Time for another ringer, as I was certain before I cracked open the first issue that I'd love Mark Gruenwald's Serpent Crown story. What surprised me was how much I liked Stingray. The guy is a classic part-time hero, constantly worrying about how he measures up to the Thing and the other heroes, but never giving up. Stingray is the one who brings the Thing out West where they discover the crown, so he's about as central as Ben Grimm to this story. He's a likeable dude, and combined with his sweet costume, I could see Stingray becoming a new fave of mine.
Triton from the Inhumans shows up briefly for some fun underwater combat as the heroes take on the Serpent Squad (who later morph into Gruenwald's Serpent Society). The Serpents are Sidewinder, Anaconda, Death Adder, and Black Mamba. I was impressed at how involved Sidewinder was in the fight, I remember him being more an administrator than a combatant.
When things get serious and the Serpent Crown finds a new host in the CEO of Roxxon, Thing and Stingray get some powerful help from the Scarlet Witch. I'm not familiar with the original crown's history, but I guess Scarlet Witch has some ties that make her pretty effective against it. Gruenwald is already showing some of his future leanings; the Serpent Crown wants to take over Washington so it can control the government. Gruenwald has the Viper do the same thing later in one of my favorite stories: The Greatest Snake of All, where Ronald Reagan becomes a snake-man.
George Perez and Jerry Bingham draw the three issues, so of course they look fantastic. I love seeing Perez spend so many panels drawing scrubs like Stingray and Titan. He's such an icon now, I love seeing his dynamic style on all these C-listers!