Everyone knows that "Hulk smash," but as the new year approaches, the ongoing status of Marvel's green goliath may sound more like "Hulk crash." As the first of its new initiative of replacing sprawling, universe-encompassing mega events with more manageable "family events," Marvel Comics launches the gamma-centric story "Fall of the Hulks" this December with a sister event story "World War Hulks" coming soon behind.
Spearheaded by ongoing "Hulk" and "Incredible Hulk" writers Jeph Loeb and Greg Pak, the "Fall of the Hulks" braintrust also includes Jeff Parker – a writer known for his bombastically quirky action comics – who will kick off the event with December's "Fall of the Hulks: Alpha" one-shot before stepping into other support series like the "Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk" mini. "Even though it is a smaller, localized event, we still pull a lot of characters into it, which is fun," Parker told CBR. "Loeb was very adamant about going after the Fantastic Four and the Avengers and some other heroes to be appearing in here, like the X-Men. Everybody's been really cool about working with us. In a way, without spreading your whole story across the Marvel Universe you get a lot packed into a relatively digestible group of books."
With the villain-centric "Alpha" issue kicking the event off while wrapped in an Ed McGuinness cover, Parker and his interior artist Paul Pelletier knew that eyes would fall on them to make a good first impression with fans. To acquiesce, all Parker had to do was convincingly write a story revolving around the eight genius level supervillains who make up the evil Intelligencia. "They threw that hot potato at me as fast as they could," he laughed of the group featuring the Leader, M.O.D.O.K., Doctor Doom and more. "It's a little daunting, but luckily I got to write a lot of these guys out of continuity in the Marvel Adventures books. I got to play with what I liked about the characters, so I'm not coming into it completely cold. Even in 'X-Men First Class,' we'd have guys like The Thinker and Doctor Doom. But you don't want them all to sound the same. Even though they're talking about the same high-falutin' science, if you pay attention, they do all have nuances that make them different from each other."
To help forge the core of the super-criminal crew, Parker sets them on a series of jobs that should both tease out how the dominoes will tumble in "Fall of the Hulks" as well as shine a light on Marvel history. "At this point, what they're doing is essentially pulling off super heists and accumulating lost knowledge from the lost library of Alexandria. They bust into Olympia – the citadel in Antarctica where the Eternals are – because a lot of it's there. And they've got other places in the world that are really hard to break into, like Atlantis and Wakanda. They've got to go in and find all this stuff and pull it off without anybody knowing they're doing it. For once, they're trying to keep their egos in check and not make such a big deal that they're getting it. They're replacing what they steal with copies, so it's not as obvious what they're after. You can kind of get behind the scheme, because they're really starting to try and make it happen and not worry about how cool they look."
The Intelligentsia has earned comparisons from its creators to other Marvel secret sects, like the semi-benevolent Illuminati and the currently set to crumble Cabal, and Parker promised that, much like those other groups, this scientist team-up will find its roots in past stories. "We, also, along the way, make references to things that were going on in Marvel history. They poke their invisible hands into things, and we play a little bit with the kinds of things 'The Illuminati' did, but I don't think we actually contradict the way anyone thinks things went down. We don't re-write history, but we do add to it in interesting ways," he said, noting that events such as sudden resurrections and and the history of the villain community will be explored.
Just like Marvel's other marquee gatherings, however, keeping together a group of super-ego maniacs has its downsides too. First and foremost, its members each see themselves as the primary plan-maker. "Everybody's got their own agenda, and they're all thinking, 'Okay, once this is over, we'll get back to the real goal...which is mine!'" Parker explained. "The Leader organized this, and they're all very careful to not say, 'Listen to me.' As soon as anyone says that, the whole place erupts. Lasers start flying everywhere, and it all falls apart. Even though they're all complete ego maniacs, they also understand that it works better to speak about the task at hand and not talk about themselves. They're giving it the real college try here. They're tired of the heroes being able to constantly team up against them, and they're seeing what they can achieve together, which is a lot."
Group dynamics get a bit thrown, though, because unlike Captain America and Spider-Man teaming up to fight crime, bringing together vile villains involves a bit more of a creepy factor. "It is funny the way perspective shifts around as you see them interact. As over the top as most of them are, once M.O.D.O.K. floats into the room they all suddenly seem very normal. Doctor Doom and the Wizard aren't that outrageous once M.O.D.O.K.'s in the room. It's a neat view point changer that happens. Red Ghost seems more like an eccentric old uncle compared to some of the weirdos or the ruler of a country like Doctor Doom. Sure, in his head [Red Ghost] thinks, 'I'm going to bring back Communism!'
"In a way, I want people to root for them on some level. You don't really want them to win, but you kind of want to see how far they can take it."
Much like the writer, Pelletier steps into "Alpha" without a regular connection to recent events in the Hulk universe, although the writer promised that the penciler's work would help nail the feel "Fall of the Hulks" needs. "Paul immediately got put on something else because of this, and I hope to be working with him again soon because he's really perfect for this. He evokes the mythic past. Without drawing like Kirby, he evokes a lot of what Kirby had, or Romita or Buscema. He knows how to scale up a story. Plus, he's inhumanly fast. We had to go back and forth with me, Loeb, Greg and a bunch of editors to make sure it all fit...the problem with that is that Paul sits there going, 'Come on, you guys! I can't keep waiting here!' I can't say enough good stuff about that guy."
As for his own future with the crossover, Parker looks forward to playing with as many different gamma-irradiated toys as possible in the coming year. "There are certain milestones that we have to hit with any given issue of a mini series that we agreed on, but within that, there's a whole lot of room. I was surprised by how much room I had to play. So I've essentially had carte blanche to add whatever I wanted in and juice up the story. But generally, the group dynamic is really strong. Nobody wants anything to feel tertiary. We want every part of the event to be a part of the puzzle, and all of it to be pretty exciting. And because it's a Hulk event, there has to be a lot of smashing. You can't go four pages in any of these books without some big smashing happening."
"Fall of the Hulks: Alpha" is set to hit comic shops on December 2.