Review: Planet Red Hulk Part 1

In Hulk #34, the Red Hulk winds up on Pandora.  Uh... where are you goin' with this, Jeff Parker?

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Red Hulk #34

Well, ain't this some deja vu. 

Sure, we all knew it was coming, thanks to all the Planet Red Hulk ads running throughout Marvel books, but who'da thunk it'd hew this closely to the original Planet Hulk?  You'd think there'd be other planets in the universe besides primitive might-makes-right gladiatorial-entertainment spots.  You'd also think there are planets that don't have blue feral people with pointy ears, skimpy clothing and winged beasts to ride around on.  However, it seems that the Red Hulk has landed on Pandora, and Hulk's about to smash his way through James Cameron's Avatar.  Not a really auspicious beginning for Jeff Parker's arc – it already feels much less epic and much more redux.

After being asked on a space-faring rescue mission by Steve Rogers, Thunderbolt Ross finds the Russian crew he was sent to save dead, and as soon as he's aboard the ship, it mysteriously self-launches into some kind of wormhole that sends him to the planet Tiran.  It's a red sticky-jungle-style planet full of the aforementioned Pandoran-esque blue people who believe Ross to be a monster sent from the neighboring planet Randaa's people called the Hedzek, with whom they seem to be at war.  These blue guys even have a weird viney tentacle-like thing called the "mindroot" that plugs into Ross' brain to help him speak the language.  This can't be accidental.  There has to be some kind of spoof in the works here, right?

The Tiraneans are a bit more barbaric than Pandorans, though, as a big mook named Warka who holds sway over these people, and he beats the snot out of the drugged-up Ross to prove it.  Of course, there's one open-minded type named Alturi who strikes a deal with him, helping him resist the drugs and beat Warka down, only to accidentally find himself made the new king.  The Red King.  Which was the name of the villain in the original Planet Hulk.

Ross has his suspicions about why he's ended up on Tiran – either the team of Avengers he's on sent him here because they hate him, or Bruce Banner sent him here in an ongoing quest to subject Ross to everything he went through as the original Hulk, to really drive home the point to his old enemy about how much he's suffered and endured.  As it stands, the latter is the only explanation that makes much internal sense.  Otherwise, I'm at a bit of a loss to fathom why Parker would go this well-trodden route, aside from maybe some name recognition, because it's not goofy enough to be a parody of Avatar or Planet Hulk – at least not yet, and goofy doesn't fit well in a Hulk book anyway unless the Bi-Beast is involved, and even then it doesn't HAVE to be played for yuks.  Originally, the Bi-Beast was just this scary freaky giant monster… but I digress.  And I love the Bi-Beast.

Carlo Pagulyan knocks it out of the park with his art, though.  Holy cow, does this Hulk look beefy, and when he knocks the snot out of Warka for good, you can almost feel it through the page.  It bears noting that, even after all this time, for some reason a Hulk being red still feels wrong and a bit weird to look at.  There's just some weird sense of not right that seems like some kind of massive coloring error.  That's probably just a matter of time, though, before it just feels like second nature that there's a Red Hulk and the real Hulk has to be referred to as "The Green Hulk."  Again, feels wrong.

Conisdering that the teaser for #35 says bills it as "the earth-shattering end of Planet Red Hulk," this doesn't seem to be going for any actual sense of epicness (epicatude?  epicosity?).  Rather, it just seems to be a 'What If?' riff made real.  Maybe it'll be interesting, or maybe it'll just be a wish-fulfillment thing with Parker wanting the Red Hulk to go beat up Avatar.  Whichever it is, the sooner he gets back to Earth and his much more compelling new archenemies, the better.