by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Greg Pak, Art by Carlo Pagulayan
Published: June 2007
This is the story of the Green Scar. The Eye of Anger. The World Breaker Harkanon. Haarg. Holku. Hulk. And how he finally came home.
These words serve as bookends to the Planet Hulk saga, of which The Incredible Hulk #105 represents the final chapter. When we last left the Hulk, the ship that had exiled him from Earth had just suffered a warp core breach, exploding in the middle of King Hulk’s capital city and threatening the entire planet. We knew from the beginning that this story was going to end sadly, but we didn’t know exactly how much knife-twisting there would be until this issue.
The Hulk’s Warbound are scattered across Sakaar on their various diplomatic missions at the start of the issue. The Hulk and Caiera aren’t nearly so lucky, being trapped right at ground zero of the blast. The Hulk shields Caiera with his body while yelling her name, to which Caiera tells him that she will never leave him. Ominous words indeed.
Across Sakaar, the effects of the warp core breach shake the planet. The fragile tectonic plates start to crack under the force, causing Hiroim to sink down into the lava, convinced that the planet has finally met its doom. Hiroim is saved by Korg, who tells his friend to either pick himself up and get going or that the stone man will jump down in the lava and die with his friend. Loyalty has been a big theme in Planet Hulk, and here we see friends once again willing to die for friends. Luckily, Korg won’t be dying right yet, as his words get Hiroim going again.
The art, as always, is spectacular here, but there is one minor complaint to be lodged about the coloring. Given the massive amount of destruction and loss of life, the Warbound are naturally shaken to tears by the event – even the Brood. The problem comes when the colorist didn’t properly color in the Brood’s tears, making them almost unnoticeable as they were the same color as the creature’s hide. Why is this so important? Because among fans at the time that this issue came out, there was a lot of speculation that the Brood, a member of the species that had long antagonized the X-Men, was one of the saboteurs who had helped destroy Sakaar. Had we readers properly seen her weeping, it would have greatly changed the conspiracy theories about her involvement – perhaps not absolving her of suspicion, but leaving a lot more doubt as to her actual role in the destruction of Sakaar.
Despite that hiccup, this issue provides us with more of the sweeping, grand art that we’ve seen – but emphasizing tragedy rather than light-hearted action this time. This is most apparent at the climax of the issue, where Caiera, killed despite the Hulk’s attempt to save her, disintegrates into dust while still in the Hulk’s arms – a sad parallel to the little girl who died in Caiera’s arms just before she joined the Warbound against the Red King.
And here I have to lodge my other complaint about this issue: the death of Caiera. I don’t believe that it’s badly done, but I do think that it is an instance where writer Greg Pak erred in that he threw away a character with a lot of potential. Caiera was unique among the Hulk’s many love interests over the years. She had the power to fight alongside our jade giant. She loved both the Hulk and Banner, recognizing them as equals. All that said, she fell for the Hulk first, as opposed to most other love interests whose primary concern was the man inside the monster. She had chemistry and character, and even the best writers can only strike lightning like that a few times in her career. But now she’s literally dust in the wind, leaving this character gone before her potential was fully realized.
That said, the purpose of Planet Hulk was to leave the Hulk madder than he had ever been before so Marvel could present their next big event, World War Hulk. And the death of a great character like Caiera, not to mention the Hulk’s unborn child, is enough to accomplish that. Moreover, it’s enough to make the readers angry as well. We just spent 14 issues watching the Hulk rise from slave to king and becoming a hero to this planet. Now thanks to the carelessness of the Illuminati, everything has been undone. Granted, we don’t know for sure that there wasn’t something else going on with the warp core breach, but had the supposed heroes that make up the Illuminati considered giving the Hulk his right of due process or even just checking to make sure the ship landed where they expected it to, then millions of people on Sakaar would still be alive. The heroes were more like villains, and people have died because of them. So now the audience is at least partially on the Hulk’s side, waiting for him to mete out green-fisted justice.
And that’s what we’re promised to close out Planet Hulk. The Hulk goes into a rage, smashing mountains while screaming, “Bring them back!” which is a nice display of how even this more intelligent version of the Hulk is very childlike in some ways and capable of throwing one monster of a tantrum. The Hulk’s rage ends with a quieter, “Bring her back,” which is one more tear-jerker in case you have a heart of stone and don’t feel sad at what the character has lost yet. Then the rest of the Warbound arrive and give the chance for the Hulk to seek vengeance. They climb into their great stone ship and head for Earth. The Hulk forges a sword as we get the captions that opened the saga once again. This time, the caption, “And how he came home” is on the final splash page – an amazing picture of the Hulk on top of the stone ship, his sword out and ready for battle, speeding through space with his mouth open in a scream of rage.
Ladies and gentlemen, the heroes of Marvel Earth are officially screwed.
And that’s the end of Planet Hulk. How does it measure up when all is said and done? Quite frankly, it’s one of the best Hulk stories ever told, and that is not hyperbole. The Hulk has gone to alien planets before, but never have they been as fully realized as Sakaar. Never have we had 14 full issues, including a giant-sized issue #100 and a pair of bonus stories in Giant-Size Hulk #1, to fully explore the ramifications of the Hulk getting exiled. The writing starts out as fun, then becomes more serious, and finally ends with a well-executed tragedy. The art is consistently wonderful throughout. And in an age of decompressed storytelling, this saga never felt padded out for a trade paperback. Every single issue contributes to the ultimate resolution, and every single one has a lot to offer readers.
Planet Hulk is truly a Marvel masterpiece. If you haven’t read it yet, go and check out the trade paperback. Issue for issue, you will not find a better collection of stories from the last ten years.