Published on December 5th, 2012 | by Mike Harding0
Marvel Graphic Novel Collection Issue 23 Review
The twenty third book released from the Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection is Greg Pak’s epic Planet Hulk. The book is number 45 of 60 and its only the first part of the story, but I’ll forgive them on this one as its truly an epic story to print in one book.
Planet Hulk is a compilation of Hulk #92-105, it started way back in the heady days of 2006, a time in which heroes were fighting each other after surviving the horror of the House of M. The story also contained further material from other special releases, and a wealth of supplemental art and background info rounding out an alien world with a lush history.
Planet Hulk is clearly a slice of the ongoing story of the Hulk; a story that I hadn’t paid any attention to for some considerable time, luckily enough that didn’t prove to be a problem.
story opens, with Hulk aboard a small spacecraft supplied by the superhero organization S.H.I.E.L.D in order to get home after previously destroying a rogue satellite. All is not what it seems however as Hulk discovers that his presence there has been a ruse, and he is betrayed by friends; who find him too dangerous to remain on Earth. Hulk discovers that his friends have been planning this for a long time, and is being sent on a one-way trip to a distant planet, so he can trouble Earth no more and, perhaps, find the peace that has always eluded him.
Things don’t go according to plan however, and the vessel encounters a vortex that sucks it off course (stop sniggering), and Hulk arrives on a world quite different from the uninhabited, idyllic planet promised him by his betrayers. Instead, he finds a world perfectly suited to his talents
Planet Hulk presents us with a fresh beginning, which means that as a reader, you will have no trouble getting into it. Hulk lands on Sakaar, a Barsoom-inspired (that’s John Carter Warlord of Mars reference in case you didn’t understand it) world of red-skinned humanoids, native insect men, giant reptiles, rogue machines, alien diseases, and assorted other monsters. It’s a world in torment, ruled by the despotic Red King, and Hulk immediately finds himself on the wrong side of the power.
I had no idea just how powerful Hulk was supposed to be, other than the “strongest one there is”, but Planet Hulk tones down his world-destroying strength initially by having him arrive in a weakened state because of his passage through the Great Portal that pulls ships to Sakaar. So, Hulk begins with some limitations and vulnerabilities, and gradually gets stronger throughout the story until he approaches godlike status.
Greg Pak certainly has firm command of all the elements that make a fantastic sword and planet tale, and choosing Hulk as a protagonist for one is a natural fit. To start with, the action is extremely fast-paced, and the first issue ‘Exile’ moves Hulk rapidly through his arrival on Sakaar to a brawl in the arena and into a fight with the Red King himself (resplendent in robotic battle-armor), as well as the Red King’s female Shadow bodyguard. As the issue ends, the Hulk and a few arena survivors are being sent to the ominously named ‘maw’ gladiatorial school for further education in the fighting arts.
The pacing, colorful and detail-packed art, exotic alien setting, and continually escalating scale of conflict all make Planet Hulk a fun read, but it’s the depth of character and examination of the themes of friendship, revenge, and unchecked violence that truly make this a compelling saga. In the maw, Hulk becomes part of a team of misfits and monsters — an eager native, a revolutionary, a psychotic alien, a creature of living rock, and a disgraced shadow warrior — and alongside them he slowly relearns trust.
This first half of the story has some great moments, it ends with Hulk making new alliances, and proving that even though he may appear a monster, he is a true hero. You’ll also want to check out the cameo by a classic Marvel character in the Red Kings arena.
Planet Hulk is a grand romp in the sword and planet tradition, not only visually impressive and visceral, but containing an unexpected depth of character and theme. Considering this is only the first half of the story, its solid value for money.
I know that Bones wasn’t keen on this book when I gave it to him in one of the first podcasts, but what does he know, he thinks Batman is better than Daredevil.
So is it value for money? Of course it is, ten pound for an eight-issue book plus extras is great value. Speaking of extras we get a piece on the writer Greg Pak focusing on how he developed the story, and how it was only the beginning of a long spanning storyline. Next up is an “Origins” section which, features the history of the planet Sakaar, and the origins of Hulk’s Warbound. This doesn’t sound much, but actually its pretty good stuff, and quite informative.
We also have a sneak peek section this time around, after a two book break in which we discovered nothing about the upcoming list. We discover that book 46 will be part 2 of the Planet Hulk story, and that book 55 will be the third part of this story World War Hulk.
The next book to be released will be Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion’s Punisher: Welcome Back Frank Part 1.
So that leaves the list now looking like this:
*Titles in BOLD have already been released*
Book 01: Iron Man: Demon in a bottle
Book 02: Uncanny X-men: Dark Phoenix
Book 03: Captain Britain: A Crooked World
Book 04: Wolverine
Book 05: The Mighty Thor: The Last Viking
Book 06: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars part 1
Book 07: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars part 2
Book 08: Daredevil: Born Again
Book 09: The Amazing Spider-Man: The Birth of Venom
Book 10: Spider-man: Kraven’s Last Hunt
Book 11: The Incredible Hulk: Silent Screams
Book 12: Wolverine: Weapon X
Book 13: Marvels
Book 14: Avengers: Avengers Forever Part one
Book 15: Avengers: Avengers Forever Part two
Book 16: The Mighty Thor: In Search of Gods
Book 17: Daredevil: Guardian Devil
Book 20: Ultimate Spider-man: Power & Responsibility
Book 21: Spider-man: Coming Home
Book 22: Spider-man: Revelations
Book 23: New X-men: E is for Extinction
Book 24: New X-men: Imperial
Book 25: Spider-man: Blue
Book 26: Wolverine: Origins
Book 27: Captain America: The New Deal
Book 28: The Ultimates: Super-Human
Book 29: The Ultimates: Homeland Security
Book 32: 1602
Book 33: Secret War
Book 34: Avengers: Disassembled
Book 35: She-Hulk: Single Green Female
Book 36: Astonishing X-men: Gifted
Book 37: Astonishing X-men: Dangerous
Book 40: House of M
Book 42: New Avengers: Breakout
Book 43: Iron Man: Extremis
Book 44: Captain America: Winter Soldier
Book 45: The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk part 1
Book 46: The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk part 2
Book 47: Fantastic Four: The End
Book 48: Marvel Zombies
Book 50: Civil War
Book 51: Fallen Son: Death of Captain America
Book 52: Thor: Reborn
Book 53: The Eternals
Book 55: World War Hulk
Book 56: Thunderbolts: Faith in Monsters
Book 57: Wolverine: Old Man Logan
Book 58: Secret Invasion
Book 59: Captain Britain & MI13:Vampire State
Book 60: Siege