Title: “The Invasion of the Lava Men!”
Credits: Written by Stan Lee, Pencilled by Jack Kirby, Inked by Paul Reinman, Lettered by Sam Rosen
Supporting Cast: Betty Ross, Thunderbolt Ross, Teen Brigade
Villain: The Lava Men
Hulk Intelligence: Angry Brute
Guest-Stars: Technically speaking, the Hulk is the guest-star in this issue!
Plot: After the battle of the FF and Avengers Vs. the Hulk, the Avengers return to Avengers Mansion to inspect the damage the Hulk caused there, and decide to disband for the nonce to take care of personal matters. A few days later, at Tony Stark's weapons factory, a new artillery computer is being tested when a piercing sound fills the factory, causing the computer to fall apart. Stark is called and alerted to the damage. Meanwhile, Ant-Man and the Wasp are engaged in research in an ant hill when the same sound appears, causing vibrations that cause the ant hill to cave in. Later, at Dr. Don Blake's office, Dr. Blake reads a newspaper report about a train accident caused when a strange sound made the engineer lose control. Blake turns to Thor and plans to call in the Avengers to investigate. Shortly, Captain America is giving an acrobatic exhibition to Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade when Thor arrives to call on Cap. Suddenly, there are shock waves and the strange sound, causing a nearby tree to shatter. Thor, Cap and Rick head to Avengers Mansion. In the Southwest, at a missile installation commanded by General Ross, a strange hill is coming up through the ground. Bruce Banner suddenly returns to the base, and Ross starts laying into Bruce until he realizes the hill is more important to worry about. Bruce has a flashback to how he became the Hulk and what happened with the Avengers, but is interrupted when Ross demands that Banner figure out what's up with that hill. Below the earth's surface, we find that the hill is just a part of a huge living rock which the Lava Men (previously seen in Journey into Mystery #97) are pushing through the Earth's crust by way of a massive machine. We also learn that one of the Lava Men, Molto, opposes the witch doctor's plan to invade. On the surface, Ross orders the hill sounded by missile launchers, and then the Avengers arrive. Iron Man tries to blast into the hill to see what's below, and the impact is felt by the lava men, who decide to come to the surface and attack! They're driven off, and Thor decides to meet with the ruler of the Lava Men, who shortly recognize him from their previous defeat by him. Thor sees the machine being used to drive the massive living stone (the cause of the mysterious noises) to the surface, and Thor is about to destroy it when he's warned it would destroy all of them. Thor also learns that the living stone is threatening the lava men, and the only solution they could come up with is to drive it to the surface and let the surface people suffer. The Lava Men attack again, and are met by Iron Man and Captain America, who hold them back while Ant-Man and the Wasp examine the living stone, finding the one spot that can be struck that would destroy the rock without causing it to explode, but only Thor's hammer has the power to do so. The Avengers go to search for Thor and find him, but on the surface, Bruce Banner has also figured out the situation with the living ston, and the stress causes him to change into the Incredible Hulk! The Hulk hears the Avengers' voices and moves in to attack. The Avengers try to hold him while Thor deals with the lava men. Oddly enough, the combination of Thor's hammer and the witch doctor's radioactive rod cause Thor to change into Don Blake, who's too exhausted to change back to Thor immediately. Meanwhile, the remaining Avengers have a plan to use the Hulk to destroy the living stone, and they lure the Hulk to just the right spot, tricking him into hitting it there with all his might, destroying the rock in an implosion. Below the surface, Blake, changes back to Thor, and warns the lava men never to attack again, and they slink away. On the surface, Ross orders the missiles relocated, while Betty Ross goes to look for Bruce. On the site where the living stone had been, the ground's been transformed to glass, and there's no sign of the Hulk. Betty finds Bruce a short distance away, fortunately transformed back rom the Hulk, and Betty helps him back to the base. At the Avengers, they get a “condition red” emergency call, and leave immediately.
Invention Exchange: Stark's new artillery computer,
Reprinted In: Avengers Annual #4, Marvel Masterworks #4, Avengers Classic #3.
Notes: In hindsight, reading these stories today, it's obvious that Stan did not want to let anyone forget about the Hulk or his supporting cast, given the appearances in four out of the first five issues of the Avengers, as well as the appearances in Fantastic Four. The Hulk next appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man.