This is the biggie: the one crossover fans have been waiting for. After House of M and Civil War and the going on behind the scenes of Marvel’s Illuminati (no not Joe Q, Brian Bendis and Mark Miller) the House of Ideas’ next BIG blockbuster is finally upon us – and by the looks of things, it’s going to get messy!
Picking up World War Hulk 1 (of 5), the book went staight to the top of my must-read list and kept me quiet for the entire train journey home. I have been following Greg Pak’s Hulk series for the past year and must admit it is the best the big green machine’s title has been in a long, long time. It’s actually on a par (well, so far, anyway) with Peter David’s classic run on the book. To fill you in with a bit of back-story, around a year and a half ago SHIELD (the super spy agency of the Marvel Universe) sent the Hulk up into space to sort out a secret mission that involved a living robotic satellite experiment that had gone mad and out of control. However, this was simply a ploy to get the Hulk away from Earth as, on the way back, the Hulk was confronted with a video message from Marvel’s secret society, the Illuminati (which consits of Marvel’s big thinkers such as Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, and Black Bolt). The message explains that they have done the maths and found that the Hulk is too big a threat to be left to his own devices on Earth, so for the greater good they’ve taken the opportunity to take the green goliath out of the equation altogether, blasting him into deep space.
Of course the plan didn’t work out and even though the Hulk’s so-called mates thought they’d seen the last of him, the Hulk landed on a Conan-like fantasy planet filled with evil kings, monsters, aliens and exotic baddies. Being at first a slave to the evil Red King, the Hulk (known as Green Scar on this new planet) broke his bonds of slavery and forged a friendship with other slaves. They became a team of monsters called the ‘Warbound’ who slowly but surely took control of the kingdom. So all goes well and the Hulk finally finds a place to live happily ever after…
Well, not really, because his spaceship blows up and causes all manner of problems, destroying the utopia he’s built. Fleeing his dying planet, the Hulk, along with his team, sets his sights towards Earth, ready to bring down some righteous anger on the individuals who sent him into space. As you can imagine, the Hulk isn’t happy about the turn of events – and as comic fans know, the angrier the Hulk gets, the stronger he gets! So with World War Hulk issue 1 we see the green goliath getting his revenge, and to be honest, it really has been worth the wait. Artist John Romita Jr really does knock the ball out of the park, with major fight after major fight upping the ante as the Hulk gets ever closer to his goal of revenge. The first round of Hulk Vs Black Bolt is impressive but the highlight of the book is the battle between a souped-up Iron Man and a very angry Hulk, with carnage on a massive scale tempered by Iron Man’s attempt to explain his actions of senting the Hulk into space for the first place. This great first issue really does seem to sum up the state of the Marvel Universe at the moment, with the continued post-Civil War editorially driven stories focusing on registration, too much governmental control over superheroes, and some heroes thinking they know better. ‘Doing things for your own good no matter what the cost’ is not always the best way to go about things and this current mantra of ‘control’ in the Marvel Universe has made a lot of people angry (not just characters in the books but also readers as well). The Hulk’s return is seen by many as a justified rebellion against the administration, behind the scenes manipulations and the idea of state funded heroes; it promised a return to some old school superhero values.
The sheer rage and power of the Hulk is shown in JRJR’s art; watching him take apart his enemies is just fantastic to see and having a non-stop superhero slugfest once in while shows that at times action works as well as words when telling a comic story. Even though the book is conveniently trade-paperback in length (being issue 1 of 5) it is also refreshing to see that much of the talking heads/decompressed storyline that has afflicted comic books of late is missing; the action starts straight away without fans having to wait until the second or third issue for things to start hotting up Overall, this is a great, visually impressive book that shows Marvel is still the master of the epic, widescreen summer blockbuster events (when it wants to be) and though there have been some duds over the past few years, this issue shows that comics really are a superb medium for excitement, fun, adventure and a billion pounds worth of property damage where nobody really gets hurt. Great stuff.