When it was first announced that Greg Pak would be taking the titular barbarian boy at the heart of his "Skaar: Son of Hulk" series out of space and into the heart of both Marvel's Earth and the monthly "Incredible Hulk" comic, more than a few eagle-eyed fans pointed to "Son of Hulk" supporting character Hiro-Kala as a potential second son of Bruce Banner. And while they were right, knowing the identity of the new son didn't necessarily translate into understanding his mad quest as chronicled by the creative team of Paul Jenkins and Andres Guinaldo. Then again, as Jenkins told CBR, even how he came to take on the series, whose 17th and final issue is in stores this week, is a bit mystifying.
"I wasn't sure if it was my kind of material at first, to be quite honest," the writer explained of his initial reaction to the idea of writing a Skaar-less "Son of Hulk." "I like to call my own shots about the stories I write. And then [editor Mark Panniccia] tells me this idea that it could be the other son [who the series follows], and I was a bit more intrigued. Then we had this discussion about whether there could be this thing we did with Hiro-Kala that really turned the character around and turned people's perception of Galactus around and that whole mythology. And then I was really sold. Within this ten-minute conversation with Mark, I was really enthusiastic about it. At that point, I said, 'Now I can write a story I really want to write.'"
The story that grew out of Jenkins excitement has in many ways become the tombstone for the extended cast of "Son of Hulk" and the world the series has inhabited after a power-mad Galactus devoured the homeworld of Hiro-Kala and his tribe. Though, as Jenkins explained, the tumultuous tale came from a place of respect for Pak's similar shake-ups to Hulk's world over the past several years. "I've done Hulk before, and I knew this mythology and really like it. And I've seen Greg's work, and I really like it. I felt like, when Greg was doing 'Planet Hulk' especially, you got a really interesting Hulk. It was a regal anger, with pride and being a big bastard in what he had done. That's a great thing for the Hulk."
Still, without a green-skinned savage in its pages, "Son of Hulk" had to find a new identity fast, both in the figurative story sense and in how it literally re-established who Hiro-Kala was – taking the boy from slave side-character to power-hungry demi-god and possible herald of Galactus. "I saw Hiro-Kala walking around like a little character who was not that important," the writer said, noting that the first spark of the epic about to wrap came from a simple turn in one of Marvel's biggest cosmic features. "Galactus is addicted to the Old Power. So he's basically a crackhead. He's eaten a planet with Old Power cocaine in it, and it flips him out. He goes out into the universe as this real destructive force of nature, devouring everything ahead of him because he wants as many Old Power planets as he can have. He does it to Hiro-Kala's planet first, and Hiro-Kala looks him in the eye and says, 'I'm going to take you out.'
"We always get into this overly big story – who's the biggest? Who's the strongest? Who can beat up Galactus this time? Like, we get Spider-Man beating up Galactus. But this story turns [Hulk's son] into a force of nature and sees if a tiny dude like Hiro-Kala could literally make him pay."
Hiro-Kala's plan involved the young heir to the Hulk's "Green Scar" dynasty taking over a city in the Old Power-embued planet Gaiusar. The war Hiro-Kala helped incite led to massive ruin, several exploding heads, a redirecting of the Old Power itself to draw Galactus out and finally, Hiro-Kala making the unexpected cliffhanger demand that he become the new Herald of Galactus. Jenkins promised that the series' final issue would wrap up all these threads in ways most readers wouldn't expect. "It looks like he's out of his mind and has decided he wants to become a god. He's full of Old Power himself, but there's much more to it than is immediately evident. He's got something he's planning on doing, and we know that what he does is pretty cool. Let's put it this way; by the time we finish, Hiro-Kala will be a very big character in this Hulk world."
Where that leaves the sideline players from the "Son of Hulk" series is unknown, though two vital pieces of the cast have remained in play throughout the series' run in the form of Hiro-Kala's most ardent father-daughter supporters. "Axman Bone buys into it in a second, and Lihla the girl is really into it because she's kind of sinister. She's 12, but she's ambitious and saying, 'I'll be your queen.' I think there's something really sinister about that. But the trick is really what Hiro-Kala has got up his sleeve.
"What I can say is that fans of the title and of the character – from Hulk all the way through to Son of Hulk – are going to get some big surprises about a couple of things. They're going to get a really big surprise about the true nature of the Old Power and what it really is that they didn't see coming. And the most important surprise is what does this little guy who's supposed to be a Messiah and the World-Breaker. He's supposed to be the savior and the destroyer. No one really understands what that means until he makes it clear in the last issue."
Whether the final destination for the series is Hiro-Kala as a Herald or if there's yet another back-stabbing twist up his sleeve, Jenkins said that the character would not see his final fate in the pages of "Son of Hulk," but that the young son would work his way back towards his father's ongoing story when the dual events of "Fall of the Hulks" and "World War Hulks" pick up throughout 2010. "The very thing we set up is supposed to tie right back into the event. When I started writing it, it wasn't intended to, but once we wrote the scripts up and everybody could see it, they said, 'We've got to bring this right back in.' I never really planned for this thing. I just wanted to set Hiro-Kala up so people could see who he becomes. But he's also useful to the event and the future of the Hulk universe."
As for the Jenkins' future in the Marvel Universe, the writer explained that he's about to embark on a string of new projects for the publisher which are in some ways tied to his previous work, not so much in story as they are in theme. "I'm going to do this thing where I go in and out of the Marvel Universe and take each character to do four issues with them, moving from one to the next. At the moment, I'm working on one with Thor, and then it'll depend on which one we want to do next," he said of the in-progress mini-series that will be his follow up to "Captain America: Theater of War," yet will turn far afield of previous "across the universe" publishing projects, like his "Mythos" one-shots. "I feel like I've said as much as I can say about [Captain America], and now I can move into Thor, which is more about belief and faith."
Then again, Jenkins' Cap projects have yielded another gig dealing with the World War II-era characters of Marvel. "On the strength of the war aspect of 'Theater of War,' Tom [Brevoort] called me up and said, 'Okay, this is working. Can you do any kind of war comic?' And so now I'm doing 'Band of Heroes,' which is a big war story."
Neither of his new projects won't see the light of day until a bit later in 2010, but Jenkins expressed the same excitement in their potential as he saw in "Son of Hulk" once he clicked with an idea he liked. "Good stories and characters are what interest me. Sometimes people will ask me at conventions, 'What character do you want to write next?' and I say, 'I don't know, man.' I don't care. All characters could be interesting, and they could all be good. I don't have a hankering to do a Silver Surfer...I mean, I've got a Silver Surfer story I could do, but I'm not going to die if I never do Silver Surfer or whatever."
"Son of Hulk" #17, the series finale, will be in comic shops tomorrow. A trade collection of Jenkins and artist Andres Guinaldo's entire run sees print on January 27 with the title "Hulk: Son of Hulk – Dark Son Rising."