"I didn't come here for a whisper. I wanna hear you scream."
The best Hulk stories are the ones that don’t rely on the Hulk Smash! clichés as an excuse to litter the page with the detritus of teenage wet dreams involving explosive violence and bloody carnage. Planet Hulk avoids that for a while but eventually crumbles like a cookie in Hulk’s hand, and there’s so much “Finally. Hulk knows who to smash,” that my brain almost seeped out of my ears trying to get away from what my eyes were forcing it to assimilate. It’s a great shame because the first half of Book I is bursting with promise, and even delivers upon some of it from time to time.
Prior to the story’s beginnings Hulk’s world is shaken by the realisation (or confirmation) that his ‘friends’ each brandish a back-stabbing knife and share a collective fear of his condition. Instead of putting extra effort into helping him cope they take the coward’s way out by removing him from their space.
Stranded now on a world torn apart by a tyrannical ruler, the bulging green menace is forced to rely on his wits, and his (*chuckle) people skills.
For reasons I won’t go into, Hulk is thrust into the role of reluctant leader, which doesn't sit well because he’s not ever been what your boss at work would call a team player. There’s a large cast of characters woven around his situation, and they exist in a world that’s well fleshed out with its own history and culture.
The strengths of the work lie in the perspectives taken, both literal (the art direction) and in how to view a hero / villain depending on which side of the fence you happen to lie. In war the enemy is always the villain but both sides are an enemy. Hulk is a monster but he’s our monster. His goals are sympathetic to our goals, and our goals are noble because we are noble. Does that make him more like us, or make us more like him?
When those kinds of questions are raised the story excels. Unfortunately the chaos overshadows them, and by Book II, when everything turns to shit for the characters, the story suffers. There’s a deeply emotional moment that knocked me for six but overall by the end of the chaos I felt physically drained by the experience when I should’ve been more emotionally drained.
The book collects together The Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 issues 92 – 105; Giant-Size Hulk vol. 2 issue 1; and ‘Mastermind Excello’ from Amazing Fantasy issue 15.
3 stupid names out of 5