Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gosh! Recommends... Planet Hulk TP

Story: Greg Pak
Art: Carlo Pagualayan, Aaron Lopresti and others
Marvel Comics

This is the story of the Hulk, and how he finally came home, as the blurb goes. While most Marvel fans were griping about the ineffectual writing, limp character development and extensive tie-ins that plagued the main event of two years ago, Civil War, the smart money was on Greg Pak's not-always-excellent, but consistently entertaining single-title year-long epic - Planet Hulk.

The run-up to the series ran thus: after fleeing to peaceful mountainous fishing country to escape causing trouble with his big green alter-ego (who now sports a big green Hulk-beard, facial-hair-fans), Bruce Banner lives in peace until Nick Fury, Director Of SHIELD, tracks him down and enlists him to sort out a phony satellite problem, with the ultimate goal of shooting him into space. You see, Fury, along with Mister Fantastic, Iron Man and numerous others, decided that the Hulk was just too dangerous to have around, and planned to send him to a tranquil, wild planet, where he wouldn't be any hazard to sentient life. However, something goes screwy and the Hulk ends up on a very arch sci-fi planet with gladiatorial battles, elemental demigods and a downtrodden insect slave-race. The old clock on the wall tells us that it is rock o' clock.

And rock it does. The Hulk, as Strongest One There Is, flourishes Conan-like and wades through seas of imperialists, monsters and robots, making alliances and enemies with gusto as he goes. It's a real shot in the arm, and a refreshing take on an old character. Also, given the length and breadth of the story, reading it in one volume has the feel of a big proper nerdy fantasy epic, with the wonderfully anarchic twist of having a disaffected Hulk shrugging off talk of foretold destinies and prodigal saviours in favour of More Smashing.

But it's a sensitively-handled Hulk, one compellingly faced for the first time with the idea of his wild, brutal strength being something admirable. So: if you want big nasty monsters, some of the best Hulk writing ever, a wonderful stinger for the soon-to-be-collected World War Hulk and some of the most gorgeous Ladronn covers you'll ever see, pick this one up. You won't be disappointed.

Recommended by Tom.