Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by John Severin.
Lettered by I Watanabe.
Anyone who doesn't think an inker makes that much difference to how a strip looks only has to be pointed towards The Incredible Hulk #108 because the transformation from last issue is genuinely astonishing. Gone is Syd Shores and in comes John Severin. Suddenly, it's like you're looking at the work of a completely different penciller. Whereas Shores' heavy inks weren't at all suited to Trimpe, Severin's more subtle and detailed work is perfect for him. And the comic looks fantastic, oozing energy, urgency and action in every panel as Trimpe finally starts to make the most of his strengths as an artist.
There's something else also started to change. From the moment the strip was born, it had the glaring problem of how to build stories around a stupid, inarticulate and witless character. Here, Stan Lee and Herb Trimpe simply bypass the problem by making the Hulk a supporting character in his own book, a catalyst as much as a protagonist. It's not something that hadn't been done before but it's a solution the strip would increasingly use from now on and enabled it to achieve an ever greater richness of story-telling.
So, what actually happens? Simple; the Mandarin, having captured the Hulk, uses him to launch an attack on the Chinese. For some reason, Nick Fury and his Russian equivalent Yuri Brevlov fear this'll cause China to declare war on their respective countries. Why they think this, is anybody's guess but it's enough to convince them to team up. Happily for them, and for no reason I can make out, Tony Stark concludes the Mandarin must be behind it all. And so the pair attack the Mandarin's fortress as the Hulk takes on the entire Chinese army. Needless to say it all ends with the Hulk smashing up the Mandarin's castle before blundering off into the distance, bemoaning the fact he can't find anywhere where he's welcome.
That's what he thinks because he's more than welcome in my house. I really can't stress how much of an improvement on recent issues this one is as, after years of inconsistency and sometimes plain floundering around, the strip's quickly starting to stumble upon a story-telling style and a format that'll finally put it up there among Marvel's genuinely great strips.
And next issue is where that moment'll finally arrive.