Each comic book character has a handful of legendary stories. The stories that will never die. Breakout was one of those stories for the Avengers but for the longest time Hulk had gone without such a story. The problem was that once you get past Hulk’s internal dichotomy there’s very little room to move in the character development department. The closest the Hulk had come to a legendary story in before the naughties was probably Silent Screams. The arc had addressed the internal struggle of the Hulk in such a way that couldn’t really be topped. This left a huge problem for writers on the Hulk, but all that changed in 2006 when writer Greg Pak had a new idea for the Hulk. The arc Pak created would go on to become the legendary Hulk story, in part responsible for the growing fandom of the Hulk in recent years.
Marvel had a problem. Hulk and Thor had both been excluded from Civil War in an attempt to keep the stakes reasonably balanced. Thor was, for all intents and purposes, dead. But that still didn’t have much of an idea about what to do with the Hulk. That’s when Greg Pak got a great idea, he was going to take the Hulk and make him angrier that he had ever been before. He would dump the Hulk on a Planet where he could be wounded and killed if he fought like a rage monster, forcing the Hulk to learn martial combat. He would give the Hulk the chance at becoming a hero and a king. He would give the Hulk a planet. But conquering a planet doesn’t happen overnight.
Greg Pak and his fantastic art team planned and created a story line that lasted over a year. As the Hulk rose the ranks from Gladiator all the way up to kingship. Once more, Greg decided to give Hulk friends and allies taken from all corners of the Marvel universe including members of the Brood from the X-Men canon and the stone-men that Thor originally fought in one of his earliest stories. This group went on to become Hulk’s Warbound, his closest allies and friends. This created a badass group of anti-heroes that brought fans from each corner of the Marvel Universe into the story. The entire piece became a metamorphosis for the Hulk’s character as he learned to channel his rage and do what he had to for access to the throne. Nothing more optimised this than the moment the Silver Surfer arrived on Planet Hulk. Hulk beat the Surfer into submission and left him a bloody mess.
Eventually Hulk became the mythical ‘Green Scar’, a legend that spread across the entire planet and sowed the seeds of rebellion. Finally he challenged the tyrannical Red King and smote him in the arena, gaining control of the Planet. Hulk married the King’s right hand assassin and finally found happiness in the universe. Things seemed to be going pretty well and then Greg Pak made a final move that shocked fans. He wanted the Hulk to get angrier than ever before, so he took everything away from him. A device on the ship that Hulk had been sent to the Planet in was sabotaged by a member of his Warbound that felt Hulk was growing soft and it erupted in a nuclear blast that wiped out the Hulks royal city and the majority of the planet.
Planet Hulk was an emotional rollercoaster and it was received very well. The sales figures were strongly affected by the release of Civil War but critical reception was huge. The event was split into four arcs, each of which garnered above average sales for the time. Criticism tended towards accusations that the series felt like it was dragged out around the middle and that there was a lack of Banner. The first criticism was a result of Pak’s attempt at creating a piece of epic fiction, personally I am in support of the length but it could’ve been shorter. I would go on to argue that the lack of Banner was a strength of the series as the only moment that Banner shows up is when the Hulk decides to reveal his true self to his wife. This creates a moment of great impact that immediately resonated with readers. But what happened to the Hulk? Where did he take that rage? Who did he blame and how would he take his revenge on them? To answer that we need to jump into the next legendary Hulk story. World War Hulk.
…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new piece from the Covert Coot!!!