Since the beginning of Marvel Comics' back-to-back Hulk events "Fall of the Hulks" and "World War Hulks" last winter, fans have seen gamma-irradiated denizens of the Marvel U depowered and repowered, revealed and reviled. But the one over-arcing question for the Hulk-centric epic was exactly which character would carry on the torch of the tormented smasher when all was said and done. The answer that came today was simple: a lot of characters would.
Marvel announced this morning that starting in September's issue #612, the marquee Hulk title will undergo a slight name change, becoming the plural "Incredible Hulks," and will feature a team of gamma giants facing off against the earthbound son of Hulk, Hiro-Kala, for a six-part, bi-weekly arc titled "Dark Son." The story will start with regular "Incredible" writer Greg Pak teaming with Marvel newcomer and recent "Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk" writer Scott Reed in issues #612 and 613 for a two-part backup feature bringing Hiro-Kala into the larger Hulk picture while the Earth team is assembled in the main feature.
CBR News spoke with Pak as well as Reed for the early word on how "Dark Son" will come together from which heroes will be standing when "World War Hulks" wraps, which artists will tackle the early issues of the arc and how exactly the newfound "Hulk family" will react to the return of the angered son that is Hiro-Kala.
CBR News: It certainly seems like you've got a lot going on in this new arc – especially considering all that's been going on in the past year. Although I think the change that's going to pique the most interest is the ever so slight title change on the way. Before we get into everything else, whose idea was it to pluralize the book to "Incredible Hulks," and how will that change affect the tone and direction of the series in the wake of "World War Hulks"?
Greg Pak: As I recall, credit goes to Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, who had a vision of a team of Hulks unleashed upon the Marvel Universe. That fit in beautifully with what I'd been planning to do with the Hulk, Red She-Hulk and Skaar, and we were off to the races. When you look at the thematic big picture, I love it because we're talking about the Hulk, a guy who's consistently insisted he just wants to be left alone. Put him in a team book – particularly with a team made up of so many family members – and the potential for deep character conflict, development, and drama is endless.
I know that Greg and Mr. Jeph Loeb have played the fate of Bruce Banner and the Green Hulk close to the vest as the current event has wound its way towards the big finale. Although, with so many new characters added to the line of late, it certainly seems you'll have your pick of Hulks to play with in the book. At this stage in the game, who can you say will be a part of "Incredible Hulks" aside from the titular Dark Son that is Hiro-Kala?
Pak: Let's take a peek at that gorgeous cover by beloved "Planet Hulk" artist Carlo Pagulayan, shall we? Looks like Green Hulk, Red She-Hulk, Skaar, She-Hulk, A-Bomb, and Korg are on for the ride. Wife, son, cousin, best friend and Warbound. Can't get much closer than that. And that very closeness is likely to precipitate some Hulk-sized drama. I'll just say that at least one of these teammates is a massive wild-card who has the potential to destroy everything the Hulk hopes to preserve during this storyline.
Speaking of the second Sakaarson, the last time we saw Hiro-Kala was in the "Realm of Kings" series Scott wrote, and man, that series had some crazy pieces of Marvel history colliding in it. Scott, for folks who haven't been able to catch up with you yet, how did you land that first Marvel gig, and what was it that made you want to pull in things like the Microverse and Queen Jarella's world of Ka'i into Hiro-Kala's narrative?
Scott Reed: [Editor] Mark [Paniccia] had read my previous work, "The Overman," and he seemed to think I could be a good match for what he was planning. I had a lot of freedom with the miniseries, but many of the pieces were placed in front of me and Mark basically said, "Make this thing work." So, after I stopped panicking about that, I realized there was a story forming here that I could enjoy writing. I also decided pretty quickly that there was something special with Hiro-Kala, the Microverse characters and Jarella's world that could be explored on another level.
Greg, this is the latest in collaborative writing for you after working closely with both Fred Van Lente and Jeph Loeb. What was it about Scott's sensibilities made him a good partner to tell this bi-weekly story, and how has the work been dividing up between you guys so far?
Pak: Scott has been delving deeper than anyone into Hiro-Kala's character and adventures for the past few months, so it made sense that we'd co-write the Hiro-Kala centric parts of "Incredible Hulk" #612 and #613. It's been a blast. It's a real gift to have the chance to see a character you created through the eyes of another writer. Scott's always bringing in elements that show me new ways to think about this character and the insane worlds from which he comes.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to get a "it's a secret!" here, but can you guys reveal who'll be drawing the arc once the story gets underway?
Pak: Brian Ching is bringing wild, cosmic imagination to the Hiro-Kala half of #612 and #613 and Tom Raney is gloriously smashing through the Hulk-centric half. We'll have a big announcement about who picks up with #614 some time later.
I see! Well, then let's talk about the building blocks of the story. Like I said, we last saw Hiro-Kala at the end of the "Realm of Kings" arc where he was pulled from the people he'd traveled with for a while and rocketed back towards earth. As he arrives here, what is he looking to get out of his reunion with his brother and his father?
Pak: In previous stories, Hiro-Kala has been pretty clear that he's bound and determined to destroy the Old Power, which he believes, if left unchecked, will ultimately destroy the universe. Of course, his brother Skaar happens to be the biggest Old Power channeler around. So it seems that horrific conflict is inevitable here. But Hiro-Kala's about to undergo some pretty shocking experiences in "Incredible Hulk" #612 and #613 that might throw some of his motivations into question. And, of course, everything could be up for grabs when he finally meets his brother – and especially the father he never knew. Both the Hulk and Skaar are undergoing some developments of their own at the end of "World War Hulks" that will have an impact on all of this as well. (In other words, keep buying all my books, please!)
The thing that really stuck with me about Hiro-Kala's solo stories is that, while our boy is definitely willing to let any means justify his ends, he has fought often for the safety of others and taken actions that are downright selfless. In short, it's not too easy to paint him with one brush. Still...considering the somewhat secret nature of his past triumphs, will the Hulks of earth be able to see him as anything but a villain?
Pak: Nobody's been called a monster more than Bruce Banner, so he may be in an excellent position to see the boy – or maybe even the hero – behind the monster in Hiro-Kala. That being said, Banner's also very well known for an incredible amount of self-hatred precisely because of the monster he's seen inside himself. Banner's ability to deal with his son may end up relying on just how he's dealt with his own savage history. And there's also the question of all of the other members of the Hulks team. Each of them has his or her own motivations and moral and ethical limits that may throw them into conflict as the options for dealing with each other and Hiro-Kala narrow.
So in issue #611 we're establishing the new ensemble for the series and crashing Hiro-Kala into the party. How does the conflict between the two shape up over the course of this big, six-issue arc? What's at stake and what pieces of Hulk mythology might come in to play after so many of the big names saw screentime in "World War Hulks"?
Pak: All of the relationships between the various Hulks are at stake here. I'm finally having the chance to explore the Bruce-Betty dynamic, and I'm loving every minute of it. And Skaar is entering an entirely new phase in his life that may come as a shock to readers and will have a big impact on how he faces Hiro-Kala when the time comes.
In terms of the Marvel Universe, we'll also see how the Hulks are viewed by and interact with the other heroes. Steve Rogers and the Secret Avengers play a big role as the story begins. And, who knows, some smashing might be involved...
Overall, how does the "Dark Son" arc fit into the future of the Hulk as a franchise? What shape would you like to see these books in throughout the story and in its wake?
Pak: From the beginning of "Planet Hulk," we started building major family ties for a hero who has for years insisted he just wants to be left alone. "World War Hulks" and now "Dark Son" bring that big theme of family to a head. It's a rich playground for Hulk stories because the Hulk is all about anger. And no one can make you angrier than your family. Of course, no one can save you from your anger like your family. So there's huge potential here for both tragedy...and redemption. I don't want to tip my hand too much, but "Dark Son" is where we begin the endgame for some of these huge themes I've been working with from the beginning.
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