Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk

Writer(s): Greg Pak
Artist(s): Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, Juan Santacruz, Gary Frank, and Takeshi Miyazawa
Publisher: Marvel Comics
ISBN: 978-0785120124
Price: $34.99
Page count: 416
Year Released: 2008
Status: in print
Original Source: Incredible Hulk (vol. 3) 92-105; Giant-Size Hulk 1; "Mastermind Excello" from Amazing Fantasy (vol. 2) 15
Other Collected Edition(s): hardcover edition (ISBN: 978-0785122456)
Genres: adventure; fantasy; science fiction; superheroes
Recommended for Fans Of: Ridley Scott's Gladiator
Possible Objectionable Material:
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Also in This Series: preceded by Incredible Hulk: Prelude to Planet Hulk (ISBN: 978-0785119531); followed by Incredible Hulk: World War Hulk and Incredible Hulk: World War Hulk – Incredible Herc

Plot Summary
Long ago on the alien planet Sakaar, the Prophet foretold of the coming of the Sakaarson--a being from the stars who would save the people from tyranny and heal the broken land. Under the cruel autocracy of the "Red King" this prophecy is nothing more than a dim memory, until the Hulk crash-lands on the planet.

Deemed too dangerous to remain on Earth, the Hulk's friends betrayed him and attempted to send him to an uninhabited world where he could live out the rest of his days in peace. But a navigational error sends him to Sakaar instead, where the Hulk is immediately captured, sold into slavery, and forced to participate in the Empire's gladiatorial games. As part of his training the Hulk is bound to six other gladiators: Miek (a native insectoid whose hivemates were slaughtered by the Empire); a member of the Brood (the last survivor of an insectoid race from Broodworld); Korg (a powerful rocklike creature); Hiroim (a disgraced scholar-warrior); Captain Lavin Skee (a former imperial guard); and Elloe Kaiki (the traitorous daughter of Skee's former employer). Together they fight in the games with the goal of winning their freedom.

But the Hulk isn't one to play by the rules and gains the unwanted attention of the Emperor, who wants him dead. Matters are complicated further by a belief spreading throughout the Empire that the Hulk might be the Sakaarson, destined to end the Red King's tyranny. But can a monster whose own planet exiled him ever become more than an uncontrollable killing machine?

My Own 2 Cents
Planet Hulk is a dense and deeply satisfying sci-fi epic. It exemplifies how superhero comic books are occasionally capable of appealing to a wider audience. Although there are some brief "insider" references that will appeal to longtime fans of the Hulk and his decades-long run in comics, these references shouldn't in any way detract from the uninitiated's enjoyment of the story. This is primarily because Greg Pak succeeds in constructing a complex and credible alien world populated with many different types of creatures, each with their own cultural mores and political beliefs. The main characters are fully realized individuals with their own motivations, and many of them grow as the story progresses.

Most interesting is the Hulk's growth as a character. On Earth the Hulk is a rage-fueled monster, prone to smashing everything that gets in his way. On Sakaar he is no different, with the important exception that instead of trying to contain or repress it, the political forces on that planet utilize his rage, first as a gladiator and then as a leader. As such, the Hulk finds himself channeling his rage from being a tool of destruction to being a tool of liberation and salvation. He spends a lot of time doubting his role, and the people of Sakaar conveniently have two avatars into which the Hulk could fit: the Sakaarson (the savior) and the Worldbreaker (the destroyer). So which one is he?

Also satisfying is the tension between certain characters, and the nod to the complexity of human (or alien) emotions. Elloe, the daughter of an executed government representative, is constantly drawn back to the attraction of empire and the subjugation of others, despite all she has been through as a slave and a gladiator, fighting side-by-side with members of the races her empire has subjugated. On the other side of the same coin, Miek (the insectoid whose race is a metaphor for every enslaved or occupied indigenous culture on Earth) returns again and again to the path of revenge because of the Empire's utter decimation of his people. These two characters are at each other's throats more than once, despite the Hulk's attempts to show them that these paths lead only to more pain and destruction.

But beyond the excellent characters, Pak has created a stunning, action-packed story with genuine moments of pathos and humor. He's done a fine job of telling a rich, nuanced story of rage and redemption, utilizing the character of the Hulk in a way he has rarely been used before. Bottom line, if you enjoy science fiction epics with a military slant to them, you will thoroughly enjoy Planet Hulk.