There are three major Marvel characters that writer Greg Pak (in some cases alongside writing partner Fred Van Lente) has absolutely owned since the mid-2000’s: The Incredible Hulk (Bruce Banner), The Incredible Hercules, and Amadeus Cho (with pup in tow).
It’s not just that Pak did good work writing these characters, it’s that his work is notably superior to just about anything in the 2000’s before or since.
“Planet Hulk” was so defining for the Hulk that the story has already been adapted for a Marvel animated series, and will inspire the beyond exciting Thor: Ragnarok movie. The concept is simply perfect (imagine Marvel’s Illuminati gathered to shoot the Hulk into space where he could finally have isolation and peace), but it’s the execution and worldbuilding by Pak and artist Carlo Pagulayan that elevates the story.
There are visceral action pieces that help form easier sell lines (Yo, the Hulk wears gladiator armor and fights like Russel Crowe), and admittedly that’s appealing. Pak took the series so many steps further though, with a planet Sakaar that features identifiable class structures, religions, and politics. Sakaar feels lived in and real, and by the time Hulk has to leave for World War Hulk it’s a heart-breaking descent.
All of this brings us full circle to Marvel Legacy and The Totally Awesome Hulk’s transition back to the Incredible Hulk series in “Planet Hulk 2.”
In truth, this is far from the first time Pak has revisited Sakaar since “Planet Hulk,” with a full fledged ongoing in Skaar: Son of Hulk returning to the Hulk’s lost world. In this sense, the Legacy return to Sakaar can feel like a Greg Pak greatest hits album, playing the hits for the longtime fans. Of course in many ways this is the whole purpose of the Legacy initiative, so it’s hard to blame Pak and company for returning to the source one more time.
The real question for me is what Sakaar has to offer Amadeus Cho, Marvel’s Totally Awesome Hulk since Secret Wars. For my money, Totally Awesome Hulk has been one of Marvel’s best legacy transitions, with established character relationships and history generating a sensible progression for the story of the Hulk. Bruce Banner’s psychological drama has been battered around for decades, often quite effectively, but what does the Hulk v. Human dynamic look like in the head of Amadeus Cho?
“Return to Planet Hulk” appears to put this classic war of the mind into focus, as Cho suddenly requires a more aggressive Hulk powerset than he’s needed heretofore on Earth.
Speaking of Earth, “Return to Planet Hulk” does immediately call into question logistical continuity of Marvel Legacy. We know Cho-Hulk is battling it out alongside Hercules in the Avengers and Champions crossover event, suggesting that the scientific space experiments launching him to Sakaar must occur after “World Collide” concludes. It’s pretty common for Marvel to mix and match timelines like this, but if Legacy is your entry point, this is likely a confusing way to start.
As it stands, Incredible Hulk #709 does a nice job connecting the Hulk’s more modern legacy to the ongoing from All-New All-Different Marvel. Likewise, Greg Pak has proven his world-building on Sakaar is some of the best in Marvel Comics, and artist Greg Land (frequently very off-putting stylistically) is doing some of his best work in years building out the planet’s detail. It’s a worthwhile narrative to check out, and one of my favorite Legacy launches to date.
ESSENTIAL COMICS READING
In order to better understand the backstories outlined above, I recommend the following Marvel reads!