By Marc Strom
Writer Jeph Loeb and artist John Romita, Jr. help kick off the biggest Hulk story yet on December 23 with FALL OF THE HULKS: GAMMA #1, delivering a shattering blow to Bruce Banner's world and sending his extended family on a path to destruction.
"GAMMA is a complete game changer for the Hulk," touts Loeb. "There's a murder that ignites the Intelligencia's plans to become the dominant force in the Marvel U. Bigger than Norman Osborn in the current climate. In turn, Banner and Red Hulk make a shocking choice intended to counter the Intelligencia which triggers the Fall of the Hulks. So, as you can tell, it all starts here!"
Before that, though, Marvel.com spoke with Loeb about some of the stalwart members in Bruce Banner's supporting cast who, in Loeb's words, will "play a crucial role" in the coming events.
The first She-Hulk and Banner's cousin, Walters has always managed to keep a cooler head than the original Green Goliath. Also a lawyer and former Avenger, Jen's smarts could prove invaluable to the Hulks as they set out on their war against the Intelligencia-if they can find her, of course.
"Where is Jen?" wonders Loeb. "She went off the grid in INCREDIBLE HULK #600. Red She-Hulk has shown up, but no Jen. Her life-and perhaps her death-will play a crucial role in what's to come."
The Hulk's son from the planet Sakaar only recently arrived on Earth for a reunion with his father, but has already made an impact on his adoptive planet. With the help of a de-powered Banner, Skaar has learned quite a bit about controlling his powers and using them to the benefit of the planet-but can anyone truly control Skaar?
"Another big wildcard," notes Loeb. "What I like best about Skaar is that he doesn't play by any rules. He's a barbarian compared to the rest of them, but a skilled warrior too. The question is how long can Banner keep a leash on him before Skaar takes matters into his own hands-and sword?"
The young teenager whose actions contributed to the Hulk's creation in the first place recently received a monstrous alter-ego of his own as he transformed into the brutal A-Bomb. Though readers haven't seen much of him since his initial run-in with the Red Hulk, given his history with Banner, Jones would be one of the first to answer Bruce's call to arms.
"Banner's life was changed forever when he saved Rick's life, got exposed to the Gamma Radiation and turned into the Hulk," recounts Loeb. "Now Banner can't become the Hulk and Rick, having become A-Bomb, is a member of the 'strongest there is' pack. But given where Rick got his powers-the Intelligencia-he's a wildcard in what's to come."
One of the Hulk's oldest enemies, General "Thunderbolt" Ross has made it his life's work to bring Bruce Banner and his Gamma-irradiated alter ego down for good. His connection to the Intelligencia's conspiracy and the creation of the Red Hulk remains partially shrouded in mystery, but he'll surely have something to say in the coming story.
"[Ross] dedicated his whole life to destroying the Hulk," reminds Loeb. "He's clearly part of the conspiracy with M.O.D.O.K. and the creation of the Red Hulk. The question is can he continue to ally himself with 'people' of such questionable moral character? And is his sole motive to kill the Hulk? Here's a little spoiler: This isn't the first time that Ross and M.O.D.O.K. were allied..."
Once one of the most trust-worthy, dependable and intelligent of the emerald crowd, Samson has experienced a number of changes in recent months, having been taken over by a more diabolic aspect of his personality and assembling a team to put the Red Hulk out of commission. With everything he's gone through, his alliances have to come under question.
"As you'll see in HULK #18 [on sale December 16], the Good Doctor is out," teases Loeb. "Samson, as he calls himself, is the 'Hyde' aspect of Leonard's personality. He's extremely dangerous-maybe the most dangerous one of our cast."
Another of the Hulk's greatest foes and a member of the Intelligencia, the group responsible for many of Banner's troubles in the past two years, the Leader might have finally come up with a plan to accomplish what he's desired for so many years: the total destruction of the Hulk.
"Like his name implies, [the Leader is] very much at the tip of the conspiracy," remarks Loeb. "Brilliant. Ruthless. Hates Banner. Hates anyone who will interfere in what's to come. Unfortunately, that includes the Red Hulk at this point. But, as we've learned with Red, don't take what he's doing at face value."
Leaving off, Loeb reminds readers to check out a number of other issues to see the events that lead directly to FALL OF THE HULKS GAMMA and, in turn, the largest Hulk story ever told:
"Don't forget to get HULK #18 and FALL OF THE HULKS: ALPHA #1 along with FALL OF THE HULKS: GAMMA #1 and INCREDIBLE HULK #605. The biggest Hulk event ever has been in the works since World War Hulk, and this is bigger than that!"
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