by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Jeff Parker, Art by Carlo Pagulayan
Published: August 2011
Ignoring the fact that Hulk #34 is yet another deliberate callback to the wildly successful Planet Hulk(going so far as to be called “Red Planet Hulk”), this issue is actually quite a bit of fun. Thunderbolt Ross finds himself accidentally exiled from Earth to a red planet where he is quickly enslaved and forced to fight in gladiatorial battle.
Or at least it seems like an accident. Ross himself isn’t so sure that it is. He hypothesizes that Banner somehow betrayed him or that the Avengers hatched a plan to get rid of him, but he doesn’t really have much in the way of evidence to support that. All he has is the old Ross paranoia, his overconfidence as the red Hulk, and his mean attitude.
Planet Hulk was done in 14 parts plus an annual. Red Planet Hulk is handled in just two. As you can imagine, things are sped up quite a bit. Ross doesn’t get interesting allies, and the world that he finds himself on is not nearly as fleshed out as Sakaar was. That said, the pacing doesn’t feel overly rushed. If anything, the comparisons to a more epic and more popular storyline hurt this story, since if it’s taken by itself the first part of this tale is pretty entertaining.
Held prisoner by a mind-controlling plant aptly known as the mindroot, Ross quickly breaks out when he strikes a deal with the scientist who controls the plant. When he’s scheduled to die in gladiatorial combat, he instead takes his shot at the king of the planet, easily taking him down. Following that victory, he is named the Red King, apparently against his will.
This story is not nearly as epic or interesting as Planet Hulk, but it stands well on its own merits. Heroes being exiled to alien planets and forced to fight is nothing new in the Marvel Universe, and this story is one of the more fun examples of that happening. The one area that the comic does benefit from being paralleled to the Hulk classic rather than just standing on its own merits is the return of Planet Hulk artist Carlo Pagulayan, who provides the same stellar artwork that he always does. Even in a more compressed storytelling environment, Pagulayan manages to give an alien world a feeling of uniqueness and consistency that makes it almost feel alive.
I highly recommend checking out Hulk #34 if you can hunt down a copy. It might not be Planet Hulk, but it has its own charms and is a nice next step for the progression of the red Hulk, who is learning more and more what the real Hulk went through all the time.