Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - Incredible Hulk #92

Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

“Planet Hulk”

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Carlo Pagulayan (p), Jeffrey Huet (i), Jason Keith (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

EDITOR’S NOTE: Incredible Hulk #92 will appear in stores this Wednesday, February 8.

Average Rating:

Michael Bailey:
Dominic Davies:
Michael Deeley:
Kelvin Green:
Judson Miers:
Adam Volk:
Dave Wallace:

Michael Bailey

Plot: After a betrayal by his former friends and comrades, the Hulk is sent into deep space on course for a planet where he will do no further harm. A navigation error sends him to another world where the Hulk learns that he may not be the strongest one there is.

Commentary: I believe it is entirely too easy to become jaded as a comic book fan. There’s something about an ongoing form of storytelling that lends itself to burn out. Characters have lives that can stretch for decades and as styles and tastes change fans can become bored, fed-up or just plain cynical about the books they read. The problem with this is that it isn’t just the comics or the characters that get to us but also the ways that companies hype and plan their products. With the plethora of websites and magazines that are part of (either officially or unofficially) the publicity machine and the shrinking market those companies have to make their announcements as loud as humanly possible to get our attention.

The thing is that there is nothing inherently wrong with this. Comic fandom has evolved over the years, and this type of attention-grabbing propaganda is part of the cultural landscape. Half the fun of comics nowadays is to get the fans all excited and buzzing about a project and over the past few years, most of them have actually been good. This is the key; so long as the story is good then all of the buzz and interviews with everyone from the editor-in-chief to the guy who empties the trash are worth it.

In other words, man “Planet Hulk” looks like it is going to be a whole lot of fun.

In all honesty, one of the main reasons I’m jazzed about this current storyline is because it involves the Hulk. While I was checking out at the comic shop this week, I picked up one of the little checklist cards that Marvel produced to hype the project. While reading it, I was astounded that so much was being done with the Hulk. As integral to the Marvel Universe as the big guy is, he hasn’t gotten the attention and spotlight that the X-Men, Spider-Man or even the Avengers have gotten. Sure there have been blips here and there, but mostly the Hulk has been lurking in the background with a succession of great writers (with the possible exception of John Byrne’s 1999 run on the book) doing interesting and sometimes outstanding things with the character.

So not only does “Planet Hulk” appear to have a solid foundation as a story, but it is also getting the attention the character and story deserve.

Greg Pak wrote a hell of an introductory issue. While there may be a superficial similarity to the Hulk’s time in the sub-atomic world of K'ai, there are enough differences that make the comparison moot. Sure they both have that barbaric vibe to them but that seems to be about it so as long as the Hulk doesn’t find a chick with green skin who eventually makes it to Earth and dies in a rather silly manner then we will be set. In any case, I thought that Pak came up with a rather neat little idea to work from and set the stage for that concept nicely.

Pak is working from a deceptively simple premise: what if the smartest men on the planet Earth decided that they are finally tired of the threat the Hulk poses and stick him in a rocket ship headed for a mostly uninhabited planet? This is one of the best concepts to come along for the character since a young kid by the name of Peter David thought, “Hey, what if I merge all of the Hulks together?” Seriously, this concept strikes me as something that just occurs to a writer out of thin air. It’s the kind of idea that occurs to the writer in the most unlikely of places: the car, the shower, making dinner, etc. At certain points in the character’s history Marvel has tried just about everything to contain the beast, so launching the Hulk into space makes perfect sense. The fact that it was Reed Richards and company makes it all the more dramatic because these people have worked together in the past, so this can be seen as just another example of those the Hulk has trusted turning on him.

Of course, launching the Hulk into space and having him land on an uninhabited world where he spent the rest of his days hunting game and being mad wouldn’t make for a very exciting comic, so the old S.S. Minnow trick shows up and the Hulk crashes on a barbaric world where barbaric tribes battle each other for survival and gladiator games are played on a regular basis. Again, the obvious thought is, “This is the Hulk. He is the strongest one there is. There’s no contest here.” Again, this would make for a boring comic if the Hulk ripped through the aliens like they were paper. So Pak adds the twist that these aliens have weapons that can hurt even him. I liked this. I liked this wrinkle a lot. It added the right amount of tension to keep the reader’s head in the story.

As this was the introductory issue, there was a lot of action but the meat of the story has yet to pick up. Despite this, I really enjoyed the pacing of the issue in terms of both writing and the art. The page layouts went a long way to add to not only the emotion of the scene but to the drama and action as well. Pagulayan and Huet used the two-page spread wonderfully on several occasions and despite the fact that the thing at the end looks like the Scarlac Pit’s younger, uglier brother, I thought that they really nailed the cliffhanger ending.

In The End: I have high hopes for “Planet Hulk.” This may not be a wise idea since it sets me up for a fall, but between the art and Greg Pak's writing I think this will end up being one of the all-time classic Hulk storylines. The scope is huge, and the contents are living up to that. Greg Pak designed the world the Hulk landed on to be just enough of a threat to make things interesting but still added some wanton destruction to give the reader a little bit of that old “Hulk smash!” I have a feeling that the story is going to take a number of turns as it progresses but for right now this is a fun Hulk story presenting a good bit of violence without being gratuitous. The Hulk is a hard character to write and has gone through a lot in the past years. Greg Pak seems confident in the story so the rest should just fall into place.

Dominic Davies

After saving the world, The Hulk is betrayed by his fellow heroes and spirited off into space. His original destination, an uninhabited paradise, is quickly replaced by a desolate planet populated by aliens when his ship runs off course. New world, new people, new society, new evils, new things for Hulk to smash!

The premise behind Greg Pak’s new story is a bold one. Take Hulk, place him in the middle of an all new feudal, warlike society with nasty tech, shake well and watch. It’s a great idea if you are really looking to create some original Hulk stories, and with what is presented in the first issue, it looks likes it is well on its way. From the first page the story grabbed me. Earth’s heroes deciding it is better for the Hulk (and for Earth) to be sent away seems like the perfect ultimate solution to the “Hulk problem.” The ship going off course thanks to his own rage was a nice touch also, helping to justifying the Heroes decision. Then the action is provided.

The pacing of the story is frantic as we are pushed right into the action almost immediately, and it doesn’t let up for a moment either. Hulk smashes, bashes and leaps around in about 17 of the 22 pages in some fantastically violent and exciting scenes. This, however, doesn’t stop Pak from setting the scene and characters before us for a good story in the process. We see the Emperor, his Shadow guardian and the Outcast, and at the same time we are also introduced to the imperial world, including its history and diverse peoples. All these promise some great stories in the future. While this issue shows that in this world the Hulk can indeed be hurt, whether or not Pak will continue with this is unknown, but the promise of the Hulk having to be concerned with his own mortality is something that could interest me in the future as well (however sadly it does seem unlikely).

The artwork keeps up with the pacing just fine. Carlo Pagulayan has done a fantastic job in bringing this new alien world to life from the simple peasants to the great monstrous beasts. Combined with Huet on inks and Keith doing great work with the colors, I hope they are on for the long run.

What we have at the moment is the setting being set for a fantastic tale of violence, liberation and pure Hulkdom. The fact that while being captivated by the terrific action we are also learning about a brand new world gives great credit to Pak's writing. My one caveat is the story’s lack of Bruce, but I have not picked up a Hulk comic for almost a year now, so it’s very possible that I have missed something important in that time. If I was looking for a reason to start picking up Hulk again (and I am, who isn’t?) I would consider this a unique opportunity to get back into it. You should too.

Michael Deeley

There’s not much to say about this issue because not much actually happens.

Last issue, Hulk went into space on a mission for Nick Fury. Now he learns his ship was sabotaged by Marvel’s “secret council” (Reed Richards, Tony Stark, etc.). They reprogrammed Hulk’s ship to land on a distant, uninhabited world. Instead, he goes through a space warp and crashes on one of those high-tech Roman empire-style worlds. Hulk spends the entire issue fighting soldiers and monsters.

The opening caption boxes made me think this story would be more than just endless fighting. It describes the Hulk in mythological terms and how “he came home.” It made me think Hulk would become a God-emperor like the Maestro in “Future Imperfect.” Instead, it’s 20 pages of Hulk smashing stuff. Bummer.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. The writing delivers clever one-liners and little character moments. The bickering between two races of insect people outlines a cultural/racial divide in just a few panels. And the art is great. Pagulayan and Huet create a smooth city, solid alien creatures, and a big freaking monstrous Hulk. It looks great!

On a side note, the actions of Reed & Co. spark a small moral debate. Did they have the right to do what they did? Were they pragmatic or merciful? And is this consortium, created by Bendis, working its way throughout the Marvel U?

In short, this isn’t a bad comic, but it’s less than we expect. Hopefully, future issues will deliver on the promise given by the creators’ talents and that first page.

Kelvin Green

The heroes of Earth come up with a desperate solution to the problem of the Hulk; they send him away to a far flung world where he can harm no one ever again. Except there’s been a miscalculation, and the Hulk arrives on a world teeming with sentient beings, beings that are strong enough to harm even him! The green goliath is beaten in combat by the red-skinned and armour-clad ruler of this strange planet, and is enslaved. But the Hulk is not so easily defeated and already begins to hatch a plan to free himself and overthrow the tyrannical lord...

That’s the synopsis of Incredible Hulk #302, from 1984. It’s also the plot of this new issue, the first in Marvel’s “Planet Hulk” event. House of Ideas, indeed.

So it’s been seen before, but that’s not a particularly egregious crime, although it’s a disappointing basis for what we’re told is to be a big event. That said, the quality of the tale lies in the telling, not its inspirations, so it’s what writer Greg Pak makes of the reheated premise that counts.

Sadly, it doesn’t count for much; what Pak gives us here is something utterly generic, where the only thing that stands out is the premise, and that’s borrowed from elsewhere. There’s nothing about this story that makes it a particularly good fit for the Hulk; you could swap in a completely different protagonist and the story as a whole would be unaffected. Wolverine, Doctor Doom, even Captain America could fit in the lead role without having to change anything significant about the story or setting; that’s never a good sign, and it's even more ominous when a major story event is being based around the premise.

One could avoid this pitfall by playing up the character’s unique reactions to their new setting, but that will be a difficult task here, as the most prominent feature of the world Pak brings the Hulk to is its pervasive blandness; there’s nothing of interest for the Hulk to react to. Pak takes the lazy or rushed sci-fi writer’s shortcut of basing the alien world’s society on one from human history, which again would be fine if this were a quick story arc in the ongoing adventures of the character, but when this is being paraded as a major story event, and one that’s even called “Planet Hulk” for Pete’s sake, surely it’s not too unreasonable to expect some depth in the setting?

The characters are similarly generic and forgettable; the Hulk seems to pick up a sidekick of sorts this issue, but it’s quite possible that it’s a completely different character, as we’re given sod all in the way of information on him/her or development of his/her personality. The villain of the piece gets arrogance as his sole character trait, his henchwoman seems to want to get her hands on the Hulk’s, um, emeralds, and that’s about it for characterisation this issue. Even the Hulk himself gets put through Pak’s Blandatron 3000; a character that’s relatively easy to define comes across as a sort of fuzzy half-hearted and indistinct amalgamation of the classic savage Hulk and the amoral and crafty grey incarnation.

The art is considerably more impressive; Pagulayan is a good storyteller (the Hulk’s arena fight is a stand out sequence), although perhaps a little too fond of using close-ups (not as much background to draw, see?), and he brings some much-needed life and interest to the setting. We may get told bugger all about the world and characters, but Pagulayan makes them look interesting at least. That said, I would have preferred a little more distinctiveness in the alien beings, as the art team seem content to give them a bit of a production line quality. Unless there’s a particular reason why all the aliens look alike, the artists should work to make each alien as different and distinctive as they would a human character; a title like NBM’s Wake shows the positive effects of such an approach. Still, this is but a minor complaint about an art job that is frankly too good for its script.

Don’t get me wrong; this is a competent and solid issue. But when Marvel are telling us again and again that this is the opening chapter of one of their big story events, I tend to feel that they should be aiming higher than competent and solid. Perhaps if Marvel and Pak spent less time promoting the story, and more time polishing it, they’d have a more impressive end product.

Judson Miers

I’ll have to admit that the Hulk has never been one of my favorite characters. In fact, besides the closing issues of Peter David’s last run and the Maestro issues, I haven’t read more than four Hulk comics in my entire life. He just never seemed interesting to me, until this story arc.

It seems that the Hulk is more of a liability than Banner was an asset. Once that moral decision was made, the math was fairly obvious. Instead of just outright ending his life, the Marvel heroes decide to blast Hulk into space as an exile. But…despite the best-laid plans and calculations, the inevitable happens with Hulk getting mad and throws a tantrum that sends the craft off course. Doesn’t anybody ever remember how dangerous (and how painfully obvious) space flight can be!!!???

Back story aside, the issue lands Hulk on an inhabited planet, loosely based on classical Roman society, complete with gladiatorial contests in a grand coliseum. If you can’t already see where the foreshadowing is going, it’s going to be a loooong storyline. While the first issue is sort of formulaic, I do see potential.

Overall, the artwork was solid (not spectacular), the dialogue and alien life forms/people/machines/etc. plausibly “alien”, and even though you know where this is headed, the ride’s fairly enjoyable. Besides, doesn’t everyone like to see the Hulk get the @#$% beaten out of him once in awhile…

Adam Volk

Plot: After being drafted by S.H.I.E.L.D. for a near-impossible space mission, everyone’s favorite green-skinned rageaholic finds himself transported to the other side of the universe. But if being stranded in another galaxy wasn’t bad enough, the Hulk is soon enslaved by a despotic Emperor, forced to fight in a brutal gladiatorial arena and sentenced to death in an extraterrestrial gulag. But even on an advanced alien world, it’s only a matter of time until the Hulk tears everything apart...

Comments: The Hulk has always been one of those rare Marvel characters that seems to bounce from one concept to the next. While characters like Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine have remained relatively consistent over the years, the Hulk has undergone one transformation after the other. From Green skinned brute, to Grey Skinned genius, and back again, the very concept of the Hulk seems to change from writer to writer. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with such an unpredictable protagonist. On the contrary, it’s the constantly transforming nature of the Hulk, which for many fans, makes him so appealing. Now it seems the Hulk has undergone yet another transformation, not only in character, but in terms of the genre itself. Essentially, Incredible Hulk #92 has transported the Hulk from the realm of traditional superhero fare, into a space opera saga worthy of Flash Gordon himself.

The issue opens with the Hulk trapped in a space craft which is about to be thrown into a dimensional wormhole. The wormhole, however, has been opened by Reed Richards, who along with Doctor Strange and Iron Man, decides to banish the Hulk from the Earth once and for all before he can do anymore damage. The plan is to send the Hulk to an uninhabited planet on the far side of the universe to live out the rest of his days in solitude far from any sentient beings. The plan, however, goes horribly awry when the ship’s navigational computer goes haywire, and the Hulk finds himself crash-landed on a planet in the heart of a vast galactic empire. It’s a world where high-tech energy weapons and old-fashioned swords go hand in hand; a setting that comes across as an homage to the old-school , pulp Sci-Fi epics. What follows is an over the top, action-filled issue with the Hulk enslaved and forced to battle a tentacled monstrosity in a gladiatorial arena, earning the ire of the planet’s Emperor, and finding himself struggling to survive on a world filled with a variety of bizarre alien beings.

Incredible Hulk #92 is a far cry from the traditional superhero comic, and while at first glance the Science Fiction concept seems unsuited to the character, in the capable hands of writer Greg Pak, the issue develops into an over the top, fun-filled romp. It may not be the dark, psychological treatment Peter David developed during his brilliant run on the series, but Pak is able to create an entertaining issue none the less, essentially turning the entire concept of the Hulk onto its head. Indeed, the campy Sci-Fi elements which seem out of place in a traditional Hulk story, work brilliantly here, and while the issue is really nothing more than a series of all out battles, it comes across as pure, unadulterated entertainment. The success of the issue, however, is also due in large part to the fine work of artist Carlo Pagulayan, who is able to take Pak’s script and breathe life into the action. Pagulayan is able to capture the sheer power and rage of the character and develops some incredible action sequences. Pagulayan also does a remarkable job with the variety of strange alien creatures peppered throughout the issue, most of which look as though they might have stumbled off of a George Lucas movie set.

Incredible Hulk #92 isn’t the most innovative or intelligent comic you’re likely to read this year. What it is, however, is a good old fashioned Science Fiction yarn, with plenty of action and over the top adventure. Pak isn’t trying to create a brooding, misunderstood character here, he’s simply taking a massive, angry, green-skinned monster and turning him loose. So while the story may be somewhat flat in terms of story and character development, there’s no denying that Pak and Pagulayan have created an issue that’s just plain fun. Because in the end, hearing “Hulk Smash!” is just plain cool, no matter what alien dialect it’s translated into.

Dave Wallace

With this issue, another of Marvel’s much-mooted summer stories begins – and although this first instalment of “Planet Hulk” would seem to have a fairly simple and fun premise (The Hulk is exiled to a faraway planet, on which he is made to do battle with an assortment of alien nasties) on the strength of this issue, it doesn’t appeal to me as much as the more cerebral and philosophical themes of Marvel’s Civil War event. However, as the issue’s striking cover by Ladrönn suggests, this setup at least allows for some solid visual excitement as the Hulk takes on an assortment of monsters in a Gladiator-style arena, with Carlo Pagulayan’s artwork more than adequately conveying the scale and otherworldy nature of the conflict that the Hulk finds himself thrown into.

Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the character, one of my favourite aspects of the Hulk has always been the Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of his existence, and it’s the reason that I enjoy the (slightly more brutal) Ultimate version of the character more than his current 616 incarnation. Sadly, there’s none of that duality to be found here, as Banner remains Hulk-ed out throughout, and there’s no space devoted to his human alter-ego at all. The Hulk is also a little more talk-y here than I’m used to, and although it’s clear that this characterisation is there to serve the needs of the story, I’m not sure I enjoy it as much as the more single-minded “Hulk Smash” approach to the green goliath. Pak’s writing, whilst solid and unshowy, does throw up some interesting ideas: the translating talkbots are a fun contrivance, if a very close relative of the babelfish from Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; the involvement of the “Illuminati” in the decision to send Banner into space definitely warrants further exploration; and I’ll be interested to see if and how the Hulk integrates himself into the alien society in which he remains a captive at the issue’s end. But other elements of the story remain fairly generic, with little originality evident in the conception of the book’s alien planet or its society.

I’m not sure if any elements of the plot are really strong enough to warrant “Planet Hulk” being billed as the next big Marvel event, and despite the more simplistic action-based storytelling potential that the arc may possess (as well as the possible future crossover into Marvel’s upcoming cosmic “Annihilation” event), this issue doesn’t really grab my attention enough to make me want to follow it up with the next. Although there’s undeniably some shallow entertainment to be had from the Hulk duking it out with some imaginative and colourful monsters – and if you’re a fan of the character’s destructive side, you’ll no doubt enjoy some of the hyperbolic action on show here – there’s very little beneath the surface to make this book worth picking up.

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