"There's A Gremlin In The Works!"
Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by Glynis Wein.
Anyone with a functioning brain could see why a man who turns into an uncontrollable monster whenever he gets excited isn't the man to take along on a life-or-death mission to free Glenn Talbot from a Soviet fortress.
Bruce Banner isn't that anyone.
Told he can't go, by Thunderbolt Ross, he stows away on the plane and, inevitably, before the flight's even reached its destination, he's got over-excited and turned into the Hulk.
Exactly what Banner thought he could contribute to the mission is anyone's guess. Leaving aside the Hulk thing, he's a scientist, not a commando and hasn't even had access to the fortress schematics.
Happily, the weapons pod he was hiding in's been jettisoned by this point, meaning Ross and SHIELD agent Clay Quartermain can carry on with their plan.
And it's a plan that works flawlessly right up until the point where they're about to leave the stronghold with the newly liberated Talbot. That's when Ross hands him a gun, and Talbot promptly points it at them to reveal he's not Glenn Talbot at all. He's a Soviet agent and they're now prisoners of the Gremlin.
After some relatively dispensable stories this is something of a return to meatier ways. That's not to say it's original; re-running as it does The Incredible Hulk #164-165 in which Colonel Armbruster and co freed Thunderbolt Ross from Soviet captivity - while the Hulk's run-in with the Gremlin and his armour-clad Super-Troupers re-runs the events of issue #163. There's even a parallel in Clay Quartermain being introduced for the mission, just as Jack Armbruster had been for the Thunderbolt Ross rescue.
Like Armbruster, Quartermain seems rather full of himself and has an annoying gimmick. With Armbruster, it was his pipe-smoking. With Quartermain, it's his rictus grin. Not knowing anything of Quartermain's history before his introduction to the Hulk strip, I don't know what the story is behind it but it don't half make you want to punch him in the face.
Still, despite annoying grins, Bruce Banner's stupidity and a noticeable lack of new ideas, the concentration on the penetration of the Gremlin's fortress makes this a stronger and more focused tale than some we've been getting lately and can therefore be seen as a return to earlier form - even if it rediscovers that form mostly by an act of regurgitation.