World War Hulk, by Greg Pak

Article published on June 12, 2011.

World War Hulk by Greg Pak is the continuation of the events set in motion in Planet Hulk when everyone’s favourite Green Goliath was exiled into space by the Illuminati, a cadre of super-heroes including Iron Man and Mr Fantastic. World War sees his vengeful return, blaming the Illuminati for the destruction of his new home planet Sakaar and the death of his wife and unborn child. Hulk brings with him his Warbound, a pack of aliens sworn to his side, hovering over New York in his stone space ship to issue an ultimatum: The Illuminati have twenty-hours to evacuate Manhattan and surrender before Hulk Smash!

And there is a great deal of smashing over hundreds of pages. As an unashamed Marvel fan, this reviewer was buoyed happily along on the constant destruction and battling, but fans of complex plots might wish to look elsewhere. For the aficionados there’s the spectacle of the Hulk taking on Iron Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and several other tight-clad cloak-wearers on an unstoppable rampage. If that wasn’t enough, a series of spin-offs accompanies the World War which shows Hulk’s battles against the X-Men, Ghost Rider, Hercules and others. This reviewer would recommend the X-Men and Hercules spin-offs for the development of certain plot threads and the explanation as to why Stark’s SPIN tech fails so dramatically.

While the story-telling largely takes a back seat to the action for the first two acts, there are some enjoyable twists and an interesting theme in how the distinction between justice and revenge can be easily blurred. The overall arc that Pak has created from Planet Hulk comes to a satisfying if tragic conclusion, especially in retrospect when it is revealed that the Hulk himself was partly to blame for Sakaar’s destruction with a single comment. Fans of such Greek tragedy will also appreciate the resonance with the works of Homer: much like Odysseus, the return of the Hulk is foretold in the Prologue, Ben Grimm serves as a suitably heroic Hector, fighting for noble reasons while knowing he cannot win, and much like Achilles, the only hero the Earth can offer to match the Hulk’s rage refuses to enter the fray for the largest part of the story, only being drawn to fight in the last act.

The dialogue is largely pedestrian but there are some enjoyable exchanges, such as when the Hulk and Sentry collide:

HULK: You don’t want this fight, Sentry.

SENTRY: Yes. God help me. I do. Because you’re the only one I can hit like this.

Which for the benefit of those reading at home is followed by Sentry uppercutting the Hulk through several buildings.

Which brings us neatly to the art, where John Romita Jr challenged to convey such continent-sized mayhem and more than rises to the occasion. When these super powers collide the scope of the destruction escalates pleasingly, from windows exploding at the high speed collision of Iron Man and Hulk, to Stark tower being reduced to rubble, to buildings exploding in flame, to the wholesale demolition of stadiums and tower blocks as combatants are punched through them to the climax, where Hulk’s power threatens the planet itself. The primal energies and sheer fury involved is vividly realised in walls of fire tearing through streets, skyscrapers tumbling, pavements being shattered and destruction raining down on all involved.

In all then, a rocking ride and a great entry point for any casual fans who want mindless fun. A smorgasbord of super heroes doing what they do best: slugging it out in a New York sized rumble.

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