Marvel Review: World War Hulk

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World War Hulk is one of those mega-crossover events that Marvel puts out regularly. As such, it jumps through a number of titles – many old, some new – to tell it’s story.  On at least one occasion you’re bound to see your favorite heroes helping out.  This story continues where we left off after reading Planet Hulk.  The big green machine is madder and therefore stronger than he’s ever been.  His planet has been torn, his capital city destroyed, his wife killed, and his unborn child along with her.  Along with his Warbound he sets off in his stone spaceship for Earth.  His goal is simple: revenge on those who sent him into space.

The series starts off telling us about what’s been going on since the Hulk left Earth.  The answer is “a lot”.  Civil War broke out in the United States over the Superhuman Registration Act and Captain America was shot and killed (not really, but at this point everyone thought so).  Tony Stark, is now the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he’s working behind the scenes to create a nanovirus that is able to shut down the powers of physiologically enhanced post-humans.  In simpler terms, he has already predicted that the Hulk will return and he’ll need a way to “shut him off”.

To that end we learn that he’s listed the aid of the Hulk’s cousin, She-Hulk.  Of course, she has no clue what she’s doing – he has her thinking that she’s just taking care of problems that the Hulk would have had he not been missing.  Yup, she doesn’t know that he’s been rocketed by Stark and the others – in fact, outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. no one seems to know.  What we learn is that her targets matter, and she becomes a test subject for the nanovirus when she learns of what they did.  That’s when she meets up with Amadeus Cho (who we are repeatedly reminded is the 7th smartest person on Earth).  He has a cure for her, but wishes to exchange it for her help.  He’s a friend of the Hulk (not Banner), and he knows about the Hulk, and his return.  She declines, but the Renegades are born.

What happens next is the Hulk first battles Black Bolt, outside their city of Attilan in the Blue Area of the Moon.  Why? He’s considered the most powerful of Hulk’s enemies as he has previously bested Hulk.  We don’t get to see the outcome of the battle, just it’s after effects.  The moon shifts a little, and the tides are affected.  Then the Hulk parks his stone spaceship over Manhattan and tells the entire world what was done to him.  He shows the defeated Black Bolt as proof that he means business, and then declares that in 24 hours he’ll destroy Manhattan if Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange don’t surrender themselves.

Then a lot happens (as if it didn’t already).  The Hulk pays a visit to the X-Men only to discover the ravaged remains of the Mutant community (another thing that happened while he was gone).  He sees that Xavier – who admits that had he been there he would have voted to launch Hulk into space – is already suffering greatly and leaves him to continue doing so.  There are also some very good battles where the Hulk and his Warbound take down and capture just about every hero on Earth.  Though a lot of it occurs out of panel.

There is a subplot where the Heroes for Hire end up having to stop No-Name of the Brood from hatching her children and having them take over the Earth.  If you read all the connected issues this one has a lot of play, and eventually ends with the teams dissolution.  Though they do succeed.  The other relatively interesting subplot involves the creation of a team of gamma enhanced individuals called The Gamma Corps who actually do manage to take down the Hulk during all of this, but only for a brief period of time.

A lot continues to happen, but the gist of it is this – it all comes down Sentry.  A character who was retrofitted into the Marvel Universe back in the early 2000s.  He didn’t exist before then, and that’s sort of his story in a nutshell (perhaps another time).  Basically he’s the Hulk’s best friend – the Hulk calls him “Golden Man” and his power has a calming influence on the Hulk.  He’s got some problems of his own including Schizophrenia and Agoraphobia.  Bottom line, eventually he steps outside, and they fight, and it’s the Hulk who has to stop him.

Then Rick Jones, the Hulk’s first friend, is stabbed with a spear, and Hulk goes beserk.  But he learns that he’s been mislead, and that while the Illuminati did fire him into space, they were not responsible for much of what happened after that point.  He basically at this point allows for Stark, Richards, and the others to defeat him.  And is placed into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.

This series is basically the story for which Planet Hulk is the prologue.  It has a serious amount of characterization that you might not otherwise have expected.  It does draw long at some points, but the battles are good payoffs for each of those periods.  Perhaps the most interesting takeaway is this, the Hulk has a secret power.  In all his rampages, in all his wanton destruction, he has never once killed anyone he didn’t mean to, and even then only for self defense.  Of course, that’s really the point.  Never judge a book by it’s cover.  Even if that book is a giant green man in purple pants whose favorite words are… wait for it… “Hulk Smash!”

Suggested Reading Order:

  • She-Hulk v2 #15 to #18

  • The Incredible Hulk #106

  • World War Hulk: Prologue: World Breaker #1

  • Heroes for Hire #10 & #11

  • World War Hulk #1

  • World War Hulk: X-Men #1 to #3

  • Ghost Rider #12 & #13

  • Heroes for Hire #12

  • Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #19

  • The Irredeemable Ant-Man #10

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #1

  • World War Hulk #2

  • Avengers, The Initiative #4

  • The Incredible Hulk #107

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #2

  • The Incredible Hulk #108

  • Gamma Corps #1

  • Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #20

  • Gamma Corps #2

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #3

  • World War Hulk #3

  • Avengers, The Initiative #5

  • Heroes for Hire #13

  • The Incredible Hulk #109 & #110

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #4

  • Gamma Corps #3 & #4

  • Heroes for Hire #14 & #15

  • World War Hulk #4

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #5

  • Punisher War Journal #12

  • World War Hulk #5

  • The Incredible Hulk #111

  • World War Hulk: Frontline #6

  • World War Hulk: AfterSmash!

  • World War Hulk: AfterSmash! Warbound #1 to #5

  • World War Hulk: AfterSmash! Damage Control #1 to #3

  • Additional: World War Hulk: Gamma Files

  • Additional: What If? Featuring Planet Hulk

Next time: Wolverine: Old Man Logan

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Marvel Review: Planet Hulk

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Whether you look at him as being a superhero or a monster, the Hulk is quite a compelling character to read about.  In modern culture, the comic book portrayal of the Hulk tends to take a back seat to either fond memories of Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby and the never forgotten phrase of, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Or the more recent portrayal in The Avengers movie and the defining phrase of, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”  Suddenly many realized, hey there’s a lot more to this character than simply, “Hulk Smash!”

That’s where reading about him in comic books is so much different.  The character is constantly changing, constantly evolving, but always breaks down into a question of what makes a man a hero or a monster.  When written well, it truly makes you wonder is it Bruce Banner who turns into the Hulk, or is it the Hulk who turns into Bruce Banner.  But one simple thing about the Hulk always carries the story, the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.  What if his anger became so focused that there became no stopping him.  That’s where Planet Hulk comes in, it is a story about pushing the Hulk to that brink.

It all starts with the Fantastic Four stopping a rampaging Hulk and calming him down for umpteenth time.  The Thing makes an offhand, joking remark to Mister Fantastic about rocketing the Hulk into space that sets the wheels in motion.  At this time in the Marvel Universe a group had formed behind the scenes calling themselves the Illuminati.  Comprised of Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, and Professor X, this team voted to send launch the Hulk into space to land on a deserted planet to protect the Earth.  (note: Professor X was absent, and Namor voted against the plan and quit the group)  And they go through with it launching the Hulk into space.

From there their plan both works and fails.  The Hulk is off Earth, with S.H.I.E.L.D. training the She-Hulk as a stand in, though with an ulterior motive.  However the ship they sent him in is thrown off course by a wormhole and the Hulk ends up not on a deserted planet, but rather the planet Sakaar, a planet that has a society that is a conglomeration of other races that have been pulled through the same wormhole.  He is weakened from the journey, able to be injured, and easily subjugated by the natives with an obedience disc and made to become a Gladiator for the Red King.  One thing drives him through the storyline, his anger.

After all his friends have betrayed him, and stranded him in a place where he could be killed.  He has no knowledge that they did not intend for him to be on Sakaar, and thus his driving motivation throughout the story becomes a quest for revenge.  Along the way he makes a pact with other fellow gladiators, and together over the slain body of one of their fallen they make a pact to become Warbound to each other.  Each is in their own way as strong as the Hulk himself prior to departing Earth.

The Red King takes an immediate dislike to Hulk and the Warbound are sent off to die multiple times.  Eventually this all leads to a rebellion, led by the Hulk to defeat the Red King, free the slaves and free Sakaar.  Now that really leaves out a lot of details I know, but to find those out I’ll suggest that you take the time to read the story.  Though I promise there’s at least one cosmic surprise inside.

When all is said and done the Hulk – having defeated the Red King, and brought peace to the planet by uniting it’s cornucopia of inhabitants – is made the king of Sakaar.  And throughout the story as he’s constantly challenged throughout he becomes steadily stronger and more angry.  Then he takes a wife and she becomes pregnant.  He starts to calm down and accept his new home and his new position as its leader.  That is until the ship he crash landed in is paraded through the capital city of Sakaar where it has a warp core breach.

The ship explodes killing everyone in the city, including his wife and unborn child, and damaging much of Sakaar.  At this point the Hulk becomes pure rage and anger and all he wants is revenge.  A revenge that is targeted against the four members of the Illuminati that were responsible for sending him into space.  Together with his Warbound they take their stone starship and head for Earth.

It’d been a very long time since I’d read a comic book from a Hulk title.  It’s hard when one of your fondest comic reading memories looking back is that of Doc Sampson breaking his hand and arm to knock out the Hulk.  But really it was like riding a bicycle to read, and a great way to jump back into the standard character from a comic book perspective (with prior recent experiences being the Ultimate Hulk and Zombie Hulk).  Hulk fans who maybe don’t have as much comic book experience may struggle some with this story, but the payoff is grand for what it leads to later (see below).  This is pure raw, raging Hulk, and it’s a great story that delivers.

Reading List (approximate reading order):

  • Fantastic Four: 533 to 535

  • Amazing Fantasy (vol 2): 15

  • New Avengers Illuminati Special

  • The Incredible Hulk (vol 3): 88 to 105

  • Additional: Planet Hulk Gladiator Guidebook

Next time: World War Hulk

 

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