When Bruce Banner was transformed into the massive gamma powered engine of destruction known as the Incredible Hulk, he felt truly isolated and alone. While Banner and the Hulk did have a handful of friends, they felt like no one could truly understand what it meant to be them. Recently, that assumption has been proven wrong as several individuals that struggle with feelings of intense rage and massive, gamma enhanced super strength have emerged. For better or worse, the Hulk - and the Marvel Universe -now has a family that includes Skaar, the teenage son of the Hulk and the alien warrior woman Caiera, who grew up on the apocalyptic planet of Sakaar; Banner's cousin Jennifer Walters who is widely known as the Sensational She-Hulk; The Savage She-Hulk is Lyra, the daughter of the Hulk and Thundra, a warrior woman from an alternate future; and the Red She-Hulk, who was recently revealed to be Bruce Banner's wife Betty Banner who the world thought was long dead.
During the recently completed "Fall of the Hulks" and "World War Hulks" storylines, the Hulk family came together first to fight one another, then to battle a conspiracy of a cadre of insidious super geniuses. Now that the family is together, the "Incredible Hulk" title will become "Incredible Hulks" and writer Greg Pak will uses the series to test the familial bonds of the gamma powered clan with two big storylines. The first is "Dark Son," a six part, bi-weekly story that kicks off in September's "Incredible Hulks" #612 and features art work by Brian Ching, Tom Raney, and Barry Kitson. Then in December, Pak and artist Paul Pelletier kick off another new storyline that sends the gamma powered goliaths to the front lines of the "Chaos War." CBR News spoke with Pak about both tales and the dynamic between his ensemble cast of characters.
The transformation of the Hulk's title from a solo book to an ensemble team title brings with it a whole new dynamic, and it's one that has Pak particularly excited. "The great thing about the Hulks is that everybody on the team is an insane powerhouse. They are the strongest there is. There's no team that has as much brute physical force as this group. That doesn't make them the ideal team to send out against certain kinds of dangers and threats, but there are certain threats that only this team can handle," Pak told CBR News. "The challenge of that, of course, is that the Hulks have always been driven by anger. So there is this undercurrent of pure rage [Laughs] just beneath the skin for many of these characters. When you have that much sheer physical power, any expression of anger can be incredibly dangerous, and it's all amped by the fact that just about everyone on this team has some sort of family relationship to everyone else.
"As I've said before, nobody can save you from your anger like members of your family, but also nobody can drive you crazier. So the family connection and those feelings of anger really pump the drama and the stakes up to the highest level. It's an insane amount of fun to write this," Pak exclaimed. "It's also exciting, because the relationships between these characters are growing in some very interesting and surprising ways issue to issue. There is going to be a lot of character development going on, as well a massive amount of Hulk smashing over these next few issues. We're at a great point for new readers to jump on the series because some crazy stuff is starting to develop with this family of Hulks."
"Incredible Hulks" won't just feature the new dynamic of the Hulk family, however. Bruce Banner and his savage alter ego will also be interacting with each other in some new and interesting ways. "At the end of issue #611, which is in stores now and concludes our portion of the 'World War Hulks' storyline, Banner and the Hulk come to a type of understanding. There's something go on with the Hulk and Banner that is different from what we've seen in the past. The dynamic between them has shifted," Pak explained. "The interesting thing, too, is from #601 on, when Banner was not able to turn into the Hulk because of what the Red Hulk had done to him in #600, Banner became a little Hulk-like himself in his attitudes. He became considerably more hardcore and ruthless in the way he was able to take charge and do what he thought had to be done. Of course there are distinctions there, but that also opens up interesting dynamics. Banner was able to get to places and and make things happen on his own, so it will be interesting to see how and he and the Hulk perceive their different roles."
The "Dark Son" storyline involves the Hulk's other half-alien son, Hiro-Kala, returning to Earth to confront both his father and his brother Skaar. Issue #612 sets that arc into motion with sequences that unfold both on Earth and on the planet Kai. "I'm really happy with the way #612 has come together We also have two amazing artists working on this issue in Tom Raney and Brian Ching. Tom is doing the Earth side of the story and Brian is doing the Kai sections of the story. The Kai sides of the story are co-written by Scott Reed who has been writing the Hiro-Kala centric back-ups in recent issues of 'Incredible Hulk.' Scott also wrote the Hiro-Kala centric storyline in the 'Son of Hulk' books," Pak revealed. "This issue has also been a huge amount of fun to write because it features some pretty intense scenes between Red She-Hulk and Bruce Banner. And what Hulk fans aren't interested in finding out what's going with those two characters? The relationship between those two characters has been the central romance of the Hulk's run."
It's currently unclear if any of the other characters in the Hulk family are aware of Hiro-Kala's existence, and his journey to Earth in "Dark Son" is handled in a way where readers don't have to know much about him either. "If you don't know anything about Hiro-Kala, don't worry because everything will be explained in issue #612. It's a perfect jumping on point and everything will be set up and established for you," Pak stated. "The coming of Hiro-Kala will open up a whole new can of worms for all of these characters. Bruce Banner is finally face to face again with his first wife, and he has his son from another woman with him. Then, with Hiro-Kala, another kid showing up, what's that going to be like? Then, on an even deeper level, there's this whole question for the Hulk and for Banner about how they're going to react when they discover what Hiro-Kala is really after and what he's willing to do. We've already seen him deal with a son on what's ultimately been a redemptive journey with Skaar, who came to Earth hellbent on killing the Hulk as payback for what he had thought the Hulk had done; leaving him on Sakaar to be born in fire and raised by monsters.
"So it will be interesting to see what happens with Hiro-Kala, because he's a different creature from Skaar," Pak continued. "Both Skaar and the Hulk are going to have to confront that fact in ways they may or may not be prepared for."
The members of the Hulk family that survive their confrontation with Hiro-Kala will take center stage in the storyline that kicks off in December's "Incredible Hulks" #618 with a tale that spins out of the developments of the "Chaos War" miniseries by Pak and his "Incredible Hercules" writing partner Fred Van Lente.
"The 'Chaos War' storyline is basically the invasion of the Chaos King, who long time 'Incredible Hercules' readers know as Mikaboshi, the Japanese god of Darkness and Chaos. We're basically revealing that he's Chaos itself. In almost every creation story across cultures, there's talk about chaos and darkness, this entropy that existed before the creator created. The Chaos King is the embodiment of that. His deepest desire is to return everything to that fundamental state of chaos and darkness," Pak remarked. "He's a primal and insanely powerful threat, and he's going to do things in the opening salvos of the 'Chaos War' that are going to create a whole new second front in that war. The Hulks are going to be at the forefront of that second front. That is a story that will play out in the 'Incredible Hulks' tie-in issues, #618-620."
The titular team of "Incredible Hulks" get involved in the Chaos War at the behest of former Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Stephen Strange. Longtime Hulk fans know that Strange and the Green Goliath have a deep and complicated history, first as teammates in the original line up of "The Defenders" and years later Strange was part of the "Illuminati" that exiled the Hulk into outer space causing him to crash land on the planet of Sakaar. The duo's last interaction came in "World War Hulk" where the jade giant came back to Earth for revenge upon those responsible for his outer space exile.
"Strange, Banner and the Hulk basically have unfinished business, which will be finished during the course of this storyline. When the Hulk came back to Earth during 'World War Hulk,' Strange was one of his primary targets, which lead to Strange channeling the extra dimensional demon Zom in order to try and fight the Hulk," Pak said. "That storyline featured basically the last encounter the Hulk and Strange have had, so there's a lot for them to grapple with here. And some grappling may be in the offing. So you definitely don't want to miss that."
Pak also hinted that the "Chaos War" tie-in storyline might also feature some interesting interactions between Skaar and Doctor Strange. "During 'World War Hulk,' one of the members of the Warbound (A group of alien gladiators allied with the Hulk) who had the biggest fight with Strange was the Shadow Priest, Hiroim, who was carrier of the old power," Pak explained. "He was one of the few people who could stand up to Strange before the Hulk hit the scene. Now Skaar has the old power, of course, so it will be interesting to see whether or not that has any kind of effect on his interactions with Strange when he sees him."
Doctor Strange has made regular appearances in "New Avengers," and fans of that series know that the good Doctor has gone through a lot since his last run in with the Hulk. The biggest change is that he's no longer Sorcerer Supreme. "Strange has gone through a huge amount since 'World War Hulk.' A lot of it was because of his summoning of Zom, which was a mystical cardinal sin in a lot of ways. He's a person a on a journey of repentance," Pak stated. "The Hulk and Banner don't necessarily know anything about that, though. Also, they don't potentially care about that. [Laughs] So there's a new dynamic here that could play out any number of ways. All I can say is that it's going to be crazy."
When the Hulks go charging into the second front of the Chaos War, they'll come face to face with one of the Chaos King's allies. That ally happens to be a fallen foe of the Hulk who is once again among the land of the living thanks to to the Chaos King's machinations. "This character has history with multiple members of the 'Incredible Hulks' team; major history that also represents unfinished business," Pak revealed. "This character might have exhibited some weakness in the past, but we have no idea the horrors he's capable of now. You're going to see a whole new level of chaos and darkness in association with this character."
"I think one of the things that made 'World War Hulk' so meaty and so much fun in a lot of ways was that every punch was personal," Pak continued. "There was this huge amount of build up to that story that added another level to every battle. This is similar in the sense that all of these fights are going to take place on multiple levels. They're going to matter not just physically, but emotionally. You're in for some monumental clashes that will affect our characters in every way imaginable."
The Hulks' clash with the Chaos King and his lieutenant will be monumental one, attracting the attention of another familiar and very powerful being who will play somewhat of a supporting role in the story. "There is also a massive mighty Marvel abstract entity that is involved in this storyline," Pak revealed. "So if you love the classic cosmic style Marvel story with personifications of these abstract concepts, there's another one in this story besides the Chaos King himself. One of the most important of these abstract entities is going to play a major role in this storyline."
The "Chaos War" storyline will also include all the complex character developments and drama that fans of the series have come to expect. "All of that will be pumped up. The specific nature of what the Chaos King has done is really going to amp up the team that we've been following through the 'Incredible Hulk'. So if you are compelled by the character developments have no fear," Pak remarked. "The 'Chaos War' tie-in absolutely augments that. The reason I wanted to tie-in this book was because I saw a way to tell an insane story that will absolutely further this emotional story that we've been following in the 'Incredible Hulks' book."
Penciler Paul Pelletier who helped Pak bring to life the "World War Hulks" storyline, makes his triumphant return to "Incredible Hulks" with the "Chaos War" tie-in, and Pak couldn't be more stoked. "I am so happy that we can finally announce this. Paul has been such an amazing partner along with Danny Miki on inks and Frank D'Armata on colors. That whole art team just did incredible work, and I think fans have really responded. Issue #611 was a tour de force. Paul does exactly what needs to be done in the sense that he can bring on the smash, but also reach right into these characters and pull out the emotional core that is there without over doing it," Pak remarked. "I always say that pencilers are the actors. Actors can take a script and run with it in all kinds of different ways. It's the same thing with pencilers, but the great pencilers are like great actors and they know when less is more. They know about quiet moments and how incredibly powerful a poignant moment can be. Paul just delivers time and time again. He gives us those quiet moments just when they need to happen, and the result is just this huge emotional impact.
"I've never gotten as much Twitter love for an issue as 'Incredible Hulk' #611. The thing that people kept twittering was 'I think that I got something in my eye while I was reading that book. [Laughs] It choked people up, and Paul's performance on the book was a huge part of that," Pak continued. "So I'm thrilled that we're keeping him busy. The day he finished 'Incredible Hulk' #611, he started working on issues of 'Incredible Hulks.' He's staying on as a Hulk artist ,and already the pages that he's turned in for these books are just amazing. If you've liked what you've seen in 'World War Hulks,' you're going to love what's coming."
Pak knows that with the shape of the economy, crossover tie-ins can be tough on readers' wallets, which is why the "Chaos War" issues of "Incredible Hulks" and the event itself have been designed to give readers both a self-contained and a supplemental experience. "If all you're reading is the 'Incredible Hulks' book, you're going to get a full story. Just keep on reading the book and you're going to get everything that you ever wanted from your Hulk book. Similarly with the 'Chaos War' book, if all you want to read is 'Chaos War,' that's all you have to read. We're writing these things so that they stand on their own. You're going to get a full, satisfying story by reading either part. It is worth noting for Hulk completists, though, that the Hulks will also play a big role in the final issues of 'Chaos War.'"
During his three and a half years writing the Hulk and the other characters from the gamma irradiated corner of the Marvel Universe, Pak has been creating a mini epic that he recently realized was all about family. In the coming months, those familial themes and ideas will come to a head in "Incredible Hulks."
"These are stories about a guy who has always said he just wants to be left alone, but throughout all these storylines, that guy has done nothing but involve himself with all kinds of people. In 'Planet Hulk' he bonded with the Warbound, fell in love with Caiera the Old Strong and fathered a child. From there on, he's been dealing with this clear desire to bond with others; to build this family and at the same time deal with the terrible risks and repercussions of entering into those relationships when you're an emotional wild card and loose cannon. So the recent 'Fall of the Hulks' and 'World War Hulks' stories have been all about the Hulk and Bruce Banner trying to save his beloved Betty and reconcile with his son Skaar. Those two things have been incredibly hard for him to juggle and will continue to be a struggle," Pak said. "They are two different parts of his life that he's trying to reconcile. These are the huge themes that I've been building since the beginning, and I will say that moving forward, we are entering the end game of these family centric themes. So things are definitely coming to a climax, which is very exciting. It's been a heck of a journey and I'm just thrilled that we have all these stories to explore this great character."