Advance Review: PLANET HULK #1

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PLANET HULK #1
Written by Sam Humphries & Greg Pak
Art by Marc Laming, Jordan Boyd & Takeshi Miyazawa
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: May 20th, 2015

This is a SECRET WARS: WARZONES Tie-In

Now this is what Secret Wars is all about – Battleworld being used to it’s maximum potential to tell amazing stories that we don’t see on the shelves every single week. Planet Hulk #1, from the creative team of Sam Humphries (Legendary Star-Lord) and Marc Laming (Kings Watch), is a first issue that sets the bar higher than anybody could have ever expected for every subsequent Secret Wars tie-in from here on out. This title is what happens when you cross a Captain America driven by a personal quest with both a gladiator and Escape From New York’s Snake Plisskin, give him Devil Dinosaur as a pet, throw in some political intrigue, and introduce a Battleworld domain full of gamma irratated Hulked out monsters. The end result is a wild adventure that is everything one would want from the start of a crossover event of this nature.

First off it needs to be made clear that despite the name of the series being Planet Hulk, this is very much a Captain America story. Following a brief opening showing a brief skirmish between the Thors and the Hulks of the Greenland domain, readers are introduced to Steve Rogers. The Captain, alongside his trusted companion Devil, are introduced immediately as champions of the Killiseum. This introduction of The Captain and The Devil is done with a splash page of the duo standing triumphant. It is this page that sets the tone for the entire issue, and lets the reader know they are in for a wild ride. The page is big, flashy, loud, and looks bad ass. It’s soon revealed that a personal mission fuels The Captain inside the Killiseum, and after an attempt to extract information from a character goes wrong, Rogers finds himself kneeling before God himself, Doom. It is here he is given a mission that dovetails with his own journey, and will seemingly be the driving force of the series. Humphries moves the setup along at a brisk pace. The issue goes from The Captain being in the Killesum to arriving at Greenland, home of everything Hulk, and the destination of his mission in ten pages.

What is most impressive is that ten pages is all that is needed for Humphries to move from the setup to the beginning of the adventure. There is no wasted space, and because we recognize the traits of our traditional Captain America in The Captain we don’t need to spend time on introductions past anything about what drives the man forward. Oftentimes alternate takes on iconic characters stray too far from what makes the original character special, and the project falls apart. That is far from the case here. Humphries shows quickly that although this is a different take on the character, that he understands the underlying qualities that makes Steve Rogers the character he is across variations. Why The Captain is fighting, and agrees to work for Doom is better left to be discovered as it is unveiled in the book, but it is quintessentially Captain America. The realization that he might find his answers in Greenland leads to a stunning page that gives us a glimpse at the man The Captain used to be. Speaking of stunning, the final six pages that take place on Greenland are filled to the brim with action until the cliffhanger on the very last page. These pages seem to be just a warmup for what lies ahead in futures issues, but each and every panel looks absolutely amazing with The Captain and Devil facing off in a brutal battle with just some of the gamma radiation infused dangers lurking across Greenland.

Artist Marc Laming is a name I knew very little about heading into this project. I had seen his work on Kings Watch, but nothing really stood out until Planet Hulk. There’s a good reason for that – this is by far the best work of his career, and nothing else even comes close. After just one issue this may be one of the very finest looking Marvel comics in general. His style fits the action adventure tone of the story as well as any artist matches with their title. I’m not exactly sure who is responsible for that, but one would have to assume that Editor Mark Paniccia had his hand in it. From the cold open featuring our first and only glimpse of the antagonists through the introduction of The Captian and Devil, and right on to the battle with Hulk insects Laming knocks each and every page out of the park.

With all the crazy stuff that he gets to draw, the most successful part of the art is the design of The Captain. He is big and strong, but worn down and beaten all at the same time. With that said, nothing is left to be desired with the design work. Laming’s take on the Hulks we do see look great, then Hulk insects look scary, Devil looks ferocious, The Captain looks awesome when riding on Devil’s back. It’s funny to think that despite the cool set pieces, and the action in this issue that we have yet to see the book truly live up to its title. Over the next few issues Marc Laming is going to have to really cut loose, and after this issue, the thought of that makes me weak in the knees.

As if this book couldn’t get any better, the issue also features a backup story featuring Bruce Banner, Amadeus Cho and the Pre-Battleworld origin of the Earth that would eventually become the Greenland Domain. What makes this story stand out is that the creative team of Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa were the team to create Amadeus Cho back in issue 15 of 2006’s revamped volume of Amazing Fantasy. While the story relies a bit on a lighter side of the Hulk mythos, the end result of a mistake leading to the entire world becoming a Hulk is still tragic. It reveals a side to the Hulks of Greenland that wasn’t expected, and it is just nice to see where this domain came from. Given the nature of Secret Wars, it’s sometimes hard to remember that each of these domains were at one point their own entire Earth. This story helps remind readers of that. I can only hope that other issues have, or will plan on featuring origin stories for some of these lesser known domains. Miyazawa’s art is a little lighter than that of the main feature, but fits right in when the comings and goings of the quick minded Amedus. Ultimately the book could have thrived without the backup, but it was a welcome addition to the Planet Hulk mythos.

Planet Hulk #1 is a great comic book that doesn’t stop moving from beginning to end. The only major complaint with the issue is that it had to end right before business picked up some more, but that’s what issue two is for right? This issue featured a great setup to a great concept, and this title has skyrocketed to the top of the List of tie-ins I’ll be waiting for with baited breath each month. If the rest of the Secret Wars tie-ins are half as good as what Humphries and Laming accomplish here then this event is going to be one of the best ever. It’s Captain America meets Gladiator and Escape From New York in a perfect action adventure comic for the summer. If you are on the fence about picking this up you shouldn’t be, as tie-in or not Planet Hulk is just a great comic book.

The Verdict: 9.5/10

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