To be honest the ASM issue edged out the Hulk, the whole costume thing was great and even the Ghost Rider back-up was cool, but since we've given so little love to ol' Greenskin lately, I'm going with Mr. and Mrs. Banner in "The Spy Who Smashed Me -- Part One: When In Rome":
I haven't read a new Hulk comic since last June and that was over 15 issues ago. I have been flipping through the intervening issues though and I almost tried it at the start of the recent Savage Land arc. However, this issue (a total impulse purchase by the way) was irresistible for primarily one reason: Tom Grummett!
While Jim opined that most fans eventually "move on" from the "cape and cowl set", I'm not ashamed that I still have my seven to 12 year old sensibilities when it comes to some of my favorite comics: Good old fashioned super-hero ACTION! And Grummett is one of the best (along with Ron Frenz) old-school artists out there today. I picked up and thoroughly enjoyed his recent Dead Avengers mini-series (the trade came out this week) and I had no clue about anything to do with the Chaos War. I always liked his artwork on the Superman titles back in the day, but it was his Power Company series with Kurt Busiek that made me a bigger fan. THAT was one incredible series! His work on Thunderbolts was equally good, especially the Baron Zemo mini-series. The only problem with Grummett is that he never seems to stick on a title for any length of time these days. I guess Marvel is really to blame, he's like the fill-in guy. He's all over the map -- a few issues here and there. This man needs a regular monthly book and I think The Incredible Hulks would be a perfect showcase.
I can't ignore Greg Pak's involvement in this issue either. Have you seen all the Hulks running around nowadays? There's a ton, but even though this wasn't a point-one issue, it was a perfect place to just dive right in after a brief recap page. We all started somewhere in our comic buying experience (I think my first Hulk was #214) and you didn't need to have read all the previous issues to get started. Over the years, I've forgotten that and hence have avoided getting into titles where I may have missed a lot already. It certainly helped that we were focused on only two of the myriad Hulks: the real Hulk and the Red She-Hulk (aka Betty Banner).
Betty wakes up in Georgia on top of a haystack after doing some damage as the She-Rulk. This is not the mousy Betty of old, she's got quite the attitude even when she's in her human form. An army convoy shows up to help her evacuate the area and she quickly flips over the truck and then throws the engine at a Gladiator-clad figure, who she mistakenly thinks is Bruce.
Back in New Mexico at the Olympus Group Research Facility, run by Amadeus Cho, they're trying to track Betty down. Turns out if she hulks out a few more times she'll never be able to be human again. Cho locates her and thinks she's randomly destroying a house, but actually Bruce recognizes it as "the last place [they] lived together". Ouch. Bruce wants to resume their marriage, but she's not too keen on the idea.
I'm not sure what all the spy stuff is supposed to be about, but Cho does a Q and equips Bruce with some hi-tech gadgets before he goes off to confront her in Rome. She's "a little drunk" and playing up to all the men in attendance at this museum and Bruce is starting to smolder with jealousy as he watches her. He cuts in and starts to dance with her, when she trips him to start a fight. Bruce keeps it under control and discovers her mystery partner to be Tyrannus, the classic Hulk villain from way back in issue #5 (and numerous others). He finally hulks out seeing her getting "friendly" with his old enemy. What husband wouldn't?
I don't know if Banner's in complete control or not, if the Hulk and him are separate personalities or not, but I do know that Grummett draws one mean Hulk. It's beautiful and what's really cool is that his tux is made of unstable molecules, so no shred threads -- much better than the purple Fruit of the Looms he used to wear.
The authorities come on the scene quickly, because there is something very important hidden behind the big vault. The very thing Tyrannus and Betty have come to Rome to steal, Pandora's Box. (It's a small one, so Matt Smith isn't inside of it.) Cho uses his hi-tech gear to convince the officer on the scene that he's the Italian Prime Minister calling her, as the Hulk is left in the flooding lights of police helicopters, while Betty and Ty make their escape. I'm really looking forward to the next issue!
GRADE A+: Nobody Does It Better! Greg Pak and Tom Grummett are the perfect team supreme for this series. Fast paced with lots of good old fashioned Hulk smashing action (and what's wrong with that?), great character interaction, superb artwork, and a perfect starting point to what I hope is a long run on the title.