First, the bad news. If you heard the title, "Hulk: Let the Battle Begin" you might have thought it was tied into the current "Fall of the Hulks" and "World War Hulks" storylines. As it turns out, that's not the case at all. But if you're like me, once you've picked it up and realized your mistake, you might figure that it's worth a shot after all. So the good news? It's not a bad little story.
The main story, "Let the Battle Begin," uses the old-fashioned Hulk setup of the green rampaging Hulk and the intelligent Bruce Banner swapping places. But once you get past the cries of, "Hulk smash!" you'll find it's actually a smart story by Jesse Blaze Snider about just how Bruce Banner survives constantly waking up in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a pair of tattered purple pants around his waist. Snider brings a lot of humor to his script; Hulk calling Thor a "hairy lady" made me chuckle almost instantly ("The son of Odin is no lady!" "Then get haircut!") and watching Hulk make Thor hit himself in the face with Mjolnir is fairly priceless. I think I'd have rather seen more of Bruce Banner and less of the Hulk in this story (although Hulk's bits are good), but it was a good script and for my first experience with Snider's writing, I'm pleased.
I wasn't as crazy about Steve Kurth's pencils, though. There are several pages where it doesn't look so much like the Hulk but in fact a strange cross between Gollum and Ringo Starr, which is not pleasant for anyone involved. Faces often look either squished or elongated, and I can only imagine that Snider's script didn't really say things like, "The person selling clothes needs to have massive horse teeth" or "This character should have just fallen through a taffy pulling machine." There's something odd about the way he draws hair, too; apparently everyone has a lot of static electricity in their hair based on how it's all frizzing apart and repelling each other. These are some seriously strange looking characters.
There's also a back-up story that originally ran on Marvel's digital comics site. Mark Parsons and Tom Cohen's story about a future where the Hulk rules another planet and has to create an army to stop invaders is sort of forgetfully average, but I think it was chosen because it was drawn by Ed McGuinness. McGuinness works with Kelsey Shannon here to provide an art style that seems like it was airbrushed onto the page. I missed McGuinness' crisp lines, or for that matter his normally dynamic page layouts. But it's still an attractive look, and for a far-flung future story it's a style that would connect with the script more than it would in current issues of "Hulk."
"Hulk: Let the Battle Begin" has one good script and one good set of finished art, and it's a pity they weren't matched together somehow. Still, it did let me learn that Snider's a writer to keep an eye out for, and while I might have been disappointed at first to find this one-shot was just burning off an inventory story, it's a nice enough comic at the end of the day.