11 years ago the Hulk went to Sakaar - "Planet Hulk" - and it changed him and the world itself. Now in 2017, the Hulk is returning - but it's a new Hulk, Amadeus Cho.
This week's legacy renumbered Incredible Hulk #709 brings Greg Pak (and frequent collaborator Greg Land) back to Sakaar as a Hulk must once again become a force for positive change - or die trying. Although there's some familiar species, like the Hulk it's an all-new set of characters.
Newsarama talked with Pak about his his sequel 11 years in the making, fitting the "Totally Awesome" Amadeus Cho into the warworld of Sakaar, and if he'll find the kind of peace Bruce Banner did in his journey there.
Newsarama: 11 years I interviewed you about "Planet Hulk," and now we're back to talk about its return - and your return to Incredible Hulk - beginning with next week's #709. First off Greg, how does it feel to come full circle like this?
Greg Pak: It's pretty tremendous. Working on the original “Planet Hulk” remains one of the most fun experiences I've ever had in comics. And we did so much intense world-building there that it's always an enormous pleasure to dive back into Sakaar. This has been a big year for me in terms of “Planet Hulk” in more ways than one, actually. The Thor: Ragnarok movie apparently draws a lot of inspiration from “Planet Hulk,” which is hugely exciting. And I wrote a prose novel based on “Planet Hulk” that just hit stores this last week! So I've had Sakaar on my mind for many months, and it's a thrill to have these comics coming out now.
Nrama: Things are different - you've grown, as had the characters - but nothing has changed more than the star, which is now Amadeus Cho as the Hulk. How does he fit into Sakaar and the "Planet Hulk" structure?
Pak: What I loved about the original storyline was that it served as a huge emotional story for Bruce Banner. He entered the story as a monster, reviled on Earth for his rampages and exiled by his so-called friends. But over the course of the story, he bonded with fellow outcasts on Sakaar and began to realize that his strength and anger might actually be virtues on this brutal planet. So the “Planet Hulk” story really mattered for the Hulk - it was a huge emotional story that took him places he'd never been.
So now Amadeus is in for a similar kind of huge emotional journey - but because he's in a different place to begin with, he may end up going in an entirely different direction. The stakes are hugely high and this will be a big, big story for Amadeus.
Nrama: I'm interested in the reason Amadeus calls upon himself to go to Sakaar - he's doing it to mitigate what his predecessor, the late Bruce Banner, had residual anger over in the past. You've touched on that before this arc, but can you drill down and talk about that in the context of this storyline?
Pak: When Amadeus started as the Hulk two years ago, he was a cocky teenager who was convinced he'd be the best Hulk ever. He didn't see being the Hulk as a curse; he saw it as an awesome opportunity and thrill. But throughout the series, we've teased that he might not quite be in as clear control as he imagined. And in recent issues, we've revealed that he's struggling with his own terrifying dark side. So as the “Return to Planet Hulk” storyline begins, Amadeus is fighting hard to suppress that Dark Hulk within - but he's going to an incredibly dangerous planet where he might have to unleash that Dark Hulk in order to survive and protect the innocents around him. So, it's a massive story for him that will have real consequences.
Nrama: So what is the reason for the distress signal from Sakaar?
Pak: I don't want to spoil too much here, but some folks on Sakaar are in dire trouble and they desperately need the help of the Hulk. Of course, they're expecting the Bruce Banner Hulk, not Amadeus...
Nrama: It's been years since we've last seen Sakaar. How has it changed?
Pak: During the original “Planet Hulk” storyline, from time to time, the evil Red King would mention his war against Fillia. So our new story takes place on that continent of Fillia, which has been reduced to dusty wasteland by years of bombing by the Red King. Different clans fight for survival in the wasteland, and now a terrible Warlord is threatening a small clan with extermination. So they've reached out in desperation, sending a message, searching for the Green Scar, the great hero they heard about who took out the Red King. They're hoping he'll help them against the Warlord. We'll see if Amadeus is up to the task.
Nrama: In the original "Planet Hulk" storyline, Banner's Hulk persona was dominant for almost all of his time there - with but a brief but poignant moment. Can you say if that'll be the case for Amadeus here?
Pak: I don't want to reveal too much here for fear of spoilers. Keep on reading!
Nrama: The original "Planet Hulk" had a number of memorable characters, some who came with Hulk back to Earth for "World War Hulk." Can we look forward to anyone old here in "Return to Planet Hulk"?
Pak: Since we're in a different part of the planet, we've got a whole new cast of supporting characters. But folks who loved “Planet Hulk” will recognize people from the various species of sentient creatures we met during the original storyline. And we're doing our best to make these new characters as fun and compelling as the original Warbound.
Nrama: I wanted to ask about Skaar - Bruce Banner's son, born from his time on Sakaar. Any chance we'll see him in this story-arc?
Pak: I think about Skaar all the time and would love to do more with him. But no, he's not in this particular story.
Nrama: Since "Planet Hulk's" debut in 2006, there have been sequels ("World War Hulk"), an animated movie, a prose novel, and it's become a big inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok. It's been 11 years, what brought you back to Sakaar for this storyline? And why not sooner?
Pak: In terms of the continuity, it didn't make sense to return to Sakaar until now. The planet was actually destroyed during the Skaar series. But the recent Secret Wars storyline opened some doors in continuity, which gave us the room to bring Sakaar back.
But more importantly, I didn't want to return unless we had a big emotional story that warranted it. Given the very specific place Amadeus finds himself as our story begins, Sakaar is the perfect place to send him. It'll be a huge turning point for his character, which is exactly what a place as special as this should be.