With the new Loeb/McGinnes Hulk series launching next week, I felt this was a good time to do the review wrapping up the series that led to this new status quo. Tomorrow, you should expect the History of the Marvel Universe – Hulk chapter that I originally had planned to post next June, just before the movie, but then decided to get it up in time for this new relaunch.

General Information

Title: World War Hulk
Author: Greg Pak
Illustrator(s): John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson (inks) and Christina Strain (colours)
Original Publication Date: These issues cover dated August 2007 – January 2008
Cover Price: Each issue priced $3.99 US or $4.75 Can. The as-yet-unsolicited TPB collection due out in late April or early May will be cover priced at $19.99 US, judging by this Amazon.com listing.

Premise

Events of Planet Hulk (which I can also review if you readers want me to): The Illuminati voted to shoot the Hulk off into space for everyone’s protection, but it didn’t go as planned. Instead of landing on a peaceful, uninhabited world, he ended up getting captured and forced to fight in a gladiator style arena. This mad him mad, and the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. He not only broke free, he conquered the planet, and had a good relationship with his pregnant queen. Then the spaceship he came in broadcast a message detailing his exile from Earth at the hands of the Illuminati, right before it blew up and destroyed all but the Hulk and his “Warbound,” a group of aliens who were also forced to fight in the arena that helped him make good his escape. This made the Hulk really mad.

In World War Hulk, the Hulk and his Warbound have obtained a vessel that will take them back to Earth, where he will exact his revenge. He gives an ultimatum: give him the people who shot him into space, or he will smash the entire planet.

High Point

The little character moments: Hulk offering to teach Strange how to control the rage and power, Tony advising Sentry to play God, Sentry asking if it always feels this good to just let go. These are the moments that show that, in spite of the smash fest, Pak never forgets that there are actually personalities behind these powers.

Low Point

The decision to and manner in which they used Zom still irk me.

The Scores

This is not very original. It seems like every few issues of the Hulk’s regular title, they declare that “he’s never been madder, and so he’s never been stronger.” He’s even fought against most of these characters before. Heck, if you look at his early history, he was an Avenger for the first two issues of the title, before fighting against the Avengers in issue 3. It’s not at all uncommon for this character to do things like this. In this case, he actually was madder and stronger than he’s ever been, but otherwise, we’ve seen it before. Thankfully, a lack of originality doesn’t mean a lack of fun. I give it 2 out of 6.

The artwork by Romita is good. The action choreography is always great from (either) Romita, although the great flashes of energy released in the last issue did make it hard to track the action through the city. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story hits (pun intended) the needed beats well enough. Some aspects, like the removal of Zom, should have had a little more attention to detail. Still, the very nature of the product promises little more than a great big fight, and it delivers that easily. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization is light, but not as light as it could have been. The bulk of it comes out in those little snippets of dialogue I enjoyed so much. I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is good. If the removal of Zom had been handled, or at least alluded to, in this rather than in Incredible Hulk #111, I’d have been completely happy. Of course, dealing with it here may have had a negative impact on the flow, as that is essentially a question about dealing with continuity from Dr. Strange in the sixties rather than the last year and a half of the Hulk. I give it 5 out of 6.

The flow is well done, keeping things moving very rapidly. The crossovers didn’t seem to keep pace very well in a few places, but that’s their problem. The only seemingly dropped thread here was the comment about Hercules’ team, but that was also dealt with in the main “Incredible Hulk” title. It’s also tricky to follow the action when the Hulk and Sentry really lay into each other. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a fun title that delivers on its promise: Hulk does much smashing. If that’s what you’re looking for, by all means pick it up, because that’s exactly what you get. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, World War Hulk #1-5 receives 31 out of 42.

World War Hulk Rundown

Each piece of the main event was reviewed, and the links to those reviews are below. I’m also adding comments about which crossovers I feel are worth looking into, and which ones are best left alone.

  • World War Hulk Prologue: World Breaker – This is a fun little intro that bridges the gap between Planet Hulk and this event. If you haven’t read Planet Hulk, this is the best way to get up to speed (though you may find yourself asking what happened to Arch-E if you don’t also pick up World War Hulk: Frontline.)
  • World War Hulk 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – These are the individual reviews of the issues reviewed above.
  • Incredible Hulk #106-110, 111 – These are the crossovers I’d most strongly recommend, primarily as they fill in the few gaps left in the main story while telling a highly entertaining story of their own. It’s also the only one that has a visible effect on the main title.
  • World War Hulk: X-Men #1-3 – Want to see the Hulk smashing the X-Men? Pick this up. Don’t care about that? Don’t bother.
  • World War Hulk: Frontline #1-6 – If you want to know what happened to Arch-E, pick this up and try not to be disappointed. Otherwise, easy to miss.
  • Iron Man #19-20 – Worth looking into, if you’re already interested in Iron Man.
  • Avengers: The Initiative #4-5 – I recommend that everyone get every issue of this title. In my opinion, it’s the best Avengers title Marvel’s putting out right now. Highly recommended.
  • The Irredeemable Ant-Man #10 – I’ve heard great things about this title, but didn’t see them delivered here. Sometimes the crossovers designed to raise visibility are weaker than the rest of the series, though, and if this was the weakest of the series, I can see why its fans are so devoted.
  • Heroes For Hire #11-15 – Missing this is not only fine, it’s recommended.
  • World War Hulk: Gamma Corps #1-4 – I’m not a big fan of this series. Pick it up in TPB form if you run into these characters elsewhere and want to learn more about them.
  • Ghost Rider #12-13 – Dyed in the wool Ghost Rider fans should skip the first 17 issues of this relaunched title. Don’t pick this up for the crossover.
  • Punisher War Journal #12 – A decent story, worth checking out if you’re a Punisher fan.
  • World War Hulk: Aftersmash – Sets up the two other Aftersmash minis. WWH: Aftersmash – Warbound #1 was neither bad nor stellar, and WWH: Aftersmash – Damage Control isn’t out yet. I’ll review both when their respective series conclude.

Those who read in TPB form, you’ll find the bulk of these collected on their own. The exceptions seem to be the World War Hulk: Prologue, which isn’t listed in the TPB edition (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it crop up in a deluxe hardcover by the end of 2008, possibly in the June releases to get out in time for the movie), the Punisher War Journal issue (which will land in the third volume of the TPBs collecting that series), and the
World War Hulk: X-Men collection, which has the X-Men miniseries, as well as the Avengers: The Initiative, Iron Man, Irredeemable Ant-Man and Ghost Rider portions of the story. I’d only recommend this if you’re determined to get the Iron Man portion of the story in TPB form, as those issues don’t seem to be included in any of the other Iron Man trades Marvel is putting out. My strongest recommendation is to get all six of the first issues of Avengers: The Initiative in paperback or hardcover instead.