Set after Planet Hulk, an ever enraged and now spiteful Hulk returns to Earth, seeking revenge on those who casted him off the planet. This is the meanest, most unstoppable Hulk yet and he’s brought a band of followers with him to bring justice to the top minds of The Avengers. Now in paperback form, World War Hulk collects issues #1-5 of beginning to end green muscular destruction.
When I say beginning to end, I mean it — World War Hulk jumps right into the action with Hulk’s arrival and doesn’t let up until the final few panels. Greg Pak took a page out of Dragon Ball Z’s playbook, setting Hulk up as an otherworldly invader looking to make an example of the superheroes of Earth. His biggest grudges come in the form of Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, and Black Bolt, who were the decision-makers behind sending him off-world to begin with. They are the same people he believes orchestrated the explosion of his ship which ultimately destroyed his people, his lover and his unborn child. The likes of She-Hulk, General Ross, The Thing and Ares all try to stand against the incredible green monster but get smashed in the end. Only Sentry is powerful enough to match the Hulk, but his mental disorder keeps him from joining the fray.
While World War Hulk may be a sequel to Planet Hulk, Planet is not necessary reading to keep up. Enough context is given that the reader can fully enjoy what’s happening throughout this book and not feel lost. I would say however if you wanted to truly enjoy the text, experiencing Hulk’s exile, rise to rule and tremendous loss would further help understand his motivations. Regardless, combining Greg Pak’s storytelling and John Romita JR’s illustrations make this a Marvel must-read. This story is an important one for Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk, because it pulled the character out of a drab endless cycle of resisting the transformation into Hulk only to turn into the Hulk. The arc as a whole also clearly had a large influence on who the character would become in Thor: Ragnarok.
I’ll be honest — I’m not the biggest fan of Hulk. I find most of his stories consist of the same thing, including his standalone films. He makes for a great complementary adversary or ally to characters who have a lot more going for them in the nuance department, but by nature, he’s generally as bland as can be. However, Planet Hulk/World War Hulk is a storyline I can get behind because it gives purpose to his actions. Greg Pak managed to work around Hulk’s weakness and turn it into a strong asset. If you’re not a fan or just rather neutral on the character it’s not exactly going to sway your opinion, but I’d be surprised if most comic book readers don’t come away thoroughly entertained. If you didn’t get around to reading the story during its original or hardcover release, there’s never been a better time now that World War Hulk is out in an economical paperback form.