The Hulk has exacted revenge on the Illuminati. A contingent of Mighty and New Avengers has been captured as well as the Fantastic Four. Hulk and his Warbound watch the Illuminati fight against each other using obedience disks. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) is just about to clobber Tony Stark (Iron Man) with a spiked ax. Meanwhile, the Sentry has decided to physically confront the Hulk outside of the gladiatorial arena that was once Madison Square Garden.
Rick Jones vehemently protests what the Hulk has done to the Illuminati. Reed Richards struggles with his moral conscience, ax in hand. The Hulk recounts what the Illuminati did to his adopted planet of Sakaar. He still holds them responsible for the deaths of his subjects, wife, and unborn child. Reed strikes the ground near Tony. The Hulk gives them mercy because he feels that their guilt should serve as ultimate punishment. Instead, the Hulk will raze New York City to the ground. Tony defiantly states that it is the Hulk's last chance for surrender. Without warning, Hulk's stone ship violently explodes. The Sentry has arrived.
The Sentry slams the Hulk across town using his full power of a "million exploding suns." The Hulk angrily replies to Stark and Richards that whatever happens next will be their responsibility. The Sentry and Hulk violently exchange blows. The Sentry is enjoying using his full power without fear of harming anyone. Everyone stares in shock at the unfolding battle. The Brood saves Tony from flaming debris. Elloe wonders why the Brood helps their enemies. Tony and Reed attempt to bring the satellites back online. The Hulk and Sentry are evenly matched. Their combined power is enough to revert themselves back to their human forms. Bruce Banner and Robert Reynolds continue to fight on.
Bruce proves stronger and knocks the Sentry out. He moves to shake hands with Rick Jones but Miek screams in protest. He stabs Rick with a spear. Miek wants the Hulk to come back and finish the job. He was the one who allowed the Red King's agents to sabotage the Hulk's shuttle on Sakaar. Miek saw the Hulk's inner nature to be composed solely of murderous revenge. Bruce transforms back into the Hulk but attacks Miek. Despite protestations by the Warbound, the Hulk beats Miek relentlessly. The Brood wonders how Miek could turn against his brother hivelings and proceeds to beat the villainous insectoid as well.
The Hulk turns towards the assembled crowd in intense anger. He is emitting pure amounts of gamma energy. He hates everyone for what has transpired. Before the Hulk can renew his assault, Tony manages to bring the satellites online. Beams of red energy pour from the satellites onto the angered form of the Hulk. The Hulk sees an image of his wife, Caiera, before he reverts back to Bruce Banner.
S.H.I.E.L.D. agents encase Banner in an armored pod to prevent his transformations. The battered members of the Illuminati look on. The inert Rick Jones is carried away on a stretcher, obviously in critical condition. Banner's capsule is placed three miles below the sands of the Mojave Desert. A red visage engulfs Banner's body. Back on Sakaar, a green figure emerges out of the war torn earth. It is the son of Hulk, Skaar...
World War Hulk finally comes to a close. What were my overall impressions of the mini-series? The event started out strong and came out running. Greg Pak always did a nice job of reiterating character motives and moving the action along consistently. World War Hulk was refreshingly simple, compared to the gigantic size of last summer's Civil War event. Readers got to know several characters extremely well. Hulk's Warbound became major players and General Thunderbolt Ross was seemingly resurrected from comic book doldrums. Finally, this issue depicted the full power of the Sentry, something that Marvel writers have been reluctant to do.
John Romita Jr.'s art was kinetic and detailed. Romita Jr.'s strengths, action and facial expressions, were on display throughout the entire series. Issue #5 was no different. Pak let Romita Jr. take over and let his pencils dictate the fight between the Sentry and Hulk. Klaus Janson complimented Romita Jr.'s pencils with some excellent inking while Christina Strain added some brilliant yellows to the fight.
All of the elements were in place to an exciting conclusion. In fact, many of the attributes I just mentioned were on full display. Yet, World War Hulk never truly achieved the "green sorbet" status that editor-in-chief Joe Quesada promised readers before issue #1 hit the stands.
Pak runs into immediate problems with last issue's cliffhanger. The Hulk immediately decrees that Reed should not kill Tony. This is after four issues where Pak made it a painstaking focus to emphasize the Hulk's anger and new motives. However ludicrous it may seem, the Hulk does not kill. But readers were led to believe that this situation was different. In one page, Pak manages to completely confuse the reader and make the Hulk a wimp for not carrying out his original intention. Nevertheless, this issue is a minor complaint as Marvel can not kill off either Reed Richards or Tony Stark (then again they did kill Captain America...).
Romita Jr. renders an incredible fight scene between the Sentry and Hulk. You probably won't see a better duel between two powerful figures for quite some time. The issue loses points for making the fight anti-climactic. At the end, Miek comes out the true villain of the piece. One wonders why it was necessary for the Sentry to make things even worse beforehand. These two guys were supposedly best friends and I never got that sense. They clumsily decided to just beat on each other until the script dictated for Miek to intervene. And by this point, seeing another destructive fight has the effect of exhausting the reader.
And now for the Miek development...I did not like it. On a simple level, Miek's revelation makes new readers scratch their heads in confusion. Up until this point, there were really no motivating circumstances which would compel Miek to break with the Hulk. The main title never offered up compelling reasons nor did any of the supporting series or tie-ins. Miek's turn can be surprising, that is not what is at issue. What became problematic in making Miek the scapegoat was absolutely no time was spent on the character to develop said motivations.
Finally, we get to the revelation that Skaar survived Sakaar's destruction. This development certainly causes excitement for Hulk fans. However, the name flat out sucks and seems very "90ish." The signs are there that the comic book industry is reverting to destructive trends which made the 1990s a tough time to be a fan of superheroes. We'll know what is in store for us if the first issue of Skaar gets a gold foil "zombified" Michael Turner variant cover.
My final verdict on the event known as World War Hulk: wasted opportunity and an exercise in exhaustion. Pak and Romita Jr. made a fine team and were ably assisted by Janson and Strain. We got many exciting "fanboy" moments interspersed with some interesting developments regarding the breakdown between the Bruce Banner / Hulk persona. Pak and company just ran out of gas by the end of their tale.
A black costumed Spider-Man appears in a few panels. No speaking parts for our favorite webhead...