Planet Hulk Review by Deffinition
Thor: Ragnarok burst onto our screens last year showcasing a re-envisioned Gladiator Hulk. Fans of the MCU lapped this up and this aesthetic definitely cemented the film as one of Marvel’s best. It was bold, brash and placed everyone’s favourite Green Monster as one of the most likable comic book characters ever created.
Cited as one of the inspirations behind the re-envisioning of the character is Planet Hulk. Following on directly from the events of Planet Hulk: The Prelude, I decided to check out the main storyline. If last time is anything to go by then this has the potential to go stratospheric (pun not intended).
With that out the way let’s check out Planet Hulk.
A long time ago in a galaxy Sakaar Sakaar away
Exiled to the cesspit planet of Sakaar, ol’ Hulk isn’t doing too well. Banished due to the danger he poses to our world, Earth’s mightiest heroes decided that enough was enough and took it upon themselves to send the Green Beast interstellar. Initially Promised a planet of paradise it is only upon arrival that The Hulk realises his shuttle was misdirected and sent to one of the most dangerous planets in the Universe: Sakaar. Sakaar is a hell hole, every corner holds a new threat and its a struggle just to survive minute by minute.
Early on Sakaar provides the perfect location for our hero. It allows the Hulk to unleash his rage completely. Surrounded by super-powered beings there is no longer a need for the character to hold back. It truly elevates the Hulk and it’s a brilliant surrounding to pit him in. For once Hulk feels vulnerable and this aesthetic makes him infinitely more interesting.
I loved these opening chapters and the constant danger that Hulk is placed in helps to ramp the tension up exponentially. Hulk has never had it this hard and readers have never had it this good.
Forced to become a Gladiator in order to appease The Emporer, Hulk truly has his back against the wall. Making a small band of friends amongst the other fighters it’s great to see the return of fan favourites such as Meik and Korg.
Whilst they lack the personality that they had in the movie as this came first it’s difficult to really note it as a detriment and they expand the stories in opposing ways, making for a far more balanced book. Their backstories are beautifully illustrated in comic book styles of old and learning of their history is a definite highlight in the graphic novel.
Sure they aren’t as comedic as their silver screen counterparts and some could even argue that the majority of the band are one dimensional. But, the group as a whole still pack enough personality to make you warm to them and as Hulk becomes their ally, so will readers.
The Red King
In contrast, the political side of the storyline is severely lacking. Too underdeveloped to provide any drama the Emperor’s subplot seems like a time-wasting tangent that doesn’t ready add anything to the book overall.
Metaphorically, our moments with the Tyrant could have worked as social commentary on politics as a whole in the last decade. However, there is little subtext to the work and overall it feels like a missed opportunity. The Emporer becomes the archetypal villain and the lack of opposition he provides makes every appearance by the villain bland and banal.
The Silver Savage
This is a shame as an appearance from The Silver Surfer really reverses a lot of the middling moments from the early ‘Exile’ storyline.
Besting the Surfer in combat, Hulk destroys the chains that shackle him and his allies and they overturn the arena, finally receiving the freedom they desperately sought after.
Traversing the lands and writing the wrongs of society the Hulk settles back into the aesthetic that he is most known for: a Hero.
Possessing flashes of the old Bill Bixby stories it’s a nice touch to see the Hulk once more as a helper rather than a hindrance. However, these sections go on for longer than needed and on the whole feel like unnecessary padding. Unrelatable due to the characters introduced and their surroundings the book waned on me heavily. In my opinion, Hulk just isn’t that interesting of a character when he doesn’t have Bruce Banner to counter his actions and the lacking dichotomy that he provides makes the action feel shallow. Juxtaposing the opener, Hulk is able to take any barrage of attack and the book loses it’s main USP for the character. His invincibility is his biggest downfall, every battle has an expected outcome and thus becomes most of the pages become an inconsequential chore to get through.
That’s not to say the storyline is poor, I’m sure that hardcore fans will lap this up but there is little here that will pique and intrigue new fans. Casual readers may become disinterested in the book due to its length and predictability and I think this midsection will definitely hold a lot of people from returning to the work later in life.
The Man Who Would Be King
After mercilessly defeating the Emporer the Hulk takes his rightful place as the ruler of Sakaar. Finding peace he takes a wife in his royal guard and seems to settle in perfectly as the King of the war-torn planet. This plot device perfectly counters the action-heavy midsection and the drama provided from even the small moments far outweighs the monotonous battles that prefaced his rule.
Hulk seems genuinely happy and whilst we know that the character is doomed to tragedy there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had from watching an introspective look at his psyche. Taking the Beast in new directions we see him adapt to a world that doesn’t need anger in order to solve it’s problems and the growth that leaps from this section helps the story to excel.
Ending with the warp drive exploding on the shuttle Hulk arrived on, the monster loses it all. After his family and the citizens of Sakaar are all wiped out in the blast Hulk has no other choice but to return to Earth to take vengeance on those who wronged him, beautifully setting up what is to follow in World War Hulk.
Planet Hulk struggles at several points due to its inconsistent narrative and needless padding. With the cons far outweighing the pros, it’s difficult to recommend this storyline as highly as I would like to. The book seeks out to become the Ben Hur of comics but ends up becoming more like the reboot. Those already interested in the character will probably find a lot to love here but I struggled to really connect with the world and characters that inhabited it. Having already read World War Hulk I know that this journey is worth its eventual outcome, however, most will be able to skip it and dive directly into the final battle.
Missing the mark in several ways, Planet Hulk gets a…