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Smashing the Competition

February 5, 2008

An exhausting but enjoyable journey into comics recently for me was reading Planet Hulk and it’s mega-mega Marvel-crossover World War Hulk. Definitely this was a trip for me. Mike Leone gave me a huge green double-bag stretched to the breaking point with about, what 50 individual comics at least. It was great to completely dive into it though, having been away from the series for so long. Basic premise, Hulk’s superhero buddies get tired of him smashing everything in sight, so they trick him into a rocketship and shoot him into space, on course for an uninhabited world. Yeah, you know that goes wrong. Instead, Hulk gets worm-holed onto this bad-ass alien-Roman-esque planet where he must fight for his freedom and generally gladiate his way to freedom. Why the fuck not?

The raison d’etre is a good one– let’s put the Hulk on a world where he can finally let loose and not worry about property damages. Everything on this world is Hulk-tough too; oversized robots, aliens, monsters and tyrants all in need of a good smashing. And he does, oh man does he ever. Which was great you know, away from the cramped Marvel continuity of the recent Civil War superhero police state–instead you got a raw and rollicking story; something major league that was actually a challenge to it’s hero; and in its story cut to the core of the character, albeit in a somewhat simplistic dichotomy– monster or hero? Saviour or Destroyer? I’d say it would be great for former Marvel readers who just want a good action series. Like me. So I enjoyed it a whole lot.

World War Hulk, the uh, followthrough however I’m a little less sold on. Naturally the Hulk is angry, angrier than he’s ever been before about being shot into space, so he returns to Earth to bust some superhero heads. (As a sidenote– there’s no ‘villains’ in this series– which is regretable; whatever happened to the bad guys?) After he storms into Manhattan with his alien buddies, the Hulk throws it down with, pretty much every hero in the Marvel universe. And over, what like 30 issues, rather than a story you get a nonstop geekout slugfest; an extended riff on who would beat who in a fight? Like OMG could the Hulk beat the Fantastic Four in a fight? What if he was really mad? Or could he beat the entire X-Men? What if he was, you know, really mad? All of this is fun or whatever, but not exactly a beat for beat twist for twist story considering how many issues went into the damn thing.

It seems that the slugfest is there to satisfy those who has gotten tired of Marvel’s “Initiative” storyline, where every hero must be essentially, a registered “super cop” working for the government. Will the Hulk’s rage overturn this? In fact it doesn’t; in the end you get another cop-out. The Marvel heroes don’t learn anything. The Hulk is defeated and packed in a box. And things continue status as quo. So where the hell’s the progress there?

Ah comics. You never get tired of letting me down.

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