AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk Part 1
(Art by Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, Michael Avon Oeming, Alex Nino, Marshall Rogers, Jeffrey Huet, Danny Miki, Sandu Florea, Mike Allred and Tom Palmer)
Part of the Ultimate Graphic Novels Collection, this book sees Hulk tricked by the heroes he called friends and sent into deep space. His journey goes awry and he finds himself on the brutal planet Sakaar, where he is enslaved as a gladiator. Finally free of his inhibitions, Hulk fights his way to freedom and then unleashes his anger against the despotic Emperor who took it from him.
I saw the movie 'Thor: Ragnarok' long before reading this, so it's fair to say that many of the elements here seemed very familiar already (since that movie borrows a lot from this story). However, I soon realised that it wasn't just having seen that film that made this feel like familiar territory, because it mixes up elements of 'John Carter of Mars', the Conan stories and, transparently, the story of Spartacus' gladiator slave revolt. It's a solid and enjoyable mash-up of all those elements, but it nevertheless feels like a well-worn story rather than something particularly fresh.
I will, of course, have to read part two to really get a sense of the saga overall but this is a solid first half.
3 out of 5
The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk Part 2
(Art by Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, Gary Frank, Jeffrey Huet, Sandu Florea and Jon Sibal)
Part of the Ultimate Graphic Novels Collection. Here Hulk and his rebellious former gladiators take control of Sakaar but then have to deal not only with the pressures of governing a planet but also constant threats from their seemingly-defeated foes.
Much like 'Part 1', this book very much put me in mind of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories; specifically the ones which feature an older Conan who had become King but is constantly pulled towards his wandering ways. Where the previous book was about Hulk working his way up from having nothing, not even his freedom, this second half is more about how he copes with he has gained and, tragically, how vulnerable it all is.
Overall it's more of the same, which is fine but not mind-blowing, but the sting in the tail at the end lifts the storyline overall as we see a vengeful Hulk turn his eyes towards Earth once more. There's also a nice epilogue in which Amadeus Cho, a young genius, verbally tears into Mister Fantastic and highlights how monstrous a betrayal it was for the Illuminati to turn on Hulk in the first place.
3 out of 5