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The Hulk has never been the most successful superhero to grace the face of The Earth. He's tried certainly. Throughout the course of his career he has saved the Earth numerous times, and has even been given the honour of being a founding member of The Avengers. Yet no matter what he does he cannot seem to escape the fact that people will always distrust him, and that he will always end up fighting with his friends. This all came to a culmination when four of Hulk's so called friends decided to blast The Jade Giant into the far off reaches of space. In the pages of the Marvel event crossover World War Hulk he finally arrives home, and to be honest, he seems a little ticked off about something!
This trade paperback edition starts off with a quick Prologue chapter entitled Worldbreaker. This will basically fill everyone in on what's been happening up to this point. The story is split into two distinct sections. The first sees Bruce Banner's cousin Jennifer (She Hulk) protesting the fact that her cousin was blasted into space without due process The second focuses on Hulk's efforts to gain control over his rage so that he can better channel his anger against those who have wronged him.
Finally with that out of the way World War Hulk kicks off, and it starts out exactly as it means to go on. BIG!!! In the first issue Hulk and his Warbound arrive on the moon where the first of Hulk's enemies is currently residing. Blackbolt thinks that he can put down Hulk in the same way that he has before, but is misunderstanding just how mad The Hulk has become. Through one epic full page splash you come to realise that things will not be working out for anyone who stands in his way.
Back on Earth Tony Stark is concerned about reports of strong seismic activity on The Moon. His worst fears are realized when a massive spaceship appears above Manhattan and beams down a message from The Hulk. "Puny humans. I've come to smash!" Hulk then replays footage of what the heroes have done to him and provides the government with 24 hours to evacuate Manhattan and provide him with Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Steven Strange. He then holds up the limp body of Blackbolt as an example of what he can do to the world if his demands are not met.
As you can expect what follows is pretty much 5 issues of Hulk beating the snot out of the larger part of Marvel's roster. With that in mind the action you can expect to find is absolutely huge, so if that is all you would pick up a comic for then you will no doubt be pleased. Throughout the course of the book Hulk will steam-roll his way through a variety of supped up heroes including an upgraded Ironman, a demoniacally possessed Dr. Strange, the entire Fantastic Four, and much much more.
Sadly if you come here expecting anything with a little more substance than that then you will be disappointed In a few places Greg Pak has once again managed to paint The Hulk and his Warbound as a group of sympathetic villains. There was one really cool moment where Hulk observes a moment of silence after learning of Captain America's death, and I really liked the fact that the book even toys with the idea that Hulk is the dominant personality that sometimes hides behind Banner. However these rare glimpses at the genius behind Planet Hulk are not what this book is about. This is a Marvel Event Blockbuster that focuses on the action and leaves little time for you to think. It is unfortunate because the concept was very strong, but due to the frantic pace of the book it is not always clear what is going on, or why it is happening.
Once upon a time I would have blamed this on the fact that this is an event crossover. This is where you come for the action, but the character development will be left to the individual comics. Sadly I don't feel comfortable using that argument for World War Hulk. As a standalone story it feels very incomplete, and any newcomers reading this are likely to get very confused. Even the side stories you could find in other books do not shed any light on what is going on, and so the whole story ends up as large scale filler. That is not exactly a crime in the world of comic books, but expectations for this story were set a lot higher. As a conclusion to the epic Planet Hulk story World War Hulk just does not work.
Still, if you have read Planet Hulk then you will no doubt want to read this purely for whatever closure it will offer you. To be honest the book is entertaining for what it is, and at times features some darkly funny ideas. However I can not stress enough, that if you are unfamiliar with the Marvel Universe then do some research before reading this. Unlike Planet Hulk World War Hulk is tied very strongly into the Marvel continuity, and so is not nearly as new reader friendly.
I have got to say that even the artwork was kind of a let down. As a darker story it features significantly darker artwork than Planet Hulk. Sadly it is not nearly as detailed. It looks very pretty when all you can see are bright powers flying around, but looks decidedly ugly everywhere else. Every single character has the same chiselled jaw and jagged muscles, and as a result you have to look to their costumes to distinguish them. Sadly the artist has even committed the worst crime you could think of. He has successfully made She Hulk look ugly!!!
As a bonus to this trade paperback you also get 2 what if stories based around Planet Hulk. The first was a very dark episode that asked the question; What if The Hulk had saved the life of his queen at the cost of his own? The second was my favourite though. It's a very light hearted story about what would have happened if Hulk had landed on the right planet to begin with, and features a few hysterical exchanges between Hulk and Banner using the old 'wake up with a note' technique. This story is worth a read even if nothing else about the book interests you.
Immediately following on from the excellent Planet Hulk, World War Hulk proves to be something of a disappointment. It's a fun read, watching the big guy smack around a plethora of Marvel Universe mainstays, but ultimately being part of giant Marvel crossover you can't help but feel that, by the end, you've missed out on quite a bit of story. Characters appear and then disappear with alarming speed, often with little real impact on the tale. Events that seem major are often glossed over (only to be dealt with in detail in some other title) and ultimately the whole thing hinges on a twist that I just didn't buy.
Chiefly though, the disappointment comes from the artwork of John Romita Jr. He has himself described his style as 'the deadline style' and it frequently looks that way. His characters are rarely distinctive and his work is over-reliant on computer colouring to provide the spectacle. His quick, scratchy style does not sit well with what is clearly intended to be an epic tale.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book. It's a fun ride and unfolds at a blistering speed, but don't be surprised if you find yourself scouring the shelves for other WWH tales just to fill in some blanks. After the majesty of The Green Scar's adventures on Planet Hulk this just doesn't feel like the follow-up it could have been.
World War Hulk is the excellent sequel to the Plant Hulk graphic novel where the Hulk returns to take revenge on Earths heroes. The opening scene basically fills you in regarding to the Planet hulk story line with other aspects being made clear throughout the novel.
The story revolves around the Hulks revenge on the heroes responsible for his exile to the distant planet chronicled in Planet Hulk. Again this storyline is aimed at a slightly more mature reader of the genre with the storyline aimed at deeper character development and flaws.
The illustration quality in this novel is excellent especially when concerning the many battle and action sequences throughout earth enviroments. Although excellent the illustrations are similar to the storyline, aimed at a slightly more mature reader.
Overall this graphic novel is an excellent addition to the Hulk genre, although to get the most from this novel I would recommend you read Planet Hulk first.