The stronger they are, the harder they fall. That's the going concern in Marvel's "Fall of the Hulks" event as month in and month out, the writing trio of Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak and Jeff Parker have been drawing battle lines for the big smash 'em up that will lead to "World War Hulks" crashing into stores this spring. And from the shocking return of Betty Ross and Glen Talbot to the surprising defection of the Red Hulk to Bruce Banner's side, the mysteries are piling up as to who exactly will fall to whom.
So today, CBR's regular feature, THE GREEN ZONE, returns with the writers behind the monthly Hulk saga weighing in on what it will take to finally open the flood gates of answers in both this week's "Hulk" #20 and "Incredible" #607 with their guest-star heavy lineups and in the impending stories that wrap this phase of the gamma-powered battle.
CBR News: Part of the emotional side of your current storyline comes not just with Banner as a focus, but also stuck between two ideas -Â the situation with Skaar, where the son is starting to become more clever than, or at least a step ahead of the father and also the return of Betty, which Bruce now knows about and will be affected by. Now that Banner doesn't have the control over his son he thought he had, or a grasp of what happened to his lady love...how will Bruce hold it together, just as a person?
Greg Pak: The best stories deal with the folks who matter the most to us, and the whole Hulk family from the beginning has had these tight relationships. This whole group of Hulk characters, from the very beginning -Â from the very first issue - was Bruce, Rick, Betty, General Ross...and was Talbot in that first issue?
John Romita Jr's cover for "Incredible Hulk" #607
Jeph Loeb: Talbot did come later, but it is really extraordinary that Stan and Jack set up this opening salvo that's lasted all this time. Yes, Betty died. And yes, apparently Talbot died. And Ross is now gone. That does change it as well as when there's new additions to the group, like Rick being A-Bomb or the addition of the Red Hulk and Skaar. Still, at it's core, that triangle of Betty, General Ross and Bruce Banner - and to another extent Betty, the Hulk and Bruce Banner - has always been something that's driven this franchise. We really have an opportunity now to explore it in a way -Â because of how much Bruce has grown and how much Red Hulk changes the dynamics of the group -Â where we're going to see Bruce trying to hold onto something he can't hold onto. And maybe he shouldn't.
Pak: When you have these other new members of the Hulk family coming in, with Skaar and A-Bomb as a kind of expansion, you've got new dynamics and new responsibilities pulling on the characters. It sets up some really good conflicts that the characters can't shake off. We've really got to grapple with that, and it's going to shake down to where you may not know who you want to root for.
Jeff Parker: That's way more interesting to me than "You're clearly rooting against this character." I think that you're kind of rooting for everybody.
Pak: And I think Jeph just hit something on the head there in that what we want may not be what we should get. It'll be interesting to see where these incredibly strong-willed characters go, how far they're willing to go and at what point they realize what they're actually doing.
The driving force for the story in the last set of issues was Red Hulk and Banner putting together a resistance against M.O.D.O.K. and the Leader. But as far as the Intelligencia go, they've gotten their hands on Reed and Doom -Â two very big brains in the Marvel U -Â and have got some people in their camp like Lyra, who you might expect to be doing something else. What do all the pieces the villains have pulled together say about the conflict, and what fans can expect from its next turn?
Loeb: What I love about the questions you're asking is that these are the questions I hope the readers are asking. The best news out of all of this is that in the next couple of issues, so many of those questions are going to be answered. We know our readers are anxious to find out things like, "Who is the Red Hulk?" and "Will the Green Hulk return?" and "What is Skaar's role?" and "What's up with Betty and Talbot?" and "Why is Lyra on the other side?"
Pak: "Who are The Eight?"
Loeb:Yes! "Who are the eight smartest minds, and how does that come together?" The fun that we're having all goes back to when Greg and I had this whole crazy plan in the first days after "World War Hulk." How many more surprises can we pull out of our hat that do tie everything together? It's been great following the fans online who really have been connecting the dots of where everything is going. The big problem of the story is that this is a Hulk story, and we do want there to be a real triumph by the end. While "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk" ended in some very quiet, emotionally impactful ways. Greg...can we say "sad"?
Pak: [Laughs] You can say sad! You can say tragic. You can say shattering. That's a bit more Hulk-arific.
Loeb: I like that. But where this is headed is somewhere that's going to be quite the triumph, and we're going to see bad guys get what's coming to them and good guys who are headed into the Heroic Age that Marvel's been talking about. We can't specify who's going to end up being who, but it will surprise you.
Pak: It's like Jeph said: the answers to all of that are coming. The mysteries will be revealed, and there will be some shocks and surprises along the way that folks have not seen coming. At the end of this, one of the best questions that will be answered is, "Who are Banner and the Hulk going to be?"
Parker: "Who is the Green Hulk?" That's really what you need to be asking.
Pak: Who is the Hulk, and who is he going to be? There's going to be a giant reveal there, and it will set up some pretty insane stories.
Loeb: And I think it's safe to say after our conversations that that's not only where we always wanted the story to go, but also where the readers really wanted the story to go.
Pak: The trick is to surprise the hell out of people, but once they get there they realize it's exactly what they wanted all along. Will it be exactly what you expected? I don't think so, but it will be where you want to go.
In "Hulk #20 and "Incredible" #607, the gathering of The Eight continues. What can readers expect in terms of who could be brought under that banner?
Pak: Avengers Assemble! In a big, big, big way. You're going to see a massive throwdown in "Incredible" #607 with perhaps a return in a crazy way to an Avengers team the way it should have been if you look at it from Hulk's P.O.V.
Loeb: And on the flipside over in the Red Hulk's world, we're going to get a very big piece in terms of what the Red Hulk's agenda is, and every time one of those gets revealed you get close and closer to who he or she is and what that means for Bruce and the gang. We said this at the beginning: be careful who you ally yourself with, and that may not be who you think it is. Good guys are always changing depending on whose side you're on.
Check back next week as Jeff Parker shines in a Q&A covering the ins and outs of his "Red Hulk" and "Savage She-Hulks" mini series!