By Jeff Parker (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (artist), Jason Paz with Noah Salonga (inkers)

The Story: Jimmy Woo makes Norman Osborn’s black list by returning the gold reserves that were stolen from the government two months ago. But no sooner he get back, he sets off on a private mission to get more information on Suwan and leaves his new ex-SHIELD administrator in charge. Unfortunately, there’s a problem at the Atlas Las Vegas Biolab. It’s gone feral with neglect and managed to annoy the Hulk. Then, it’s Atlas against the Incredible Hulk.

What’s Good: The strength of this issue owes itself in equal parts to art and story.

The art is detailed and expressive. For example, the expression on Bruce Banner’s face when he’s being drugged by the Atlas Biolab, the subtle touch of green in his eyes… simply beautiful. The Hulk’s transformation is fantastic as well. I haven’t seen a lot of artists take on the half-transformed Hulk and do a good job. Jimmy’s hovercar is a nice little retro touch, as is M-11 as always. And without a doubt, Mr. Lao the dragon is a never-miss always feast for the eyes.

The foreground story of the Agents battling the Hulk, was satisfactory, but unoriginal. The luminary part of the book was all the backstory development. Woo’s flashback in the dragon cave was just a conversation between him and Mr. Lao, but the content was so interesting and tense that Parker had me begging for more. The introduction of the Jade Claw was also a tantalizing dvelopment that will have me impatient for issue #9. Lastly, all I can say about Ken Hale the sniper is… cool.

What’s Not So Good: I couldn’t find much to complain about in this issue, but let’s pretend M-11 is forcing me. Then I’d have to say I’m indifferent to Venus. She’s one of the team’s powerhouses, but in terms of personality she’s really just an extra who also happens to be a plot device. That may change and I know there’s some interesting stuff to her (her non-human origin for example), but right now, almost everyone else is way more interesting than she is.

Conclusion: Pagulayan’s art, combined with Parker’s strong, well-paced un-ravelling of ancient and recent mysteries make this a very solid issue.

Grade: B+

-DS Arsenault