If you have not had a chance to read Planet Hulk, and if you are a Hulk fan, this book is a must for your collection. For many fans Thor: Ragnarock was their first experience with this story line as the Marvel movie loosely follows the Planet Hulk main story. The movie is far enough removed from this comic, you can enjoy these characters in both the film and in this comic equally. The following will include spoilers.
The story picks up after Banner accepts a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission to use the strength of Hulk to destroy an artificially intelligent satellite out of control and threatening the world. As the mission was concluded Hulk is betrayed by Reed Richards, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and Black Bolt who trapped him on a space ship and send him to a pre-determined Planet with no life that Hulk can threaten. Bruce has been fearing that Hulk will become the most dangerous monster in Earth rather than the strongest hero. As the Hulk watches a message from these Hero’s explaining what they have done he destroys the ships navigation and goes off the pre-determined coordinates, ultimately landing him on planet Sakaar. Immediately Hulks ship is taken from him and the worlds imperial guard takes him as a slave by using an obedience disk they insert into his chest. For Hulk, the most alarming moment for him is realizing they are actually able to hurt him, and as his ship went through the portal to Sakaar it has drained him of his normal strength.
Hulk then finds himself being sold as a slave in a group of several gladiators who are shipped to the main arena where they find themselves in front of the Red King. The group is being fed to the monster Mazorus, who starts ripping through the group. Hulk grabs one of the monsters tentacles and is swallowed by the beast. Suddenly Hulk busts through the monster ripping it in pieces and destroys the other remaing monsters, then suddenly Hulk is surprised by the cheering for him by thousands of spectators. The slaves have earned their freedom through victory. Hulk figures out where the King is and in typical Hulk style he goes right after him and is blasted down by the Kings guard. This action causes the slaves to loose their earned freedom. So the King, in using a power suit reminiscent of Iron Man Hulk Buster Armor, goes after Hulk himself. The epic fight leaves the King scared with a cut on his face and needing saved by his guard.
What happens next is the moment that really sets up this story, and ultimately changes the course of Hulks life in this story arc. Hulk is part of a group of slaves that are forced to fight each other, we see Korg, Brood, Miek, Unbound, Lavin Skee, Elloe, as they are chosen being the final seven that now have to work as a team to survive. As they move into the next fight Korg discovers they must kill his brethren and the group only survives the encounter due to the Hulk. After their victory they move into another fight organized by the emperor and they again win the battle, gaining the rewards of the victory as they are considered victorious gladiators loved by the people. This is the first time Hulk is rewarded in such a way with a heroes banquet when suddenly the event is disrupted with an attack by the Sakaar Democratic Insurgency, trying to recruit the Hulk to overthrow the King.
At first Hulk decides to stay neutral, and after the attack is over the remaining gladiators are ultimately taken to The Great Arena. They are told if they survive three rounds they are free, and the Hulk really lets go in this first round. He not only saves his team, but rips the enemy Warbots limb from limb, even with him getting speared several times. Bloody and beaten Hulk still manages to destroy everything put in front of him. This fight convinces each of them to take an oath of Warbound; this is an important moment that sets up the team we see in the next book of this series World War Hulk. Warbound is an oath that bonds them together above all other allegiances. The final round turned out to the be the highlight of the entire story for us at 812review. We learn the Silver Surfer had found his way to the planet and was taken as a slave just like the Hulk. As they are introduced Hulk tries to talk with the Surfer, but the surfer just attacks. It is clear the Surfer is not wanting to fight Hulk yet has no choice. During the battle we see Hulk spears the Surfers obedience disk, and destroys it. With this distraction Hulk lays down a beating on the Server that requires his team mates to step in and stop him. As with typical storyline fashion, the emperor denies the gladiators freedom, we see the slaves overcome their obedience disks and they revolt. Once they tear open the arena walls and escape with their freedom the stage is set for the real fight; the fight for Sakaar.
As the war begins the scope and brutality is enormous. The Emperor is ruthless and shows no care or compassion for those caught in the middle of the fight between the resistance and the empire. Hulk and his team lead the surviving slaves best they can, as we see Hulk starting to embrace his Warbound family. The next few mini-story arcs revolve around establishing the various races who live on the planet, how each of these tie into the characters in Hulk new Warbound family, as well as wrapping up the war into its final conflict that drives the resistance into the capital. There are some fantastic stories within this part of the book but we would like to focus on what we believe to be the main standouts to us at 812review. The first comes with Miek, as we basically witness the extinction of his race by the war and various actions by the Red King. Miek is some type of insect who undergoes a transformation that turns him into a powerful warrior. He seems to go into a cocoon state where he morphs into an evolved version of himself. Yet, with the loss of his family he really turns to Hulk as a savior. Since it was Hulk who saved him in the beginning of the story, Miek sees it as his responsibility to help the Hulk make everyone pay. This passion turns to obsession that later leads into betrayal; but more on that in the next book. The second important detail are the Spikes. These are some type of horrible leaching parasite that turns the host into some type of mindless killing machine. The order by the King to release these is the ultimate downfall of him, causing those closest to him to betray the kingdom and join the fight with the resistance. What is amazing to the people in the resistance is how the Hulk is able to resist the Spikes. Apparently he is able to fight off their ability to take control of his body and he can kill them.
If the book ended here, it would be worth diving into the story, but in reality it is only getting started. The people of Sakaar now see Hulk as their savior. Earlier when the Hulk was badly beaten in the arena, his blood brought life to the ground it was spilled upon. This was seen as an answer to their prophecy of a savior. So far many things the Hulk has done seems to be pushing him to the hero role, yet there is always another side of things when the Hulk is involved. The prophecy also tells of the world breaker, who will bring destruction to their world. This is what the Hulk sees himself as, but for a time he will get to experience the life of a hero.
As the Rebellion reached the main city, it does not take long for the Hulk to lead his band of Warbound to defeat the Red King, and instantly Hulk is thrust into leadership as Sakaar new Green King. This brief moment affords Hulk some peace he was never able to have on Earth. Under his leadership Hulk is able to convince the various races of the planet to live together, even the Spikes are brought under control. He takes a queen and they find themselves expecting a child; Hulk has never been happier. The reason we mentioned Hulks ability to resist the Spikes as important earlier is because of this moment in the story. We find out the Spikes are actually a race of space dwelling creatures who feed off cosmic energy. The reason they are a weapon that infects people as they do is because they are just trying to feed. Once Hulk figures this out, he offers his body as a vessel for them to feed on. This decision by the Hulk is really amazing. He is not just demonstrating leadership, but is able to show he is a leader willing to sacrifice for his people, even this sacrifice of giving himself to help this race of aliens he does not know if it can help them and save the other inhabitants of planet Sakaar. In fact they drain him so deeply he actually turns back into Bruce Banner for a moment.
Just as everything seems to be working out perfectly things take a turn for the worst. While Hulk is out doing whatever King Hulk does during the day, he passes by his old ship. This had been turned into a stage prop as the local kids are practicing a play in honor of Hulk busting out of his ship and landing on Sakaar. Suddenly, Hulk hears the message from the Avengers explaining why he was sent into space and then the unthinkable happens. The ships warp core overloads and the explosion not only levels everything in the city, killing millions, but it kills his pregnant wife whom Hulk holds in his arms. This causes Hulk to truly go off the rails and he starts to smash. The ground beneath him begins to open and as the magma from the planets core appears, we see Hulk; the World Breaker.
To Hulk, clearly this bomb is the work of Tony Stark and Reed Richards trying to kill him. Luckily for Hulk his Warbound team has taken control of an imperial cruiser and rescues him. They immediately forge a plan to take their fight to Earth. King Hulk rallies his forces, and they are off to make those who sent Hulk away pay, and he plans to make them pay dearly.