Monday, October 22, 2018

Hulk: World War Hulk Omnibus

 The storyline that ruined The Hulk comes to a close.

 I wasn't all that crazy about author Greg Pak's PLANET HULK epic, and this wasn't much better.

 Granted, the concept of PLANET HULK is a grabber: The Hulk is launched into space by a cadre of other heroes who deem him too dangerous to remain on Earth. They supposedly sent him to to an idyllic uninhabited planet that could sustain him indefinitely, but they somehow didn't figure on the massive, enraged creature they were firing into space being angry and trashing the ship, which resulted in the spacecraft going off-course, marooning him on a savage planet where The Hulk is forced to fight for his life in barbaric gladiatorial contests.

The Hulk being The Hulk, he soon becomes the top dog of the arena, and eventually leads a revolt that topples the ruling class, and he sets himself up as King of Sakaar. But....since there are no happy endings for The Hulk.....the craft he arrived in mysteriously explodes, destroying Sakaar, most of the planet's citizens, and The Hulk's bride and unborn child. Hulk....smash.

 WORLD WAR HULK finds The Hulk and his crew of misfits ("The Warbound") headed to Earth to exact revenge on the people that sent ol' greenskin into exile, and who they blame for the destruction of Sakaar: The Illuminati. (Also known as Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt.)

 This all sounds very exciting, but Greg Pak is a terrible writer, so whatever can't be solely carried by the visuals sucks. The art for the main event of WORLD WAR HULK is handled by John Romita, Jr., whose work I enjoy, but....the older he gets, the blockier and harder to decipher it becomes. There were large chunks of fight scenes (And, to be honest, the bulk of the story is nothing but fight scenes...) that were just impenetrable shots of massive bodies pressed against one another, and I often had no idea what was being conveyed.

 I said above that this storyline was the one that ruined The Hulk, and I stand by that. The event was poorly thought out from the beginning. Having The Hulk basically conquer the world through alien force of arms, and then attempt to murder every superhero in New York (Saying "But they deserved it!!" does not justify attempted murder....sorry.) might make for an exciting story, but it isn't one that the character can ever come back from. And he never really has. Since being depowered at the end of this event, The Hulk has been replaced by an old man Red Hulk, some female Hulks, a teenaged Asian Hulk, he's been relaunched and relaunched again, killed, rebooted and retconned......but, to me, this story ruined the character. Sometimes, Editors need to say "Neat idea, but we can't do that." Marvel got a crowd-pleasing story out of this, at the expense of a pivotal character. Much like when they decided to make Iron Man a controlling, government-toady took them years, and a movie, to undo the damage that they did. I didn't like it when Pak had "Heroes" turn their back on their friend and ally and shoot him into space, because it made them no better than the villains. And here, they are portrayed as straight-up bad guys. Doctor Strange even lets a powerful demon take control of his body, endangering the entire world, in the hope that it will kick The Hulk's ass. This is just bad, bad, stuff that ignores, and shits on, decades of Marvel continuity. After PLANET HULK, WORLD WAR HULK, ONE MORE DAY, and CIVIL WAR, the Marvel Universe, and the heroic characters that inhabited it, were no more, replaced by tribes of murderous, selfish lunatics that I no longer recognized or cared to read about.

 But it isn't all bad news. This book gets better as you read it. (And you should read it in order, as printed...I tried to do a chronological read, using Marvel's own preferred reading order from their own website. It was just a mess.) Read the main story first, then the assorted other stuff, exactly as presented here.) HULK: WORLD WAR HULK OMNIBUS collects WORLD WAR HULK PROLOGUE: WORLD BREAKER, WORLD WAR HULK #'s 1-5, THE INCREDIBLE HULK #'s 106-111, IRON MAN #'s 19-20, AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #s 4-5, THE IRREDEEMABLE ANT MAN #10, WORLD WAR HULK: X-MEN #'s 1-3, GHOST RIDER #'s 12-13, HEROES FOR HIRE #'s 11-15, PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #12, WORLD WAR HULK: GAMMA CORPS #'s 1-4, WORLD WAR HULK FRONT LINE #s 1-6, WORLD WAR HULK: AFTERSMASH, WORLD WAR HULK: DAMAGE CONTROL #'s 1-3, WORLD WAR HULK AFTERSMASH: WARBOUND #'s 1-5, and PLANET HULK SAGA. Whew.

 There's some gold in the tie-in stories. The GHOST RIDER and X-MEN issues are good, solid smash-em-ups, Dwayne McDuffie's DAMAGE CONTROL manages to be funny and tie up a lot of loose ends, HEROES FOR HIRE has a boatload of great action bolstered by strong characters and interpersonal relationships, and GAMMA CORPS is a nasty DIRTY DOZEN-on-Gamma-radiation slugfest. The further I got into the book, the more I enjoyed it.

 Overall, a shitty crossover event that yielded some great crossovers and side-stories, earning a solid seven out of ten Korg-heads:

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