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Why Marvel’s Planet Hulk Is A Modern Comic Book Classic

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Why Marvel’s Planet Hulk Is A Modern Comic Book Classic

Despite Marvel’s role as the top publisher in comics, when it some to offering stand-alone runs or storylines one can point to and say “This is a great intro to this character; go read it,” the publisher can’t be as easily categorized as an industry leader. Where DC Comics, Image and other publishers have built a library of “evergreen” collections that can be read in a vacuum from the rest of their respective universes, most Marvel tales all but require a working knowledge of the company’s history in order to be fully appreciated.

That’s partially by design, of course; Marvel’s main innovation in the ’60s was to have every series be part of a single, ongoing narrative, albeit with dialogue and editors’ notes to help new readers get caught up. With DC, it was the opposite; each issue was designed to be a self-contained story (although there were exceptions, such as the years when Alfred was the supervillain The Outsider). As the decades rolled on and the targeted audience for comics changed, so too did the way they were presented.

RELATED: Marvel Legacy: Planet Hulk Revealed

If the audience for Marvel is one of lifelong readers, then why bother crafting stories designed to be accessible to newer audiences? It’s a singular philosophy that’s yielded both interesting stories and a self-defeating mindset. Of course, over seven decades-plus of storytelling there have been exceptions to this rule. Perhaps the most prominent, of the modern era at least, is 2006’s “Planet Hulk.”

Published as The Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) #92 to #105 (with an interlude published in Giant-Size Hulk #1), written by Greg Pak, drawn by Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti and Jeffrey Huet, colored by Chris Sotomayor and lettered by Randy Gentile and Joe Caramagna, the story saw a new status quo emerge for Marvel’s Jade Giant. Along the way, it also gave him his own slice of Cosmic Marvel to play off of, and a great new supporting cast. But what makes the story work so well is how it starts.

There was a small prelude in Incredible Hulk# 88-91, Fantastic Four #533-535 and the New Avengers: Illuminati one-shot involving the Hulk rampaging through Vegas, the Illuminati–a shadow organization of Namor, Tony Stark, Professor X, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt formed after the Kree-Skrull War to direct superhuman events undetected–deciding he’s too dangerous to remain on Earth and tricking him into heading to space aboard a spaceship they’ve programmed to head to an isolated planet (done right around the time Civil War was kicking off so as to avoid either Team Cap or Team Iron Man having a big, green trump card).

But really — and Marvel Unlimited subtly reinforces this by not including the Prelude in its “Planet Hulk” category–the best place for the reader to start is where the Hulk finds himself in #92. Confused, angry and betrayed, the Hulk is told in no uncertain terms that he’s being exiled for humanity’s protection and it’s a devastating opening. Given that, prior to this, Reed had testified in support of Bruce Banner when he was put on trial by the federal government and he and Tony were longtime friends and teammates, it’s hard not to dial in to the Hulk’s rage and anger at what’s happening to him.

NEXT PAGE: Planet Hulk – The Hulk Doesn’t Kneel

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