In the mid 90s when I really got into comics I was a true Marvelite. I bought all the X-books; was a crazy fan of X-men and X-Factor. But by the late 90s I became utterly disenfranchised with the company and skewed completely independent and eventually camped in DC once I grew to appreciate the complexity and quality of books like Superman and Batman.
The Planet Hulk series did what no other storyline was able to do in nearly a decade: make me purchase a Marvel book and be genuinely excited to read it. I will admit I had to be convinced to buy the book originally, as I have never been a big fan of The Hulk. It’s just not a character that’s ever called out to me, but a friend at the time who was a big Hulk fan was emphatic and basically forced me to read the first issue.
The story itself is epic, spanning more than a year of issues with tons of tie-ins (which I will not be exploring here) and re-introduced a character to the Marvel U that had been absent for some time; more on that later.
Planet Hulk: Exile is the first arc. It begins with the Hulk waking up inside a vessel carrying him into space. Mr. Fantastic and others are speaking to him on a recorded message explaining why they had to send him away. Talking about how the planet he is destined for is peaceful and devoid of intelligent life; where he can finally be left alone.
It was a dream destined to fail.
Hulk crash lands on a planet called Sakaar. He is immediately pressed into slavery and service as a gladiator and when I say immediately I mean within twenty panels of the opening scene. A powerful force falling from the sky through the portal is clearly not a new event on Sakaar.
In the Arena the Hulk is in his element, though weakened by his trip through the portal he gains much of his former strength during the initial battle. After destroying the meager opponents thrust to their destruction at his hands Hulk makes a move at the Red King who takes offense and means to end the Hulk personally.
What will become legend is what follows; not only does the Red King fail to kill the Hulk he finds himself scared by the encounter as Hulk manages to slash a cut across the king’s cheek. After this the Red King sends Hulk to the “Maw” which is a gladiator training center and assuming it would be the end of him he puts the green demon out of his mind.
Twas not to be. Hulk, along with his assigned “teammates” not only survive the Maw but go on to become renowned for their victories across the planet. Eventually they earn a series of battles in the main arena. After surviving battles and treachery (the Red King sends a battle cruiser to drop a bomb on the arena, which the Hulk promptly attacks and successfully detonates high enough above the battleground to keep everyone alive) they must face their greatest foe: an enslaved Silver Surfer.
Even without the use of the mighty Power Cosmic the Silver Surfer is still a worthy adversary. During the fray the Hulk manages to get one good punch in which destroys the restraining mechanism embossed on all slaves, freeing the Surfer from his state. But true to his nature the Hulk continues to battle without using reason and nearly kills the skyrider.
Their secret weapon down the guards loyal to the Red King decided to try and force an end engaging the restraining mechanisms on all the gladiators. But they were not aware of the Surfer’s freedom. The Power Cosmic returned to him he uses it to destroy every restraining mechanism; not just amongst the gladiators but every single one within reach of his power.
Freedom is bittersweet as the Silver Surfer, wishing to aid his once-friend The Hulk, offers to take him from Sakaar but his offer is denied. The Hulk, it seems, has finally found his place in the universe. Or has he? Check back next week as the Planet Hulk story continues!
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Check out this week’s Playlist!
Till next Wednesday…
Stabbing Westward – ACF, Audioslave – Shadow of the Sun, Chevelle – I Get It, Fun. – Some Nights, R.E.M. – Strange Currencies, The Distillers – Drain the Blood, Motion City Soundtrack – Modern Chemistry, Coldplay – Lost, Moments in Grace – My Dying Day, Rise Against – Worth Dying For, Thirteen Senses – Into the Fire, Thursday – Understanding in a Car Crash, Statistics – Final Broadcast, Deftones – Cherry Waves