Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i), Christina Strain (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Editor’s Note: The double-sized first issue of World War Hulk arrives in stores this Wednesday, June 13.
Since it’s Marvel’s new big event and on the level of Civil War, it is hard not to compare World War Hulk to Civil War, but these really are two very different stories with few similarities.
It took a few issues of Civil War before any real fighting began, building up anticipation. World War Hulk has been building up since last year with “Planet Hulk,” so in just this first issue (excluding the Prologue) the big battle is already beginning, starting with a fight between Black Bolt and Hulk.
This story line is much more epic then Civil War was because Civil War had a handful of issues within a few months for “Road to Civil War” which weren’t that important to the overall story; the first issue of World War Hulk, however, seemingly indicates that Greg Pak is going for a conclusion to his story rather than having a more self contained series. The Prologue was mostly a “Previously…” page to catch up people like me who haven’t read “Planet Hulk.” So this issue jumps right into the action while including exposition in a natural way to update new readers. My friends view Hulk as a one-dimensional character, but Pak has crafted a compelling story and character without Bruce Banner playing a role, so this isn’t some moron running around screaming nothing but “Hulk smash!” Like I stated, this is an epic.
What interests me the most about this event are the characters in conflict with each other. Civil War told us that we were going to be torn between who to root for, but I think most readers saw Iron Man as being logical but sided with Captain America, Luke Cage, et al. Iron Man’s character was dragged through the mud during Civil War as he did shady things for the right reasons. It was my assumption that they would make him more likeable in the time following Civil War, particularly since an Iron Man movie is in production, but they are continuing to make him less and less likeable as he deals with the mistake of trying to kill Hulk. That’s not what interests me; what is making me excited about this is that rather then having a good guy (Hulk) fighting the bad guys (Illuminati), Pak has made Hulk into a bad guy as well without turning the other side into the good ones. Civil War was supposed to pit hero vs. hero; World War Hulk is pitting villain against villain, which is the closest similarity between the two stories.
Pak has removed Hulk’s humanity; he refers to everyone on Earth as puny humans and resents Bruce Banner to a degree that I have never seen; in fact, Hulk’s companions (referred to as his Warbound) don’t seem to even know that Bruce Banner is the Hulk or if he is human. I was expecting this to be Hulk going around hunting for a few specific people, but it’s clear he no longer considers himself human whatsoever and threatens all men outright—literally.
Don’t buy this expecting Civil War II. Buy this expecting something different and possibly even better.
I have been eagerly anticipating this book since reading Greg Pak’s “Planet Hulk” run in the pages of Incredible Hulk. It’s mainly on the strength of his writing that I have any interest in Marvel’s latest company crossover, which of course comes right on the heels of the massively disappointing (at least to me) Civil War.
If you’re going to deliver action with the Hulk, I can’t think of a better man to illustrate it than John Romita Jr. because there’s no one else in my mind who can deliver the visuals necessary to pull this crossover off while at the same time keeping the book on schedule.
As for the issue itself? Fantastic. The book opens with a quick refresher on why the Hulk is angry, and his first destination? The Blue Area of the Moon. The Inhumans (in this case Black Bolt and Medusa) have noticed his arrival, and the Hulk is looking for a fight. Not even the power of Black Bolt’s voice can stop the Hulk. THAT is how you illustrate the changes in the Hulk over the last year - make him into an unstoppable monster who will do what it takes to get revenge on the Illuminati, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him.
The Hulk arrives on Earth following his battle with Black Bolt, telling everyone on Earth that he has come for the Illuminati, and he and his Warbound are taking New York as their battleground, and if the rest of the Illuminati doesn’t show up in 24 hours, he’s going to start smashing everything in sight.
The rest of the book? One big fight sequence brilliantly set up by Pak and Romita Jr. in every way imaginable. The Sentry has been called in by Tony Stark and Reed Richards to help, but can even he stop the Hulk when he’s this angry? I don’t think so.
Overall, I would say this book delivers in a way Civil War failed to for me: people want to see the Hulk smashing things, and that’s exactly what they get. There are two sections in this issue where Hulk and Iron Man fight. There is not a single bit of dialogue over those two sections, illustrating that words mean nothing to the Hulk when his anger is all that’s left. Brilliantly done.
The only minor problem that I have with the book is that She-Hulk is helping to try and stop her cousin. Wouldn’t you think given the events of Incredible Hulk #106 and the WW:Hulk Prologue that she’d just let him go wild? There’s a bit of a disconnect there, given recent events, but it was not enough to take away from my enjoyment of this book whatsoever. I’m definitely on board this crossover for the long haul.
World War Hulk, after months of preparation and build-up, is finally here. After a very short introduction, the book jumps right into the action with the Hulk returning to Earth. Unfortunately, this opening salvo is a bit weak.
While art is always something that’s extremely subjective, I found the work in this issue to be the most disappointing aspect of it. While it would be of sufficient quality for any mainstream monthly, it seems a bit ordinary for what the team behind World War Hulk is attempting to accomplish. This is the return of the Hulk, one of the most powerful beings on planet Earth, the Green Scar, the Worldbreaker. Everything about the beginning of this issue screams epic. However, the art doesn’t convey this to me. Even splash pages didn’t have much of an emotional impact. There are some nice touches: In the beginning readers are shown the Hulk’s mental representation of the Illuminati. Rather than the heroic figures normally associated with these folk, the four heroes are colored by Hulk’s memory and hatred of them, turning them into evil caricatures of themselves. However, overall, the art is unremarkable for such an ambitious book.
That’s just one reviewer talking, though. The one thing that I’m willing to bet nearly everyone will express disappointment in is the Hulk’s lunar battle with Black Bolt. The outcome isn’t the problem, but simply the lack of action. In the first few pages of World War Hulk two of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe go toe-to-toe. Once again, very epic. But the entire battle is glossed over, and the Hulk is victorious. Given Black Bolt’s ability to destroy cities with a word, and the fact he is one of the few beings to solidly defeat the Hulk, it would seem that a greater explanation of how Hulk becomes the victor would be in order. While this may be covered in later issues, the absence of it greatly detracts from this first World War Hulk issue.
Perhaps this was an editorial decision made in order to move to the main event; the Hulk vs. Iron Man. Tony Stark has become increasingly unpopular with readers even as his stock has risen with the fictional populace of the 616 United States. In what may be regarded as either an honorable choice or an idiotic tactical decision, Tony informs the super-heroes of New York that he will face the Hulk in single combat. A few moments later, though, these words, like so many of Tony’s of late, are revealed to be hollow posturing as he calls down a wing of attack jets to destroy a temporarily weakened Hulk. What makes this even more loathsome is that the entire time a pre-recorded message is being played of Tony protecting his legitimacy. The man is, for the lack of a better expression, an empty suit. This is only enforced by his recruitment of the Sentry in the battle against the Hulk. I might have my facts wrong here, but didn’t the Sentry kill a million people? What makes him worthy of redemption, but not the Hulk? Most likely it is that Stark believes the Sentry is controllable and, therefore, useful.
The fight between the Hulk and Iron Man leads to the best moment of the first issue, where the jets’ missiles create a fiery flashback that lets the reader briefly into the mind of the Hulk and guarantees the green giant’s victory. While this may be very gratifying for any Hulk fans, or Stark haters, it really isn’t enough to elevate the entire book to the epic story it aspires to be.
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If you’re feeling burned-out on crossover events that don’t deliver, you might be pleasantly surprised by this first issue of World War Hulk. This is a miniseries which has never had any delusions of grandeur or pretentions to be an intellectually complex or sophisticated book - but one thing it has promised is some payback for the never-more-angry Green Goliath, who was shot off into space by Marvel’s Illuminati in an attempt to deal with the “Hulk Problem.” Well, things get off to an explosive start in a first issue which already begins to make good on the series’ simple premise, as a brief recap of the “Planet Hulk” saga (for the purposes of catching new readers up with the story) soon makes way for the Hulk’s arrival on Earth, and after giving his superhero foes twenty-four hours to evacuate the city of New York, he embarks on his much-anticipated vendetta.
Greg Pak generates some tension with an impressive few scenes of the calm-before-the-storm, which see New York’s biggest and best superheroes organise a mass evacuation of the city in preparation for War. However, the writer doesn’t mess about for too long before giving the people what they want, and anyone fearing a long and drawn-out build up to the eventual clash between the Hulk and his enemies will be relieved to see the Hulk take on not one, but two Illuminati members in the space of this first issue alone. The fight sequences are given a satisfying energy by John Romita Jr., whose artwork brings a quintessentially Marvel sensibility to each page. Even if his Hulk isn’t my favourite take on the character, the book’s large cast are all recognisable and consistent, and he makes the best of the script’s big moments (the arrival of spaceships in the skies of New York; the reveal of a bloodied and battered Black Bolt; and the climactic battle between Hulk and Iron Man) to give the book a real dynamism and power. His depiction of the carnage that the Hulk is capable of is chillingly convincing, and even cynical readers like me might find themselves wondering whether World War Hulk might have a bigger impact on the Marvel Universe than they expected. Romita is definitely the big attraction of this series for me, no doubt about it.
However, along with these big events come the usual niggles about the way in which certain characters have been manipulated to suit the story, and the same problems which plagued Civil War do threaten to raise their heads again here: the excuse given by Dr. Strange for his refusal to deal with the Hulk by mystical means is a lame one, and whilst I’m sure that it won’t constitute the full extent of his involvement in WWH, it seems like a cop-out to dismiss his ability to handle the situation so quickly. The Sentry’s potential involvement in calming the Hulk is given quite a build-up, but we irritatingly don’t get to see the conversation between him and Iron Man which presumably explains his later lack of involvement (does this mean that we’ve got to pick up the tie-in Frontline series for that part of the story? I really hope not), so that part of the issue falls flat. Greg Pak also has to cope with the difficulties which come with the divided, post-Civil War superheroes having to team-up together to take on the Hulk, and even if the writer does address the situation (Iron Man offers no-strings-attached pardons for those who promise to help him), it doesn’t seem plausible that characters who have shown such animosity towards each other in the past year’s worth of comics would be able to suddenly work together in so friendly a manner. They’re not problems which scupper the book beyond repair, but they do take the edge off a story which might have worked better without having to deal with such a complex web of recent continuity between Marvel’s biggest heroes.
Despite my problems with the issue, I enjoyed this first instalment of World War Hulk as some refreshingly simple, straightforward superhero storytelling which doesn’t have aspirations to be anything more than it is: a fun, exciting punch-up between super-powered individuals, with the city of New York as a playground for the larger-than-life slugfest that World War Hulk promises to be. It might not look like it’s going to offer any real character insight (I was disappointed that Bruce Banner didn’t make an appearance) or even a particularly original story, but this miniseries is already shaping up to deliver the “delicious Green sorbet” that we’ve been promised after the gargantuan food fight that was Civil War.
What did you think of this book?
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