Of course, no matter how strong the Hulk is, he's not worthy, and can't move it! Namor insists that he'll be able to get the hammer, and while he makes the attempt, Giant-Man grabs him. Suddenly, the Hulk changes back to Bruce Banner again (Banner blames the stress of the situation) and flees! Giant-Man is able to hold Namor because Namor's been out of the water too long, while Thor plans to find the Hulk again. But Namor makes a desperate move and breaks free of Giant-Man's grip, and even though he's then held against a rock wall by Iron Man's repulser ray, all is not lost for Namor, as he presses back against the rock wall, breaking through to the water beyond and escaping. Thor decides to let Namor go because his valor has earned his escape, and the Avengers decide to head for home.
Invention Exchange: Tony Stark's Image Projector, Tony Star's experimental prototype model of a new deep-see jet bathyscaph, Emery Dust Pellet (did Namor invent this?), Namor-modified air raid alarm (converted to a kind of sonic cannon).
Reprinted In: Marvel Super-Heroes #21, Marvel Masterworks #4, Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers #1, Avengers Classic #3, Essential Avengers #1, Avengers: Assemble (Family Dollar exclusive).
Notes: This is not only the first appearance of Bruce Banner in The Avengers, but also the first mention of him here at all! Don Blake, alter ego of Thor, also appears in this issue. Already, there's indications that the transformation between Bruce and the Hulk isn't always intentional. In the next issue of The Avengers, Namor's temper causes him to throw a frozen “corpse” embedded in a block of ice into the water, which the Avengers recover en route to New York, only to find the frozen figure is Captain America, and he wasn't dead, just in suspended animation! By the way, I really think I should use this opportunity to say something: I think Marvel Comics was incredibly stupid to not include Fantastic Four #12, Avengers #1-3, and Fantastic Four #25 & 26 in Essential Incredible Hulk Vol. 1... especially since it makes it easier to see what happened to the Hulk between the last issue of his first series and the first issue of his Tales to Astonish appearances! Oh, I should also mention that this issue was the basis for a What If--? issue in which the Avengers break up after the Hulk quits, and when Hulk and Namor team up, Tony Star builds armor for Rick, Giant-Man, and the Wasp to fight them.