Writer Sam Humphries and artist Marc Laming welcome readers to “Planet Hulk” #1 with a map of Greenland, the most savage domain on Battleworld. The pre-credits scene of this comic introduces the Thor Corps, who police Battleworld (or at least Greenland) and the inhabitants of the Mud Kingdom area of Greenland. This is, by no means, a peaceful place, and Humphries and Laming send that message loud and clear: the Mud Kingdom in Greenland is a place to be feared — and that doesn’t even touch on the Barrens of the Tribal Hulks, Fang Mountain or the Sea of Monsters, among the other locales of Greenland.
Following the first double page spread, the twenty-page lead story introduces readers to “The Captain and the Devil,” who have just laid low the Wolverine Clan within the walls of the Killiseum for all to witness. Like “He-Man” mixed with “Jurassic Park” and squeezed through a Marvel Universe filter, Steve Rogers stands over the bodies of fallen foes with Devil Dinosaur behind him. Laming does a nice job forging into the unknown, crafting a new look for Captain America while maintaining the essence of the star-spangled uniform that so thoroughly permeates today’s popular culture. Laming draws up a range of Hulks and Thors but instills enough commonality within each cluster to noticeably bind them together.
Jordan Boyd brings variety in his colors as well. All of the Thors have blues and reds present in their attire, with varying shades of each color and no repetition. The Hulks’ skintones likewise vary, from olive green to gray to jade. Boyd layers in effects and filters nicely, boosting the perspective and energy already prevalent in Laming’s art. Letterer Travis Lanham rounds out the visuals, with rugged green Hulk-bellowed exclamations and sound effects of all varieties. I’m still not keen on the outlined sounds effects, such as the “KRAKA-THOOM” resulting from the Thors attack, but I completely understand the decision Lanham makes there as the art is still allowed to breathe through the audio cue.
Humphries and Laming clearly have fun playing in this sandbox. Laming gets to draw monster men in the Hulks but is also able to draw Captain America, the heroic ideal given mortal form, all the while celebrating the wonder of comics by drawing a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the midst of all this. The Captain and the Devil journey into Greenland, and the first word spoken to them by the inhabitants is “Incredible.” Every panel of every page is a celebration of comics. It’s not difficult to imagine the writer and artist swapping samples of their work in progress and each praising the other for bringing their best.
“Planet Hulk” #1 could have easily provided only a guided tour of Greenland, simply introducing the main players and setting up the next few issues. Instead, Humphries adds in some mystery and intrigue and more than pinch of suspense by avoiding information dumps and trusting Laming to show the exposition. The writer also makes a conscientious decision to omit pieces of information, choosing to focus on the fantastic bizarreness that Battleworld demands.
The issue rounds out with a quick peek into the trigger events that initiated the domain known as Greenland. Presented as “Amazing Science” #15, the back-up tale boasts “The Smartest Heroes of Earth.” Those heroes are Professor Bruce Banner and Amadeus Cho, who describe their gamma experimentation to readers through exasperated discoveries of each other’s work. Okay, it’s mostly Cho’s work inciting the exasperation, but the eight pages with a faux cover add to the fun found in the absurd that “Planet Hulk” #1 eagerly invites.
“Planet Hulk” #1 might be a sliver of the event machine surrounding “Secret Wars,” but it’s a damn fun sliver.