By: Jason Aaron (writer), Jefte Palo (art), Frank Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Doom hires a little outside psychic help to deal with the Hulk.

The Review: I know it’s not saying much, but this issue of Jason Aaron’s Incredible Hulk is by far the best single issue in a really long time.

Part of that is due to the art; it’s just a relief to finally have the same guy illustrating two issues in a row – by Incredible Hulk standards, that’s a landmark for artistic consistency.  It also helps that Jefte Palo is a very good, very fun artist who fits the zany tone of Aaron’s script perfectly.  Palo’s upbeat, energetic, cartoony, angular style lifts the spirits and is the kind of work that has an air of glee and irreverence to it.  Put simply, if you intend to make a book geared towards getting laughs, you could do a lot worse than having Palo draw it.

While I imagine that Aaron’s zaniness this month won’t appeal to everybody, I thought this issue was genuinely funny.  I loved Aaron’s society of abandoned Doombots, with their hilarious insecurity and constant denial of the possibility that Doom has simply forgotten about, or abandoned them.  It leads to a running gag that I liked quite a lot, with the Doombots constantly asking if Doom’s called.

The bad guy mercenaries, Brain Damage Inc., are also the kind of delightfully twisted concept that only Jason Aaron could come up with.  I really enjoyed the way they were presented, as morbidly cheerful salesmen.  And the fact that their scariest psychic operative is a comatose man called “the Vegetable”?   Priceless.

The strongest portion of this issue, however, is the last third or so, where Aaron and Palo actually give us a peek inside Banner/Hulk’s brain.  The visual alone is absolutely hilarious, with Banner sitting in a pilot’s chair with Hulk standing by.  It’s a really surreal environment that definitely made me laugh, particularly when Aaron gives us a look at the various buttons on the controls.

I think what really sets this issue apart from most of Aaron’s run, though, is that it actually has a unified tone, one that’s wacky, comedic, and almost self-acknowledging in its ridiculousness.  That establishing of a single, coherent tone is something that Aaron’s run has really struggled to find and has been a major contributor to its lack of overall success.  This issue, however, felt like it had a much more coherent creative vision.

Despite all the praise I’ve heaped on it though, it’s far from perfect.  There’s still somethingly vaguely insubstantial about the book that I can’t put my finger on.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the run has been so underwhelming overall that the final conflict with Doom just doesn’t really do anything for me.  Aaron’s whole run has apparently been building up to this final showdown with Doom…but that whole run hasn’t been very good, quite honestly.  The end result is that the Hulk/Doom collision course just isn’t as gripping or epic as it needs to be to give this issue the necessary weight.  The same goes for the Amanda von Doom/Hulk relationship – I guess it’s supposed to have been built up to across the run, but it’s never been particularly well-handled, so it ends up feeling pretty random here.

I suppose, in some ways, on its own, this issue is quite good, but it suffers from being part of a weak run.  Had every issue of Aaron’s run been of this quality, with Palo or someone like him on art, I feel as though this issue would have had a great impact on me.

Conclusion: A surprisingly solid issue of Incredible Hulk, which is enough to make it Aaron’s best issue in quite a while.

Grade: B

– Alex Evans