‘World War Hulk’ by Greg Pak (2008)

Marvel | 2008 | Kindle edition | 224 pages

An epic story of anger unbound! Exiled by a group of Marvel “heroes” to the savage alien planet of Sakaar, the Hulk raged, bled and conquered through the pages of last year’s Planet Hulk epic, rising from slave to gladiator to king. Now the Hulk returns to Earth to wreak his terrible vengeance on Iron Man, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt… and anyone else who gets in the way. Stronger than ever, accompanied by his monstrous Warbound gladiator allies, and possessed by the fiercest and purest rage imaginable, the Hulk may just tear this stupid planet in half.

Growing up, I was never a reader of comic books (I know – I’ll hand in my geek card forthwith) but I was always aware of the big players thanks to the various television shows, cartoons, and films in which they appeared. Of course, in 2018, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know the major names in the Marvel and DC Universes but, even so, I had never read a full run of comics, despite enjoying the antics of their silver screen adaptations.

I recently took out an Amazon Prime subscription and, as part of the benefits I receive, there is a selection of books that I can read for free on my Kindle, amongst which is a range of graphic novels. With the star thus aligned, I figured, why not?

World War Hulk is my first graphic novel (actually a collected run of five comics, but you get the idea), and it’s great. It’s a story of revenge, with the Hulk returning to Earth, having been banished by a group of superheroes (including Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Black Bolt and Dr Strange) to the furthest reaches of space. What follows is a no holds barred beatdown as Hulk destroys all who stand before him as payback for ruining his perfect life.

As is often the case with such things, it turns out I should have read Planet Hulk first, although Pak does a decent job of bringing you up to speed if, like me, you’ve dipped in at this later stage. Being something of a dilettante as far as comics are concerned, some of the characters are new to me, so I’ve had to infer their importance in the general scheme of things from the way others react to them in the course of the book.

There are layers to the story, with both Hulk and his antagonists exploring their feelings of guilt and responsibility for all that has befallen, and a nasty little back story that adds an extra level of betrayal to proceedings. More depth, I must admit, than I was expecting from a Hulk comic.

That said, a large portion of the narrative consists of “can X stop the Hulk?” played over and over. It’s dramatic, of course, with the ranks of heroes upping their game with every defeat, playing for time in the hope of the real big guns coming into position, but it still starts to feel a bit samey. Doubtless it would have been less obvious if I were reading it in the episodic manner in which it was originally released, but in this collected format the repetition starts to pall.

However, it remains a thoroughly enjoyable read, and probably the ideal introduction to the art form for someone like me who has a vague grounding in the Marvel Universe. Certainly it’s convinced me to try some more of the books on offer.

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