Title: “They Dwell in the Depths!”
Credits: Written by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, pencils and inks by Bill Everett, letters by Art Simek.
Supporting Cast: Major Talbot, Betty Ross, Rick Jones
Villain: Tyrannus and the Mole Man
Hulk Intelligence: Angry Brute Who Wants to be Left Alone, Or He Will Smash!
Plot: Sitting in the desert at night, the Hulk wonders why everyone hates him. But suddenly, he decides that since he's the strongest, and nothing can hurt him, that they should go ahead and do their worst! Next thing the Hulk nows, there's a noise and a flash of light, and the Hulk disappears, to reappear inside of a giant matter transformer deep within the bowels of the earth! Tyrannus, hidden underneath a cloak and hood, is glad that the Hulk's been found, although the subterraneans serving him are concerned the Hulk may turn against him! The Hulk breaks out of the matter transformer, ready to attack whoever captured him, but Tyrannus forbids his forces from firing, as he needs the Hulk! The Hulk dimly recalls Tyrannus, who now asks that they be allies and help each other. The Hulk says he needs no one's help, and Tyrannus lowers his hood to show how he's rapidly aged since last they met! He then promises the Hulk that here in the subterranean empire Tyrannus rules, there is a place for the Hulk, where he will belong! The Hulk, stupid as he is at this point, likes the idea, and asks Tyrannus what he must do. Tyrannus tells the Hulk of a pool of water that will restore Tyrannus' youth, but that someone has captured this well! The Hulk promises to destroy him! Meanwhile, at that pool, the Mole Man and his Moloids guard it, even though the Mole Man refuses to even touch the water! He only wants to keep Tyrannus from it, causing his enemy to continue aging and growing weaker, so that only the Mole Man will survive to take over the surface world! Suddenly, a Moloid approaches, warning the Mole Man of the arrival of the Hulk! The Mole Man orders his giant robot, the Octo-Sapien, to arise! Back at Tyrannus' quarters, he's informed that the Hulk has eaten, and now he rests! Tyrannus doesn't like the idea of the Hulk resting, and goes to wake him, but the Hulk wants his nap! Tyrannus then shows the Hulk that he's captured Betty Ross, Rick Jones, and Major Talbot, and that if Tyrannus perishes, so do they! Betty begs the Hulk to free them, as does Rick, but the Hulk says he has no friends except Tyrannus! Talbot tries to get Rick and Betty to stop talking, because it's just making the Hulk angrier, and then Betty says, “But, if the Hulk isn't Bruce Banner – then – Bruce must be – dead!” This really sends the Hulk into a rage, as he's fully gone into the “I hate puny Banner” mode. He lashes out, destroying the side of the cage! Suddenly, the area is shaken by a barrage of artillery from the Mole Man's hordes! Tyrannus orders the Hulk to the attack, and he does, wading into the Mole Man's forces and smashing their machines! At one point, the Moloids fire a freeze gun at the Hulk, which fires a stream of chemical iso-ice that seems to hold him, but in seconds, the Hulk starts to break free, despite the fact that the ice gets harder with every second! Finally, the Mole Man orders the Octo-Sapien robot to attack! After a few pages of battling the Octo-Sapien, the Hulk forces the robot into a well of water – yes, the same well that Tyrannus is looking for! The water causes the circuits of the robot to explode, and when the steam clears, a figure rises... but it's not the Hulk... it's Bruce Banner, miraculously wearing his glasses!
Invention Exchange: Tyrannus' matter transformer (really a matter transmitter), the Mole Man's Octo-Sapien and Iso-Ice chemical.
Reprinted In: Marvel Super-Heroes #35, Essential Hulk #1.
Notes: Things happen very quickly here, and it seems that Stan's continuing to play each issue by ear, not really planning ahead very far! Last we'd seen of Rick and Talbot, they were boarding a plane in pursuit of the Hulk, even though the Hulk was only a few miles away from the base, and now here they are (Tyrannus at least tells he he plucked them from the plane). Bill Everett does a great Hulk, but his tech doesn't seem to look very good – I don't know how finished the layouts Kirby provided were, but the Octo-Sapien looks ridiculous! And of course, there's the whole matter of Bruce Banner reappearing wearing his glasses, his hair neatly combed, and his pants restored!