A Big Green Goodbye
The X-Men have only once chance to save Professor X, and his name is Bruce Banner. Unfortunately, his other name is The Incredible Hulk. The secret to saving Charles is locked inside the mind of a monster, and it’ll take everything they have to get it out. The X-Men have had run-ins with the Avengers in the past, but this is actually their first encounter with the Hulk. Issue 66 shows us how this team performs against the most powerful brute force on planet Earth. This is also the final issue of this titles early run, before taking a five year hiatus. The days of Scott, Bobby, Jean, Hank, and Warren end here, for now.
Everyone is very upset over the Professor’s illness, not excluding the two most recent additions to the team. Polaris is in tears, and Havok consoles her. Bobby has a big problem with Alex putting his paws on his girl. Polaris has a big problem being called anyone’s girl. Havok has a big problem being attacked with a deadly ice spear. Go figure.
The X-Men probe Xavier’s mind for answers, first with a mind-probe from the cellar, and then with Jean’s telepathy. With Neal Adams pencilling, it’s always a treat when Jean uses her telepathic powers. Visions of Xavier’s thoughts seep from his eyeballs like a trail of smoke and it’s pretty great. However, the only thing they find is the Incredible Hulk. Why would Charles be obsessed with a big green monster? It doesn’t take them long to realize that this big green monster is also Bruce Banner, a world renowned scientist. Assuming that Banner must hold the answer, the X-Men go searching for the Hulk.
Scott gives Alex the responsibility of watching over Xavier while they are gone. Polaris offers to keep him company, sending Bobby into a fit. He insists on staying with them, as he’s about to leave “his girl” alone with Alex to play nurse all day. We haven’t seen Bobby and Lorna have a private conversation once since he took her to his apartment, so it’s really creepy that Bobby assumes ownership of her. She spends all of her time with Alex. The girl had the nerve of accepting some help from a seemingly well meaning guy and suddenly she is his property, indebted to him for some temporary shelter. Bobby is being a complete asshole. I’m sure he’s going to sit around and be a total jerk just to sabotage their obvious connection. Cyclops, Jean, Iceman, and Angel set off without Iceman. I’ve always really liked Bobby. He’s the happy-go-lucky comic relief. But right now? Guy’s a douche. The X-Men race off to face the most powerful monster on the planet, and they are down a member.
It doesn’t take them long to find him. He’s lumbering down Main St USA, breaking things and shoving people out of his way. It’s about as typical Hulk as you can get. The X-Men engage with him, intending to approach as friends in need. Hulk won’t listen, and the brawl begins. Angel is hit right out of the sky, and Hank is taken down quite easily.
It takes Cyclops and Marvel Girl to take the big guy down, but boy do they take care of business. Scott slows him down with his beams, giving Jean time as he fights against them. Her mind control hits Hulk where he is most vulnerable. His power, strength, and endurance can’t help him against a psychic attack. They must be remembering their fight with the Juggernaut. Hulk falls through a brick wall and turns back into Bruce Banner.
They ask him about Charles Xavier, and he remembers discussing research with him. They had both been examining gamma-ray treatment of mental exhaustion. Eureka! That could not be more obvious. Banner created a device years ago that can cure Xavier. They just need to retrieve it from his secret lab.
But crap. Major Talbot shows up with the army and they’re planning to take the Hulk in. They’re not about to negotiate this with a bunch of mutant criminals. The X-Men are so close to saving Xavier, and this self-righteous order taker in uniform stands in their way. He does not, however, stand in the Hulk’s way. Bruce Banner gets angry with Talbot’s threats and just leaves. He simply jumps out of there, quick and simple. The army seems hilariously unequipped to handle the Hulk.
With Talbot distracted, the X-Men sneak away. From their shuttle they track the Hulk into the Desert. What’s the deal with that shuttle anyway? Is that the X-Plane? Is that the vehicle they borrowed from the Avengers? Just what the hell is it? I want the X-Plane.
Hank was pummeled by the Hulk very easily in their last encounter, and this time Beast gets some revenge. He might not be as strong as the Hulk, but he is a lot more agile. Delivering a solid blow to Hulk’s back, Beast sends him flying off of a cliff. It’s a dirty move, but this isn’t grade school. Hulk ends up buried beneath an avalanche, and Hank is torn up over having killed him.
Except you can’t kill the Hulk. He emerges from the rubble more pissed off than ever. No worries though, because the damage has revealed a secret science lab. It’s Bruce Banner’s lab, and we can assume that Banner guided Hulk here through his subconscious. Convenient.
The X-Men ditch the Hulk and race back to the mansion. Lots of science stuff happens, as seen here in this impressive panel. I want a huge print of this panel to hang in my living room.
Charles is saved and the X-Men have a happy ending. That’s it. This is the last issue of the X-Men’s early run, and it was a complete throwaway. After some great story arcs, this issue reverts to their monster-of-the-month formula, a meaningless romp with an inconsequential villain. The monster this time was the Hulk, which is of course a lot better than Frankenstein or The Locust. Still, it was basically a waste of time. Charles Xavier comes back from the dead after an impressive 18 issue absence, only to have this hokey death scare.
X-Men 66 was printed in 1970, and is the last original X-Men story until 1975. Sales were dwindling, and the new creative direction wasn’t enough to attract new readers. It’s really a shame, since the last fifteen or so issues are some of the best up to this point. The series was never cancelled, but it went into five years of reprints, publishing issues 12 through 45 with different covers and coloring.
The X-Men were reborn in 1975 with new members, new powers, and a new creative staff. I’m excited to dive into those issues, but first I’m going to take a few days to discuss this early run.