by Tarique Ejaz
“The World Breaker is here to smash you!”
The World War Hulk storyline is a 5-issue colossal crossover event of the Marvel Universe which included the entire Universe trapped in the midst of Hulk’s rage-fueled war against the Illuminati (The secret group of Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Iron Man, Namor - The Submariner, Mister Fantastic and Professor Xavier) in general. The event follows the happenings of the Planet Hulk storyline which was equally massive and given Marvel’s tendency to throw in almost all the heroes, anti-heroes and villains into a single mix at every other happening, this was lined up to be no different. Now, the flavor of this story arc can only be enjoyed if you are able to read all the tie-ins to the event as the main series will only give you the overview of the primary collision while the subplots are explained with much more clarity in the tie-in title issues.
Before we delve into World War Hulk, a title which was given to the saga in the pages of Marvel Comics by once esteemed reporter of the Daily Bugle Ben Urich, let us just run through the events of the Planet Hulk storyline leading to the aforementioned event through these Mini Marvel strips.
So not to forget, the Hulk is extremely pissed off at the four heroes in particular of the Illuminati, namely Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Mister Fantastic and Iron Man as he holds them responsible for destroying the ship he was rocketed off in thereby, killing his wife and unborn child along with the entire population of Sakaar except his Warbound. (Well, Mini Marvel couldn’t do justice to it so I had to explain it. Well, you now get as to why the event is called World War Hulk. Right?) And as it had earlier been established that Hulk’s power is limitless in the Marvel Universe and its magnitude is proportional to his rage which has never been at such an exploding point as it is at the start of this event. (Sheesh!) Moreover, the Hulk in question is not the illogical, dumb brute but a monster that could actually understand and think. Yes, you heard me right. He is able to mouth more than just “Hulk Smash”. Way to go about it, Tony Stark and co-buddies! You managed to piss off the one guy who could beat the crap out of you all.
“I didn’t come here for a whisper. I wanna hear you scream.”
This gave birth to the historic moment in comic book history when Hulk barged into the Inhumans’ base on the moon and literally beat the crap out of a King who could level mountains with a whisper. As Black Bolt realized during his encounter with the Hulk that the monster was at such a peak in terms of power that where a whisper was enough to make him bleed from the ear, the Green Giant wished to hear him scream, unhinged and undeterred. He then goes ahead to issue a threat to the remaining three culprits in his eyes, to show up within 24 hours or bear the wrath of him leveling the entire New York City, all the while dangling a broken and battered Black Bolt like a lifeless doll. At the end of the deadline, the Hulk ventures into the battleground accompanied by his Warbound namely Korg – The Stone Warrior, Hiroim – The Shadow Priest, Elloe Kaifi – The Imperial and Miek – The Hiveling, only to come face to face with the Iron Man in his bulked up Hulkbuster unit and a desolate New York City.
Unlike previous occasions, the Hulk decimates the Hulkbuster unit like it was a piece of scrap metal. Having secured Stark with an obedience disk to keep him under control, Hulk and his Warbound turn their attention to Mister Fantastic who is guarded by a number of heroes. A step, which was needless to say, was taken in vain as Hulk and his allies batter the heroes ranging from the Thing, Spiderman to Human Torch. When he managed to get to Mister Fantastic, he uses a machine to imitate Sentry’s glow to calm the Hulk before Hulk manages to see through it and then does to Mister Fantastic what he did to the other two Illuminati members. Dragging the unconscious flatulent body of Dr. Reed Richards through the war-affected streets of New York, the Hulk and the Warbound are bombarded with adamantium pellets and other ammunitions by Thunderbolt Ross and his army.
“I’ve got you, Bruce.”
“So have I got you.”
While being distracted by Ross’ attack, Doctor Strange probes into Hulk’s mind to reason with him and try to find a weakness. Upon becoming aware of the tragedy the Hulk had gone through, Strange offers his consolation and Hulk dupes him into believing that he was on board with his repentance so as to draw him out of his astral form into a more tangible one. Hulk then proceeds to crush the sorcerer’s wrists. The very source of wielding his power. This damage forces the Sorcerer Supreme to take to the last resort and lets the demon Zom take over him from the Rings of Raggador so as to mount a considerable challenge upon the Hulk. After a prolonged and devastating battle, Doctor Strange is defeated and thrown in with the other heroes, restrained by an obedience disk. Hulk decides to let the four major culprits battle it out courtesy the obedience disks forcing them to obey Hulk’s commands (Okay. That was obvious. But do bear with me. We are getting close to the big fight.) which sets up the scene for Sentry to finally decide to subdue his doubts and as he says “Play God.”
“You have to tell me. Does it always feel so good when you let go?”
With each punch, the power of a sun explodes as the Golden Avenger goes toe to toe with the Colossal Green Skaar. Bleeding, exploding and imploding with one collision after another, the Sentry is able to reduce Hulk into the human inside. It is revealed that one of the Warbound had triggered the blast that killed all of Sakaar and not the Illuminati. After the Hulk apparently kills him, which wasn’t that difficult a task, he fills up with so much rage at the betrayal, grief and tragedy that he literally assumes the role of a World Breaker and breaks the earth crust down to the core with a single step, forcing Stark to fire the satellite cannon upon him with full power and rendered him immobile and human. That image is so striking and the sort of peace that emanates from the unblinking eyes of Bruce Banner as he lies in a crater with his arms outstretched, bruised all over and still wearing the over-sized gladiator outfit of the Hulk, is testimony to how contrasting the end seems to be as compared to the start.
With this, Marvel gave the world another brilliant event whose effects still reverberate in all parts of the Marvel Universe. I have mainly focused upon the limited series but you should read the tie-ins. For the Hulk is not only a monster at his unrestrained best but a force that should not be taken lightly.