Friday, January 18, 2008

The End of World War Hulk (Marvel)
World War Hulk #5 When: January 2008
Why: Greg Pak How: John Romita Jr

The story so far...
After an emotionally unstable Scarlet Witch unleashes her powers in an event that threatens reality, and tears Earth's mightiest heroes apart; a secret sect of superhero powers dubbed, The Illuminati, are forced to reconsider the potential threats they harbor within their own number.

Recognising the erratic rampages of the Hulk as a longstanding and overlooked threat on their back porch, the group, though morally divided, conspire to lure the jade giant into a craft that will rocket him into deep space. Their message is one of peace, but for the Hulk, it is the beginning of a dark period in his existence.

After crash landing on the planet Sakaar, the Hulk becomes a gladiatorial warrior amidst an ethnically diverse alien community. He rises through the combative ranks and recovers from his initial wounds to become the new ruler of Sakaar, leading a rebellion by might. As King, Hulk would find love and sire an heir to his throne, but his happiness would sour when the ship that brought him to Sakaar detonates in an explosion that kills thousands, and sets off an environmental chain of events that would destroy the planet.

Rallying the survivors, the Hulk leads his Warbound to Earth where he seeks revenge from Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Dr. Stephen Strange, and the other heroes he believes responsible for the carnage. Hulk gives the innocent time to clear, and swiftly takes Manhattan, and defeats the heroes, leaving America only one man to turn to. Their saviour -- the Sentry.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: John Romita JrARTWORK: John Romita JrStrength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Sentry 2 (Average)
Speed: Sentry 6 (Mach Speed)
Stamina: Sentry 6 (Generator)
Agility: Sentry 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Sentry 7 (Cosmic)

- After years of unwitting exile, ordinary man, Robert Reynolds, comes to recall a fantastic serum of unknown properties that long ago granted him the power of one million exploding suns, giving birth to The Sentry!
His return to the world of superheroes is short lived when, with the help of his forgotten best friend, Reed Richards, he comes to realise that his arch-nemesis, The Void, is infact an evil half of his dual identity. Thus, as The Void threatens to return to destroy America, Reynolds is forced to again make the ultimate sacrifice, utilizing his super-computer CLOC, and Dr. Strange, to wipe his memory from the globe once more.

Years later, a breakout at the superhuman prison The Vault forces the Sentry to come out of exile, having agreed to imprisonment after the accidental murder of his wife. A far different vision of Bob Reynolds emerges, and through the transferred knowledge granted to a comics writer, the heroes soon learn of a mental disease planted by Mastermind, responsible for Sentry's transgressions as The Void.

Though still troubled by his fear and anguish, the Sentry rejoins the superhero community as a member of the Avengers. His ill-defined powers include; super strength, durability, speed, energy blasts, space travel, and other.

- Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a slight and insignificant scientist, lives slavishly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, as funded by the United States military.
Though Banner justifies his goals as means for peace, he becomes one of America's leading weapons designers after inventing a gamma radiation bomb.

During preperations for a test launch in the desert, Dr. Banner spots a reckless youth on the testing ground, and in a moment of magnificence, knowingly throws himself on a bullet that would grant a far crueller fate than death.
Bitterly aware of the Communist conspiracy of his fellow scientist, Banner struggles to usher he and the boy to safety while his colleague continues to countdown the launch.

After succumbing to an ordinarily lethal doses of gamma radiation, Dr. Banner soon finds himself undergoing a horrific transformation. Originally by night, but soon triggered by rage or unease, Banner discovers the superhumanly strong alter-ego within himself, dubbed simply - the Hulk! As the Hulk, Banner's brilliance is reduced to a childlike lumbering, while his slight frame conversely comes to possess size, strength, and durability never before imagined.

Hulk has no specific known weaknesses, but is fiercely protective of the few who earn his favour. Though generally good hearted, Hulk is prone to wild rages and varied personalities, including the calculating persona adopted during his time on the planet Sakaar, where he adopts a military savvy.

The Math: The Sentry Ranking: The Hulk (#8)

What Went Down...
With the greatest heroes of the Marvel Universe already defeated and awaiting torture, the President of the United States has no choice but to turn to the unknown quantity that is the mentally disturbed "golden guardian", the Sentry.

Able to break through Sentry's own insecurities and fears, the President inspires the hero's immediate travel to Manhattan, where he unceremoniously greets his "old friend" with a torpedo dive that sends Hulk rocketting through several prominent architectural structures!

At his most powerful, the Hulk emerges from the rubble to warn his former ally away from his fight. Desperate for an opportunity to release his power, the Sentry mournfully disagrees, before exhibiting yet another propelling blow.

With the stakes rising exponentially, the Hulk sends a final stern warning to the men he has come to punish. He tells them to flee, but to never forget all that had transpired in the war they had provoked. With that, the Sentry catches up to his opponent, and the clash of the two powers levels the makeshift gladiatorial space that was once Madison Square Garden.

The devestating blow is but the first, as the Sentry soaks up his first real physical encounter since his return. The Hulk's blows are unrelenting, creating blinding bursts of energy and unexpected spatters of blood as his giant green fist collides and breaks the golden aura of the Sentry.

The Hulk's earth-shattering blows sponsor a spark of light from deep within the Sentry. As blood pours from cuts on his face, the Sentry's eyes begin to glow with pure golden energy, forcing a smile over the typically repressed hero. The storm that comes would devestate all life, had Manhattan not already been evacuated.

From a safe vantage point, the Hulks allies and enemies alike watch in awe of the Sentry's powerful display. With the wave of city-destroying energy dissipated, the power of a million exploding suns becomes more focused, a twirling tornado of golden light, with the Sentry at the centre.

The Warbound do their best to aid the fallen Hulk, whilst realising their own lives may depend on a unity previously unimaginable. Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic conspire to bring down the weapons of the world, but it is the Hulk who rises from the ashes ready to again face the Sentry's unwavering powers.

The Hulk leaps into the storm of energy, where the Sentry asks him if letting everything go alway feels so good. The Hulk does not answer, content to suffer through the skin searing energies to collide with his former-ally, once more.

Amidst the malestrom, the Sentry throws several punches that swat and pound the Hulk like a ragdoll. Physically, the Sentry appears almost unmoved, but though he may be embattered, the Hulk's strength appears equally undying.

Sentry remarks on the irony of their role reversal, recalling a time in another life when he was the one who strived to calm the Hulk down. Fast becoming the out-of-control destructive quantity, Reynolds willingly takes his licks as the Hulk silently drives his powerful fist again, and again, into his opponent's face.

Suspended in an endless swirl of energy decimating New York City, the two powerhouses remain locked in immortal combat. Tied up, they throw their best at one and other, sensing the beginning of the end, the Sentry farewells his former partner. Whether or not it is arrogance, is hard to say.

With the Sentry's words comes a renewed charge from the Hulk, who trivializes the labels that will be peeled on and off of Sentry. As they each pound away at the other's bloodied and bruised bodies, the Hulk reflects, declaring saviours and destroyers as irrelevant, "Allt that matters... is what you choose."

The Sentry's explosive powers burst again in a glare of blinding white.
When the energy finally begins to dissipate two figures can still be seen fighting within. Now Earthbound, the images clear, revealing not the visages of monstrous destruction, but instead, two men, and then. Peace.

A quiet thank you escapes from the swollen lips on Robert Reynolds' malformed face, before he collapses at the feet of the victor. Confused, the Warbound observe for the first time the slight stature of Bruce Banner, prompting one of the warriors to remark, "Today. Finally... The Hulk knows who he is."

ARTWORK: John Romita JrThe Hammer...
In what I have to say might just be one of the most amazing and raw fist-fights I've ever witnessed in a comic book, Hulk emerges the last man standing! Which really doesn't do the Sentry any credit in his canonical debut to the Infinite Wars, a worthy loss!

I've been feeling a bit like a survivor of this kind of battle over the past week, so we're running a few days behind schedule. To whet your appetites over the delay I dropped a post that contained big green letters reading "epic." I think a lot of reviewers have been well within their rights to express disatisfaction with a mini-series that was destined to underwhelm, but I have to say, in isolation, this final issue deserved that kind of hype.

I was disappointed not to have World War Hulk on the site sooner, but even glimpses of the first issue couldn't prepare me to imagine what we were missing out on. Conceptually, I don't think the promise of Hulk being angrier than he's ever been ever had a chance of reaching the logical conclusion it demands - but damned if Greg Pak hasn't done his best with what he had.

There's been a lot of criticism in reference to The Sentry in general, but again, World War Hulk earned a lot of harsh remarks for what many regarded as an inevitable conclusion. If you were one of those people, I'd love to hear from you, beause now that it's passed, I think at least half should be eating their words.

As a consumer you can observe a lot of large, yellow panels, each spread lavishly across high-gloss paper with very little specifically depicted. As a consumer you could feel the $3.99US pricetag over values the content, but I must say, it really does set the mood for what is just such an epic encounter. Actually, even in the writing, this seems to me to be an issue desperate to be so much more.

If one is willing to acknowledge any validity to the theory that Sentry is too powerful, this issue is the one to relish in it. I wish the circumstances were different, because had the Sentry been a more active proponent of the Marvel Universe, this issue almost feels like it's staged for his last hurrah. As it is, with Mighty Avengers lagging disgracefully behind schedule, I don't think we even know the fate of the character post-WWH.

It feels like World War Hulk should've been built around this fight.
It feels like that could've given the eventual shuffle of agendas a greater resonance. Instead of quickly rearranging everyone to be vaguely on the same page, a more structured approach could've given this outcome emphasis.
Sure, it's strong as a spur of the moment thing, but as an inadvertent shift of villain, something more specifically designed to reacquaint the Hulk and the heroes really could've mapped out a more palatable future.

Then again, if this is what the standard will now be for the Hulk's return, it's hard not to wish for a world where the new Hulk film wasn't farther into the future, allowing the inevitable return of Banner to get the weight of a couple of years of absence. Y'know, a planned absence and return, as opposed to a Thor scenario, where the character returns with a whimper...

... But we're getting distracted.
If the Sentry really is too powerful to regularly operate in the Marvel Universe, this scenario of extreme power shouldering extreme responsibility seems like a perfectly Marvel way to have emphasised his reticence as a willing agoraphobic.
Although, to reiterate, I just think it's a shame the past five years of Marvel comics couldn't have been as well organized as their Distinguished Competition; giving Sentry more time to be an active and struggling component, providing the perfect vehicle for the character to be forced to exercise his powers, and become the accidental villain of the piece, ending in his unceremonious death [or at least, extended exit, ala Hulk's fate].

But then again, this is World War Hulk, and the Sentry is probably just as much an unsolicited distraction as JMS' Thor is! This is our chance to take a look at the last of the top ten characters of 2007, and look forward to 2008: a year that will not be green, but rather, glow furiously with red - just as a certain Bruce Banner did, as he entered a deep sleep in a containment chamber beneath the Mojave desert...

Right now safe bets for the mysterious "Red Hulk"; who made his debut in a new series created by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness; is the seemingly mortally wounded Rick Jones. Rick Jones, who was wearing a red jacket at the time he was stabbed by the traitor to the Warbound, Miek.
The identity of this Hulk, who has already had a lethal encounter with a former antagonising mainstay of the Hulk universe, is the subject of the first storyarc, and the task of an investigative Doc Samson. We'll probably have an opportunity to talk more about that sometime in the near future.

A bit less likely to show up is the slightly less interesting spin-off, Skaar: Son of Hulk. I have to admit, as someone who skipped World War's precursor, Planet Hulk; the outerspace stuff really doesn't hold much interest for me. But then again, I have to at least give it kudos for much the same as everything else coming out of World War Hulk.

Sure, we've seen Hulk go on rampages against the heroes before. In fact, a recent Cover to Cover entry, designed to prime you for this fight, highlighted some of the previous battles featured that involve a hero fighting the Hulk.
While no one is giving World War Hulk credit for pitting Hulk against his fellows, it's undeniable that the story not only takes it to a level I don't think we've ever seen, but also provides a launching pad for development of the character over the next couple of years. The on-going has even served up a Hercules on-going!

Why, particularly if I don't like it all, is this significant?
Because it's the kind of creatively savvy business decision another Stan Lee co-creation has been sorely lacking. This series, which is really an action blockbuster piece of fluff, manages to not only eclipse, but I think embarass the entire effort that has been: Spider-man's Brand New Day. It may get tiring, but I'm sure this is a point that will continue to be made in the coming months.

And with that, we wrap things up here. If you've got a comment, as always, I'd love to hear from you. I may be a bit under the weather, but if we can right the ship, we'll be heading into unknown territory "next week", as we leave behind the 2007 top ten. It should be very interesting to navigate through a landscape completely devoid of Spider-man entries! Hah! It might take a little while for things to right themselves, so I appreciate the patience.

Also; you might have noticed a blurb in the right hand menu after you voted in the Fantasy Fights poll. I've run across some folks out there using some of the images from the site, and while I'm not too worried about that, I'd really appreciate it if you can all throw links back on things like that. It not only acknowledges the effort put into the site, but also helps us grow. Cheers!

The Fight: 6.5 The Issue: 6

Missed out on World War Hulk like me? Thought you didn't care, but have found your interests piqued? Why not head over to Amazon? By using purchase links you not only sponsor future entries on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, but also navigate your way to an affordable way to catch up on missed comics!
Amazon has a wide range of titles often at ranging discounts, and with special incentives on US shipping! Boy, when I grow up, I hope I can be an Amazon! Wait... That's not what I...

Fight fans can expect to find battles with Iron Man, Black Bolt, and Dr. Strange, as well as many more exciting confrontations that may just find their way to upcoming Infinite Wars entries!


Krod said...

I don't know much about the Sentry (what his powers are, how they work, how/when he 'powers down'), but the Hulk has had a lot of good comic book superhero fights. And I've been a big fan of John Romita Jr.'s art ever since he did Spider-Man with JMS. And the idea of using Madison Square Garden as a gladiator arena is cool too.

If the series is cheap I'm gonna check it out.

Mike Haseloff said...

Yeah, I think as a five-issue mini-series dedicated to superheroes fighting with GIANT sound effects, it's a solid run.
I think this is probably some of the best treatment of JRjr's work in a while, and if you're a fan, shouldn't be disappointing at all.

It's been a big seller, so I imagine the trade will probably be the most cost effective way to catch up. If Amazon's price is accurate, you're saving well over a buck an issue!

buzzlefett said...

I find it interesting that you pick the Hulk as the winner in this fight. Usually you pick the winner as the one who has accomplished his goal in the fight regardless of whether he is still standing at the end (like I believe you had Cap declared as a winner after being destroyed by someone in an earlier post.) I would argue that the Sentry achieved his goal: he stopped the Hulk and without unleashing the Void which has always been his greatest fear.

I would probably put this fight as a draw because the Hulk also achieved his goal of proving that he is still the greatest fighter in the Marvel universe.

Just a thought...

Mike Haseloff said...

I could be contradicting myself horribly here, but I think the only glaring time I've done that was the DKR Batman/Superman fight.

Usually I try to base conclusions on the contents of the fight, rather than the bigger moral content of the story. Sometimes if there's a slightly ambiguous quality to the ending, I'll refer to the character who earned more "points", ala a boxing match.
[Unless it's a team battle -- where effective sacrifices equal assists!]

In this case, I think Hulk's broader motivations are put to the side literally, and conceptually.

In isolation, Hulk/Banner is the guy left standing at the end of their battle, and therefore the easy call. In terms of goals, I think the minute The Sentry flies completely outta control, Hulk's moral finger wagging is forgotten in lieu of stopping this out-of-control hurricane of energy and/or being the strongest one there is.

I think we all knew going in that Hulk would never wipeout the Illuminati -- and it's during (and in response) to this fight that Hulk reveals that to them.
So I think it's a situation of him meeting opposition regardless, but also putting down a truly out of control "old friend."
[Keeping in mind, he doesn't have a grudge against EVERYONE...]

RE The Void: That issue, as far as I know, was dealt with in the Sentry mini-series, where amidst a bunch of meta-babble he expelled The Void into the sun.

A return wouldn't be surprising, but as mentioned in the wrap-up, I think we really get to see how much of a danger The Sentry poses irrespective of personalities. Something I think should be compelling to the people complaining about the character being 'too powerful' for the Marvel Universe.

But in terms of the Sentry's goals -- with the Void being a non-issue -- I think it's just a matter of him answering the call, and quickly crossing the line in the first scenario we've seen that called for his full power.

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