Heart of the Monster: A Look at Pak's Incredible Hulk
- Published on Monday, 16 May 2011 01:00
- Written by Andrenn
- Hits: 2134
For those unaware, the Incredible Hulk is one of my all time favorite super heroes. As a kid he always appealed to me and he has always been a character that I can look forward to for great stories. I had quite a few Hulk comics given to me from my father, some good, some mediocre and some great. However, my pick for the best Hulk stories ever written all revolve around one man's name: Greg Pak.
With the news that not only was Pak's run on Incredible Hulk coming to an end, but the recent renumbered series was ending with it, I wanted to reflect on Pak's run so far before it ends this June.
First, let's talk about Hulk before Pak came along. By the mid-90's the Hulk hit a rut. The character was not really going anywhere and was not all that interesting. Keep in mind that this was the 90's, the Dark Age as it is often referred to and they call it that for a reason. The Hulk's character got lost in the mess and it seemed like no one had any idea what to do with him.
That was the fate of the Hulk for a very long time. Writers would introduce new villains, none of them really sticking or being all that interesting. It was a big mess. Through most of the early 2000's the Hulk was in limbo and not doing anything worthwhile or interesting.
Then there came a new kid: Greg Pak. Pak came out of nowhere with what is now the most defining Hulk storyline of the last 20 years: Planet Hulk. Planet Hulk was great. I could go on a 20 page review about that, but that is for another day. The point is that Pak's Planet Hulk finally revitalized the Green Goliath. One of Marvel's biggest heroes was snatched from the clutches of Limbo and everything was exciting again.
Planet Hulk was a huge boost for the series and Pak's tale of putting the savage hero in a savage world was brilliantly done. But Planet Hulk, as massive and epic as it was, was just the start.
Enter World War Hulk,the big Marvel Summer event from 2007. This event holds a special place in my heart because, not only was it my first adventure into Marvel events, it was also the first Hulk story I picked up in ages. Sure, you can debate how important World War Hulk was for the overall Marvel Universe. In reality, this could have easily been a story in Incredible Hulk and it would have been just as great, maybe even better without the tie-ins. But, I still have a lot of love for this storyline.
Post-World War Hulk is where the game really changed though. Suddenly, Bruce Banner was locked under ground and thought to be half-dead. Far away, his son Skaar was born and he was not a happy kid. A mysterious Red Hulk arrived on the scene causing all kinds of trouble after killing the Abomination, Rick Jones became A-Bomb, a Red She-Hulk appeared and even a new Savage She-Hulk from another dimension showed up! The Hulk had gone a long way from limbo to really expanding his corner of the Marvel Universe.
Now we are getting into the Loeb Hulk run territory and all I have to say on that is that it had a great start but because Loeb dragged out the mystery of Rulk's identity he killed all interest I had for the series.
Skaar: Son of Hulk was a bit of a let-down for me. I gave it three issues and by the third issue the series had lost me. It had all the potential in the world. An excellent writer continuing the saga of two great stories, an amazing artistic talent with Ron Garney, but it did not click with me. It was mostly that Pak skipped over an important time in Skaar's life, his childhood. Pak jumped ahead to him as an adult and we never got to know the character all that well early on.
As a whole, Pak's Skaar run was not bad, just weaker than what it was following up, as well as weaker than what followed it. It is kind of sad that the story I was most anticipating is definitely the weakest part in all of Pak's run. Even with that said, it reads well in collected form and Skaar has evolved a lot in the last couple of years.
Greg Pak's big return to the Incredible Hulk was following the lack-luster #600 renumbering. With the big story arc: Son of Banner. At this point, Bruce Banner had lost his Hulk power and Skaar was on Earth after a big fight with Galactus. Previously, when Skaar and his old man fought Bruce was Dumb Hulk. However now it was Skaar alongside with Bruce Banner.
To go in-depth on the Son of Banner arc is to spoil some truly brilliant writing so I will not go too deeply into it, as much as I would love to. All you really need to know is that this is some of the most wonderful writing for the character of Bruce Banner in the history of comics. Pak's mad-genius Banner, who comes to some startling realizations about himself and the Hulk, is a huge treat and it is the backbone of a great story arc.
It is almost like a small tour of the Marvel Universe between Banner and his son. We got Wolverine, Juggernaut, Giant monsters, the FF and the Avengers. It is a big story and does an excellent job of establishing where Banner and Skaar fit into this massive crazy world. The bonding that the two do is great and the way Pak handles their love/hate relationship is unique and a ton of fun to read.
That is really all I can say on it. Anything else would be spoiling it and that would be criminal of me.
Now we enter the period where the two Hulks collide, Banner and Red Hulk joining forces for Fall of the Hulks and World War Hulks. These were two massive crossovers involving everyone in the Hulk-verse. To describe it would take too much time but to quickly review them is much easier. Fall of the Hulks was good but overall it as just set up for World War Hulks, the superior storyline.
World War Hulks may have a lame name (I know, we will just add an "s" to everything for our new events! Civil Wars! Annihilation's! Secret Invasions! Shadowlands! Brilliant!) but it was an excellent crossover. Mostly because it finally answered all our questions about who the Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk were (General Ross and his resurrected daughter Betty) but more importantly it brought back the Hulk, and boy did it ever bring him back in a big way.
If you have not read my two reviews of the final issues of World War Hulks, I loved them. Incredible Hulk #611 is nothing short of excellence in comic book form. The sheer amount of emotion, great action and amazing artwork contained in that one comic is scary. I made it my best single issue of the year for 2010 and it rightfully earned that title as what I see as what has so far been the biggest highlight of Pak's run so far.
The story of father vs. son as Bruce Banner thinks about his tortured childhood while battling his son Skaar, who he had been training to kill him, is a tremendously powerful story. It is a perfect example of how the Hulk has always been a creature of emotion, not just blind rage, but of many varying thoughts and conflicting emotions. Something Pak gets perfectly and nails down here.
Now after this Pak's run took a different turn. The series became twice a month and was changed to Incredible Hulks (see what we did? We added an "s!" It is a whole new series! Brilliant!) focusing not just on Banner and Skaar but the Sensational She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk, A-Bomb and Korg of the War-Bound. Sadly, no Savage She-Hulk but she and the original had an awesome mini-series so no worries.
The first arc dealt with the other Son of Hulk, Hiro-Kala. I do not want to say much on it other than it was a good follow-up to World War Hulks, and while Pak did not recreate the magic of #611, he clearly was not trying to do this and the emotions of father vs. son in this one are totally different but just as tragic.
From there we have had a Chaos War tie-in bringing back the dead foes and friends of Hulk's past, Hulk has fought the Gods, he went to the Savage Land to reunite with an old friend (and it was beautifully drawn by Dale Eaglesham) and now we are at the second to last story arc, The Spy Who Smashed Me, which is a brilliant take on the Spy movie genre and all of their cliches. And if you have yet to check it out then go forth and get it, it has been awesome so far and with one issue left it is sure to be great as well.
But what was all the point of those two pages, Andrenn? Why did you just spend all this time summing up Pak's Hulk run and your thoughts on it? Because this is the best run of the Hulk of all time. Yes, I said that. No disrespect to the legendary stuff Peter David and other talented writers have done for the Hulk, but Greg Pak's Hulk is beyond the stuff of legends. It is character defining work that has reshaped the way we look at one of Marvel's most popular characters.
I am also talking about this because in just a few weeks come June, it is all ending. Greg Pak's run on Hulk has been (pun slightly intended) incredible. While it has not all been golden, very few runs truly are, what Pak has done for the character was essentially saving him from another decade of not mattering or doing anything interesting or important. He saved the character from obscurity, a place so many great characters have gone to die.
Now, Hulk is more exciting than ever. From the Green Scar to a dashing Tuxedo, Greg Pak has remade the Hulk for the better. He even made the less than stellar Red She-Hulk, who just a year ago was one of my top least favorite characters of all time, into a more interesting and enjoyable character. Skaar has become a new favorite of mine and the overall world of the Hulk is a bigger and better place thanks to Pak's work.
Now that it is about to end I cannot help but feel both sad and excited to see where Pak ends it. So far, we do not know much about Heart of the Monster, other than it is the finale and that it may ruin everything Hulk has worked so hard to attain. The Hulk is a character that is very good at getting something great only to lose it. Most writers do not make the formula work, but Pak has done this well before and I cannot wait to see how thing unfold now.
Paul Pelletier is also returning to the title. Pak's run has had some spectacular artwork, Carlo Pagualayan, Ariel Olleviti, Dale Eaglesham, most recently Tom Grummet. Though even with all those amazing artists I think the best fit has been Pelletier so seeing him return is great and his artwork is sure to bring this big finale to life and make it look great.
With Pak's finale on the Incredible Hulks, the series is also ending. This is kind of disappointing because, no doubt, Marvel is going to do yet another cheap reboot in a few months or a year from now, in time for the Avengers film at least, but it feels right to have it end with Pak's big finale. I was debating who could possibly take his place right after a run like that and if Marvel is going to give us a bit of a breather until the next writer comes along that seems to be for the best.
Before I wrap up with my final thoughts on Pak's run I wanted to quickly ask Marvel a question: Where the hell is my Incredible Hulk by Greg Pak Omnibus? Huh? Well? Nothing? Not okay. You guys are giving us a Wolverine by Jason Aaron Omnibus but nothing for Greg Pak's Incredible Hulk run? C'mon! This is character defining stuff, Marvel. Well worth a big delicious oversized hardcover collecting at least half the run in one collection and half the run in a second.
In fact, make a few Omnibi if one Pak Omnibus would be too large. I know there is a lot to collect but you would already have one copy sold from me. And when I say his run I mean everything, Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, Skaar, Warbound, Son of Banner, Fall of the Hulks, the whole shebang!
Now let us wrap this up. I just spent a lot of time gushing about Pak's Hulk run, and I meant every praising word of it. It is great stuff that should not be missed out on by fans of the character and even those who aren't familiar with him. Planet Hulk was so great it got made into an awesome animated film and the Hulk has never been the same since that story.
As a big fan of the Not So Gentle Green Giant I love what Pak did and, while it had some ups and down, as a whole it was a great run that nobody should miss. He left his mark on the Hulk. Pak's run comes to an end this June and I will definitely be there, no doubt enjoying every second of it. If you haven't read anything of Greg Pak's run I highly recommend any book that has the words Hulk and Greg Pak together, and I am patiently checking every day for that Omnibus to be announced.