Even while "World War Hulk" turned out, ultimately, to be disappointing, Greg Pak has, over the past several years, created a fantastic Hulk Universe, encompassing everything from Brood Women Warriors to precocious kid geniuses. And though last year's crossover brought Pak's focus back to Earth, mostly in the effortlessly fantastic "Incredible Hercules," his focus returns to Sakaar in this new series.
Fans of "Planet Hulk" will undoubtedly be thrilled to return. Marvel has done a great job of revitalizing the cosmic corners of its universe and Pak did his own share by creating a planet of alien savagery that could also tie together rock people, The Brood, and the Silver Surfer.
Unfortunately, unless you've read "Planet Hulk," a lot of the intrigue under the surface of this issue will be lost on you. "Shadow Priests" and red barbarians don't really appear to be anything more than your average humanoid looking aliens with barely differing characteristics and color. Of course, Sakaar Superfans know quite a bit about these tribes.
It must be said, however, "Planet Hulk" started explaining these sorts of things right at the beginning. There was an instant and pretty darn interesting power struggle that The Hulk landed in. Very little of that tension is present here in the first issue. There's a grumpy and steroidal antagonist and plenty of weak to be defended, but not a lot of the complexity that made "Planet Hulk" such a truly epic and fun story.
Of course, "Skarr" is supposed to be a sequel to that story so, if you haven't finished the first one (like me), you'll just have to settle for a bit of uncertainty. However, you don't need to be a Sakaarohlar to get a kick out of firebreathing lizards, especially when Ron Garney is drawing one.
An inevitability as art production technology advances while comic art itself grows more technically complex, Ron Garney's is the latest in a long and wide swath of pencils-only artwork. Naturally, what works for some, works less well for others. "Skarr" proves that it has as much to do with subject matter as anything else. Garney's similarly pencil-based work on "Wolverine" looked perfect in the stark desert setting of Jason Aaron's gritty "Get Mystique!" Here, however, it just doesn't feel heavy enough to capture "The Savage Planet Of Sakaar." Maybe it would bug me less if Marvel didn't pretend that Pencil-Only art can stand up to Pencils and Inks. Instead of crediting Garney as "Artist," he's still listed only as responsible for "Pencils," daring you to wonder what happened to the "Inks." While there are some great artistic moments (like that firebreathing monster I mentioned), a lot of the art feels too slight, and would have been served very well by a nice crisp line of black ink.
Still, "Skarr" stays true to its roots as a spaceward barbarian story. It's got villagers in peril, it's got dragons, and it's got plenty of burl to go around. I'm just hoping that the stakes are raised as high, eventually, as they were in "Planet Hulk".