New York will be a city of reckoning this July when the Hulk returns to Earth in search of vengeance against the Marvel heroes who exiled him to space. However, it won't just be the Hulk who's seeking retribution. A squad of five soldiers looking to settle some very personal scores with the Green Goliath will also make their presence known, and with their combined abilities and the Machiavellian mind of their commanding officer, they just might succeed in getting some payback against the Hulk. These five soldiers are the stars of "World War Hulk: Gamma Corps," a four issue mini-series by writer Frank Tieri and artist Carlos Ferreira. CBR News spoke with Tieri about the series.
"World War Hulk: Gamma Corps" came out of a desire by Marvel to show another perspective on the events of "World War Hulk." "Hulk editor Mark Paniccia approached me about essentially pitching a story of 'the opposition,'" Frank Tieri told CBR News. "And that's how I'm going to be referring to them--not as villains necessarily, but as the opposition. Because one of the main things this series will be questioning is... 'Who exactly is the villain here? '"
In addition to getting to create "the opposition," one of the big draws of "Gamma Corps" for Tieri was simply the chance to tell a story where the Hulk played a significant role. "I always loved the Hulk," Tieri confessed. "He's a great character and from the stuff I've seen 'World War Hulk' looks like a fun ride--especially from a writing standpoint. I mean, it's basically the Hulk goes nuts on the Marvel Universe--how can't you have a ball writing that?"
When the Hulk returns to Earth, he's re-positioned as the ultimate outsider, "Which is how I feel he's always worked best," Tieri said. "When he's with the Avengers or the Defenders, to me it just doesn't work quite as well. The Hulk should be the character that whenever shit is going down in the Marvel Universe people ask, 'But what about the Hulk?' He should always be the wild card that people have to be concerned about -- and this is the event that really shows us why."
Wild cards are exactly what the members of Gamma Corps will prove to be, as the team includes not just familiar faces, but some new ones as well. "They're mostly new characters created for this project--although what readers will eventually learn is that each of them has ties to either the Hulk himself or characters that Hulk fans will be very familiar with," Tieri explained. "One character is actually a former Hulk villain and two others have very prominent connections to former Hulk supporting characters. We play a little with Hulk history here and I think some of these revelations are going to be both surprising and fun to long time Hulk fans in particular.
"Issue #2 is really where we delve into the backstories of the Corps--it's their 'origins' issue, if you will. It's there where we'll really learn how this group got put together and what their reasons are for wanting to see ol' Greenskin get bumped off. And as it turns out, some of them have some pretty damned good reasons at that."
While the members of Gamma Corps each have their own personal vendettas against the Hulk, they may pale in comparison to the grudge harbored by their commanding officer. "As we'll see in issue #1, the Corps were put together by General Ryker," Tieri confirmed. "For those of you who aren't familiar with the character, Ryker is from the Paul Jenkins' 'Hulk' storyline, 'The Dogs of War.' Ryker's a character that I've always found kind of interesting, and since he turned out to be a perfect fit for what we were looking to do here I decided to bring the guy back after his long absence.
"It's an unfortunate thing, sometimes. I think we creators often have this tendency to try so hard to put our own stamp on every new project that we get our grubby little hands on that we tend to forget about what's recently come before. Then everybody says, 'Why are there no new characters?' And the thing is, we do have new characters--some cool ones at that-- but it just seems like nobody bothers to use them. So, with that all said, I obviously thought there was a lot more to say with the character of Ryker, and by the time this series is over you'll get a much better idea who he is. I dare say you'll see a side of him we haven't seen before and also get a fair idea of what a lot of his motivations were during his whole Hulk campaign-- especially why he put this whole Gamma Corps thing together."
Ryker's resurfacing comes after many months of an underground existence, and is prompted directly by the Hulk's very public return to Earth. "When we last saw Ryker at the end of 'Dogs of War, his illegal vendetta against the Hulk had blown up in his face, causing him to go on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D,'" Tieri explained. "So what Ryker ends up doing here is using the Hulk's return as an opportunity to get back into the game. He basically says to S.H.I.E.L.D., 'Forgive and forget' what I've done in the past and I'll take down the Hulk for you. And with the way the Hulk starts cutting through the Marvel U like a buzzsaw, they might just figure they've got nothing to lose by giving this guy a shot"
Of course, that shot won't come from Ryker directly, but rather from the members of Gamma Corps he'll be using to do his dirty work. "Ryker's the guy who put the unit together and certainly the guy they answer to," Tieri remarked. "This is not a super team. This group is basically like Arnold's guys from the movie 'Predator'; assassinating people, wiping out complexes, slitting throats-- that's these guys. They're military-trained and have a military structure of command, and Ryker is very much the head of that structure."
Some readers might be wondering, if the members of Gamma Corps aren't necessarily your typical villains, why would they be taking orders from a manipulative psychopath like General Ryker in the first place? "Don't assume these guys know everything," warned Tieri. "Like it tends to be with a lot of military operations, they're on a need-to-know basis with a lot of this shit, and Ryker's certainly not a guy who plays his cards in front of everybody, you know? There's a reason he's lasted as long as he has."
While General Ryker may keep his cards close to his vest, the denizens of Marvel U Manhattan had better hope he has one Hell of a hand because he and his troops might be America's best defense against the even greater danger. "This series deals with the consequences of someone like the Hulk existing," Tieri stated. "We deal a lot with the notion of collateral damage in this series--even the definition of what is collateral damage in a superhuman world. I mean, let's face it-- if superheroes really existed and were throwing cars around at each other and knocking down buildings and what not, I don't care what anyone says... there's going to be a cost to that. Injuries and trauma in some cases and deaths in others. You absolutely will see that in this series."
Because "Gamma Corps" examines difficult topics such as the civilian cost of superhuman battles, readers may characterize the series as a bit on the 'dark side.' "People say I tend to swim in the dark end of the pool in a lot of my stories," Tieri said, "and I certainly have my flippers on here. This is probably where I operate best. Although, even with that said, it's not all gloom and doom--what's also evident a lot in my stories is a bit of dark humor and you'll get your share of that in Gamma Corps as well."
If they survive their initial mission, Tieri would enjoy the chance to tell more tales featuring the cast of "World War Hulk: Gamma Corps." "That's the big question: 'If you tangle with the Hulk these days, will you survive?'" Tieri asked. "If fans want, though, there is very much a possibility that they could see these characters again."
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