HULK SLASH! Pak talks "Skaar: Son of Hulk"

Readers were first transported to the planet of Sakaar in 2006's epic "Planet Hulk" saga. Sakaar would go onto become a site of both triumph and tragedy for the Hulk, as the Green Goliath led a rebellion in which he deposed the planet's tyrannical king and took the crown for himself, but the peace the Hulk brought was short lived. In the final chapter of "Planet Hulk," the warp drive of the shuttle that brought the newly crowned Green King to Sakaar exploded, devastating the planet and killing much of its populace.

In last year's "World War Hulk," the Hulk and a handful of survivors headed to Earth to gain revenge on those they felt responsible for the explosion, but what became of Sakaar after its king left? "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" scribe Greg Pak and artist Ron Garney answer that question and more this week when Marvel Comics' new ongoing series, "Skaar: Son of Hulk" begins.

The idea for "Skaar" came to Greg Pak early on in the planning stages of "Planet Hulk." "I realized we had an incredible opportunity to do something totally crazy," the writer told CBR News. "We knew that Caiera the Oldstrong, the Hulk's pregnant queen, would die at the end of 'Planet Hulk' -- but who's to say that the nuclear blast that disintegrated her would be able to kill the half-Hulk child in her womb? I pitched the idea to Hulk editor Mark Paniccia and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, both of whom loved it, and Skaar was born."

"Skaar" #1 begins with the destruction of Sakaar's Crown City, just before the Hulk leaves for Earth. "Skaar's immediate goal is survival, which is no mean trick when you're ripped from your mother's womb and thrown into the boiling waters of a radioactive sea," Pak stated. "I won't say too much about how his goals develop for fear of spoilers, but a savage princess, a pack of Brood/Native hybrids, and a mysterious Earthman will play key roles as the plot thickens."

Like the protagonist, the supporting cast of "Skaar" is composed of new characters, "so new readers will have zero trouble jumping right on board," Pak said. "But the story's full of Easter eggs and nifty payoffs for fans of the characters we followed through 'Planet Hulk' and 'World War Hulk' and the 'WWH: Warbound' mini. Every issue will reveal connections and relationships that will have special resonance for those who have followed those earlier stories."

Pak has a number of obstacles and adversaries lined up to oppose Skaar, the most fearsome of them being Axeman Bone. "He's an Imperial general who's returned from the Fillian War riding a dragon at the head of a barbarian horde," Pak said. "I know we're all supposed to hate this guy, but the more I write the Axeman, the more I love him. He's probably the best villain I've ever created. We're revealing his back story bit by bit, and by the end, we'll see how his insane worldview makes perfect sense -- from his twisted perspective. He's the hero of his own story, which makes him capable of almost anything and all the more terrifying as a villain."

Skaar's adventures are savage, epic and emotional tales, and Pak feels Ron Garney's art depicts those qualities in spades. "Ron is giving this book everything he has -- the level of dynamic detail he's working into each and every panel is blowing my mind. And he totally gets Skaar," Pak said. "About ten years ago, Ron did a run on 'Incredible Hulk' that I thought was amazing -- he really understood the insane savagery of the Hulk and managed to work an almost chilling strangeness into the Hulk's eyes. He's found that same eerie quality in Skaar, which increases the suspense of every moment immeasurably. Skaar starts this tale as an absolutely savage animal-- there's literally no telling just how he'll react to any given situation, and the wildness that Ron puts in his eyes brings that terrifying reality to life."

It's Skaar's primal qualities that Pak finds most compelling about the character. "He's a savage man-child, born in fire, raised by monsters, and destined to conquer!" the writer said. "Like the Hulk, he's an immensely satisfying character to write and read about because he does what we all wish we could do when we're faced with stupidity and injustice -- he smashes (or sometimes slashes! But unlike his father, Skaar has none of the civilizing influences of a boyhood in suburban Dayton, Ohio. So he gives us a great chance to explore in a hugely high-stakes way just what the dark consequences of this kind of savage justice might be."

On a ruined planet like Sakaar, justice is often in the eye of the beholder. "Skaar is a lion on the veldt, a wolf in the woods, a shark in the sea," Pak remarked. "Whether you consider him to be a hero or a villain might depend on whether you're predator or prey yourself."

Skaar's ability to survive on Sakaar has been greatly enhanced by the superhuman physical traits he inherited from his father but it's still unclear if his mother passed on any of her super abilities. "Skaar's mother, Caiera the Oldstrong, was one of the few members of her species to possess the Old Power, which allowed her to channel almost unlimited strength derived from the planet itself," Pak stated. "Whether Skaar has inherited the Old Power himself may mean life or death for millions by the end of our story."

The action in "Skaar" sends the title character all over his post-apocalyptic home world. "We begin in the shattered ruins of Crown City, but we'll end up exploring the most secret corners of Sakaar -- places only hinted at during the 'Planet Hulk' saga, including the barbarian empire of Fillia, the fabled city of Okini, and that legendary locus of power known as Prophet's Rock," Pak explained.

"It's also worth noting that the planet has become even more savage since the days of 'Planet Hulk.' The explosion that destroyed Crown City also wiped out any central authority and social order. Now the survivors fight for their lives against bandits, monsters, and madmen in the war-torn ruins and wastelands."

"Skaar: Son of Hulk" is the third installment in the trilogy Pak began with "Planet Hulk," and Pak and Garney have taken special care to make sure they give readers a truly "grand finale." "Believe it or not, it's even more epic than 'Planet Hulk,'" the writer promised. "As a brand new character, Skaar will go through an even bigger emotional arc than the Hulk did during his time on Sakaar. And we'll have the chance to explore even more of the planet and its history, geography, religion, and destiny than ever before. One of the thrilling things about the story is that as a brand new character, literally anything can happen to Skaar. This is a phenomenally high-stakes story with insane twists and real, lasting, and deeply satisfying character development and change. So don't you dare miss it!"

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