One of the key aspects of “Secret Wars” and its related miniseries has been the blending of various pieces from the Marvel multiverse within the patchwork planet known as Battleworld. Writer Sam Humphries almost takes that idea to the next level in “Planet Hulk” #3, which takes place in the region of Battleworld known as Greenland, named thusly as this is a region populated solely by countless incarnations of the Hulk. Yet, it’s Captain America of all characters who finds himself in this region with his faithful companion Devil Dinosaur, sent here at the behest of none other than Doom. It’s a concoction so strange that it holds a certain amount fascination based on the ingredients alone and, as drawn and colored by Marc Laming and Jordan Boyd respectively, it’s also fascinating to simply look at. Humphries’ script, though, is a little thin, relying frequently on cryptic, mumbo-jumbo dialogue amidst a slower moving chapter that may be aggravating to readers at times.
There’s plenty of action to kick things off, at least, as Cap and Devil fight off a curious and imposing creature known as a Sea Hulk. The first six pages are a pulpish delight as executed by Laming and Boyd, with Dinosaur fighting mutant sea creature amidst a spread of large and colorful panels. Laming’s lines are crisp and Boyd’s colors perfectly contrast a red dinosaur in locked battle with a green Hulk-ish monster. Laming adds smaller touches, like what appear to be barnacles growing on the sea monster, which only add to the alien and dangerous feel of this world.
Humphries then takes a few pages to look back at the relationship between Cap and Bucky Barnes in this reconstructed continuity, which is a useful flashback and also a momentary break from Cap and Doc Green’s journey to save Bucky. Like the rest of Humphries’ story, this look at the pasts of these two super soldiers is a curious blend of past, present and never, and Laming inks this scene with a cruder style to evoke the feeling of times past while Boyd keeps the bright colors to a minimum to add to that feel. It probably isn’t all that necessary to establish that the bond between Cap and Bucky exists in this reality, but Humphries’ momentary aside is an opportunity for a peek into some of the other differences in this repainted canvas.
The issue drastically throttles back after this point, though, as Cap and Doc Green cross a barren region, engaging in endless and puzzling banter. Doc Green spews lines like, “Man, however important, has no relation to salvation. But gamma is the communion of war” and so on. Cap later muses to himself, “His prattle is maddening,” and — come this point — readers might likely feel the same way. Humphries spends the second half of the issue testing both the readers’ patience as well as Cap and Doc’s patience with each other. It is an interesting bit of a character study, and the pseudo-reversal of the characters’ personas (Cap is more of a barbarian, while Doc is a smart Hulk) is worth exploring, but it’s not sufficient enough to carry the remainder of the issue with little else going on.
“Planet Hulk” #3’s biggest misgiving is that it’s just too long an issue for the story Humphries has to tell, but at least readers are treated to some dazzling art and coloring throughout.