Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest – World War Hulk #5 (of 5)

Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i), Christina Strain (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Average Rating:

Robert Murray:
Kevin Powers:
Dave Wallace:

Robert Murray:

World War Hulk ends with a loud whimper rather than a poignant bang, as I had hoped. Let me explain myself. I knew that the only way this mini-series/crossover super-event could end was with a terrific, no-holds-barred battle between the Hulk and the collected power of the Marvel Earth forces (in this case, the unstable dynamo that is Sentry). However, I was hoping that Greg Pak would pull out some plot element or twist that would keep this series from ending on a predictable note. Unfortunately, that hope went unfulfilled, as the series ends with what you would expect from this supposedly Earth-shattering event. There are lots of big, splashy pages of the Hulk and Sentry bringing down most of New York City in a furious battle (seeing Madison Square Garden get squashed was something...). What I immediately thought of was Superman #75, which instantly made me comment to myself, “Great, here we go again.” Also, there is the double-cross “twist” that brings the Hulk back into the Earth fold once again (though he still professes to hate the heroes that sent him away in the first place). While I knew that the Illuminati and others had no part in detonating the ship on Sakaar, killing almost everyone there, I think the final explanation for this terrorist action was a weak way to wrap things up. Speaking of wrapping up, the Hulk is finally brought down by a Stark orbiting cannon, after which he is taken away by S.H.I.E.L.D. under lock and key. This sets the stage for the new Hulk series, looking like it will start with the themes that have always been addressed in the classic tales: the menace of the rampaging Hulk and the problem of how to cure Bruce Banner. Finally, it’s horror movie time! The last page shows an all new Hulk rising from the desolate soup of Sakaar and into a new series. Let’s all say hi to baby boy Skaar...

One of the main reasons I usually don’t care for humongous events such as this is the way everything’s bigger and louder, but the character and story development ultimately suffers. For instance, everyone knew that Reed Richards wouldn’t kill Tony Stark under the Hulk’s controlling hand. This has been set up for a while now, and the whole idea that the Hulk has started a war in which he doesn’t want to kill still sounds idiotic to me (Hey, I’ll destroy everything, but I’ll leave everyone alive in the ruins!). Then, we have the throw-down of the year, as the Hulk and Sentry battle mano a mano over the next twenty-one pages or so. Let me tell you, John Romita Jr. has never been one of my favorite artists, but he’s done an okay job so far with this series. However, this climactic battle was a mess of lines and colors that really didn’t have me gasping in excitement. I don’t know if the fault should be Romita’s, colorist Christina Strain’s, or a combination of the two with the jagged inks of Klaus Janson. Whatever the case, I felt like I was watching a wrestling match with the volume turned up way too much, with lots of egotistical proclamations and loud attacks. Finally, after the dust settles, the revelation is revealed, the Hulk gets angry, and Stark takes him down. End of story.

I subscribe to The Incredible Hulk, so I have enjoyed Greg Pak’s writing throughout his run on the title. However, this conclusion to “Planet Hulk” was a cop-out in so many ways for those fans who still look for intelligent entertainment in the mainstream Marvel Comics. Plus, on a personal note, I don’t know how I feel about the current Hulk series being transformed into the Incredible Herc next month. Does this guy, and Amadeus, deserve a series?

Kevin Powers:

Marvel’s latest epic and first big event post-Civil War finally wrapped up this Wednesday. World War Hulk has been a compelling, action-packed and well-written story that has really captivated readers at the comic shop. More than that, it essentially ends what began in “Planet Hulk” as well as opens the doors for new stories to come. I really give Greg Pak a great deal of credit; until “Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk” I was neither a regular Hulk reader nor an avid collector of the books but now, the tides have changed. I am excited for the direction of the Hulk, whether he is green, grey or red, I am very intrigued by the direction of the character. With all of this said, the final issue of this saga presents a bit of a mixed bag for me.

As a whole, I’d give the entire event four or four and a half silver bullets. It’s a great story and it, along with “The Initiative,” has pretty much washed the bad taste out of my mouth left after Civil War. While this final issue of World War Hulk is no doubt action-packed and a real treat for any superhero fan, there are some things about the results that have left me a bit out to lunch. I do want to stress that, overall, I really enjoyed this story-arc. After all, it has made me a Hulk fan. I also want to express the fact that I am very intrigued for the direction of the character and the world around him. I did enjoy the action and the battle between Hulk and the Sentry in this issue, but I can’t help having wanted a bit more.

I really feel that Marvel has done a great disservice to the Sentry. I think he’s massively underutilized and treated horribly in the grand scheme of things. He’s supposedly the most powerful hero in the Marvel universe, and he’s a complete nutcase who does absolutely nothing. I feel this is a bit damaging because this final battle between him and the Hulk really doesn’t do a whole lot for his character. Agoraphobic or not, The Sentry, as presented in his two mini-series, is extraordinarily compelling but since then, he has been reduced to nothing but a convenient plot device. That’s almost how I feel about the Sentry’s involvement in this story. I understand the history between the characters and I understand that the Sentry has the power of a million exploding suns, but come on, it’s way too convenient. My main problem with this is that the thing that finally defeats the Hulk is the fact that he expends all of his energy. So Black Bolt speaking, Dr. Strange channeling some strange demon and the biggest Hulkbuster armor ever weren’t enough to drain him? Apparently not, because I remember those things only making the Hulk stronger and more angry.

However, I will give Sentry the benefit of the doubt; the battle that takes place in this issue is absolutely insane. Even as a Green Lantern fan, I’ll admit it: the battles between Ion against Superman Prime and Hal Jordan against Sinestro have got quite the act to follow. I mean, this Hulk/Sentry battle is one of the most insane and intense battles that I have seen in comics in a long time. They do indeed beat the holy hell out of each other, so I suppose I can buy that the beating the two dish out to each other is what ultimately depowers them both. But the Sentry still feels like a convenient plot device. I really think that Marvel could have thrown readers for a real loop if Betty Ross showed up, back from the dead. That would have been wildly compelling, a story that started with one dead wife ends with the return of another. But I have a theory as to where Marvel is going with the result of this issue.

After the insane battle, things happen very fast. Miek, Hulk’s main Warbound, finally reveals that he was behind everything that happened to the Hulk, not the Illuminati. After Hulk is de-powered from being exhausted and becomes Bruce Banner, he suddenly Hulks back up and begins to destroy the Wartbound. I have two problems with this. First, I think the whole Warbound angle should have been developed a bit further. I just don’t feel like there was enough behind it to really feel the impact on the Hulk. The second problem I have is that after the Hulk and Sentry battle it out for almost the entire book, the Hulk transforms into Bruce Banner out of exhaustion but immediately becomes the Hulk again when Rick Jones sacrifices his body, but seemingly not his life, to save Hulk. There’s just something that doesn’t fit there, and again, it takes away the Sentry’s relevance, because in the end, it’s Tony Stark that hits Hulk with a satellite beam. Okay, but why didn’t Tony do that in the first place? Again, almost too convenient.

Ultimately the end of this issue sets up some very exciting things to come. Hercules is going to get his own series run, taking the Hulk’s spot with Incredible Herc. Apparently, there is still a part of the Hulk left on the Planet Sakaar which should prove interesting as long as Greg Pak writes the story, and finally there is the speculation surrounding the red Hulk. There’s little tease at the end when Bruce Banner is held in a containment tank; the final panel featuring him is colored red. Could this mean Banner will be the Red Hulk under military control? Maybe Rick Jones will be the Hulk? Maybe the Sentry? It’s definitely intriguing, and I am actually quite interested to see where this goes. However, I do have a theory that seems a bit obvious given the success of The Ultimates. The secret invasion has begun, the Skrulls will no doubt wage an all out war on Earth, perhaps the only way to stop them is to let Banner out of his cage. Interesting to think about.

Overall, this is an okay end to a great story. While it sets up many interesting things to come, I just felt things played out too conveniently in this issue and it just seemed kind of “stock.” Either way, John Romita’s Jr.’s artwork has been very well done throughout this series, and he continues to be at the top of his game in terms of his unique style and his ability to draw great action. Greg Pak has done a great job with his first two Hulk epics, and I hope that he continues to deliver.

Dave Wallace:

This final issue of World War Hulk sees the Green Goliath go toe-to-toe with the Sentry, who has finally been convinced to leave the house and confront his old friend in order to stop the Hulk’s rampage in New York. It’s a far more straightforward fight than I expected, and even though the issue is fairly entertaining from a visual perspective, there’s a sense that it misses the opportunity to give the series the strong finale that it deserves.

The Sentry is a fairly interesting character when used well: a schizophrenic, agoraphobic headcase whose godlike powers are tempered by his psychological instability. However, we don’t get to see any of that light and shade here, as the more complex elements of Robert Reynolds’ personality have already been dealt with by Greg Pak in earlier issues. Unfortunately, Pak doesn’t add anything else here to make the conflict really interesting: the Sentry’s relationship with Bruce Banner isn’t explored in any depth, and his ability to calm the Hulk isn’t utilised at all, with no acknowledgement of this power by the writer (despite it being used as a plot point in an earlier issue of the series). The battle proceeds as a simple slugfest between the two powerhouses, and there’s a sense that this issue, more than any other, has been a showcase for the art team to tell the story. The fight sequence appears to have been written “Marvel-style,” with a lot of elements left up to Romita rather than tightly choreographed by Pak. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case the fighting quickly becomes repetitive and goes on a little too long without any real developments, when a tighter control over the pacing of the fight may have been preferable.

However, one pleasant surprise was that the Sentry/Hulk fight only lasts for half an issue, leaving plenty of space for Pak to tie up his loose ends. The arena fight between the Illuminati members is resolved with the Hulk’s revelation that he was never really going to make them hurt each other; the Illuminati is exonerated for the explosion of the Hulk’s spacecraft by a fairly predictable twist; and the Hulk’s declaration of war on the heroes of Earth is revoked. It feels like a little too much of a cop-out to be a satisfactory ending for the main plot, and crucially, Pak never really explores the more personal conflict between Bruce Banner and the Hulk in any depth either. It seems as though Pak is so in love with the Hulk as a rampaging, angry monster that he isn’t interested in exploring his relationship with his human counterpart, and that’s a shame, as it’s one of the more interesting facets of the character for me. As such, this conclusion feels slightly disappointing, and too many elements (such as Tony Stark’s plan, or the exact manner in which the Hulk/Sentry fight is resolved) are left unclear or unexplained for it to work as a truly satisfying finale.

As far as the writing goes, I also have to comment on the highly enjoyable sound effects provided for this issue, which are important in conveying some of the impact of the big moments of the fighting. Earlier in the series we saw “KRAKABATHROOM!” employed to unintentionally comedic effect, but World War Hulk outdoes itself this issue with some truly inventive onomatopaeic explosions of sound, such as
“Frzaakk!,” “Kwaglooooom!” and the bizarrely resonant “Vjjjwommmwwwb.” However, there’s a tongue-in-cheek quality to these sound effects, too, with “GrgPakk!” and “JRJrKJCSssss” both paying subtle tribute to the book’s creative team (writer and artists respectively). It’s nice to see the book shamelessly embrace this superhero convention and take it to a new level of silliness: I don’t know if it’s Pak himself who’s responsible for coming up with these effects, or letterer Chris Eliopoulos, but they add an extra layer of fun to the fight sequences - which is lucky, as the artwork isn’t quite as perfect as usual for this final chapter.

I’m a huge fan of John Romita Jr. and will usually pick up a book on the strength of his artwork alone. He again provides some very powerful imagery here, and I can’t fault his linework in expressing the sheer scale and power of the battle between the Hulk and the Sentry. I imagine that Romita will never want to draw another collapsing skyscraper or crumbling concrete wall ever again after this series, but he’s risen to the challenge of drawing some complicated and detailed scenes of urban destruction throughout the course of World War Hulk, and he doesn’t let readers down here. However, the frequently pale and washed-out colouring for the Sentry/Hulk fight doesn’t serve his artwork as well as stronger shades might. I can see what Christina Strain is aiming for with her white-hot explosions of raw energy, but the effect is taken too far, resulting in a lack of definition for Romita’s characters at the most climactic moment of the series. The second half of the issue fares a little better, though, with stronger shades applied to the closing scenes: even if I’m not thrilled by the way that the book concludes, the final page drips with atmosphere thanks to Strain’s colouring choices.

In many ways, this was the only way that World War Hulk could end: a convenient stalemate with minimal changes to the status quo of the Marvel Universe. That doesn’t bother me particularly, because the point of this series hasn’t been to make major changes to characters, or to turn the MU upside-down. Instead, the book has made no secret of that fact that it exists to treat readers to the excessive, over-the-top spectacle of the Hulk beating on Marvel’s finest superheroes, and it has accomplished that goal. However, this final issue doesn’t manage to put a cap on the series in any meaningful way, and anyone hoping for more than the superficially enjoyable but slightly hollow entertainment of the last four issues will be disappointed.

I would also have preferred it if Marvel had been a little less obvious with their plugs for future material in this final issue. Yet again, the end of an “event” comic feels like little more than an advertisement for forthcoming books from Marvel (there are at least three full-page trails for new series and story arcs which spin out of World War Hulk at the back of this issue, and the book itself finishes with a scene which exists solely to set up a new miniseries). As with Civil War, it feels as though the desire to set up future stories comes at the expense of a completely satisfying ending for this one. Hulk fans will probably be in heaven, but for everyone else, this might feel like a crass conclusion to an otherwise unpretentious and shamelessly enjoyable miniseries.

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