By Jim Beard
It's out-and-out war and Hulked-up writers Jeph Loeb and Greg Pak find themselves at the heart of the conflict.
It began in WORLD WAR HULKS #1, but on May 12, HULK #22 and INCREDIBLE HULK #609 draw the line of demarcation between the past and future of The Hulk. Right now, the future looks dark for Bruce Banner, his allies and his incredible foes.
"We are reaching the climax of the story that Greg Pak and I have been working on since 'Planet Hulk,'" says Loeb. "This sparked with the introduction of the Red Hulk, who he is, what he wants and now it is all starting to pay off. We know that the Intelligencia, led by M.O.D.O.K. and The Leader, are making their final move to take over the United States thinking they can make the world a better place. Now it is up to the unlikely alliance of Bruce Banner and Red Hulk to stop them.
"There are only two big problems: Banner has been captured and Red is about to get smashed by the gamma-radiated Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men!"
"The triumph of the Leader and M.O.D.O.K. at the end of Fall of the Hulks is the launching point for everything that happens in World War Hulks," Pak adds. "To be specific, at the end of INCREDIBLE HULK #608, we left Bruce Banner unconscious on a slab alongside the other captured geniuses with his brain connected to a creepy, mysterious machine run by The Leader. In #609, we'll reveal exactly what The Leader's doing with that machine and what's happening with all of the geniuses connected to it. We'll also confront the question of whether The Leader may have just given Banner the greatest gift of his life-enormous temptations and massive decisions will ensue! Along with hijinks, of course."
As both writers note, Bruce Banner, the original Hulk, lies at the center of this massive story. From near-brainless monster to intelligent hero and back again, Banner's been through the wringer. Will World War Hulks prove a resting place for his weary head?
"Banner's head is in The Leader's machine," replies Pak. "And he might just like it there. What that has to do with the green Hulk will be revealed in the pages of INCREDIBLE HULK #609-and, if the cover's any indication, will come to a head in #610."
"Right now, he's in a lot of trouble," Loeb says. "But as we've seen, Banner is a very resourceful guy. He's not the wimpy nerd we've seen in the past. Don't bet against him!"
Pak cites "big reveals" as the reason he's most excited about the first salvos of World War Hulks, and his partner-in-Hulks concurs with a few delicious details.
"HULK #23 will be a double-sized issue that finally blows the lid off the origin of the Red Hulk," Loeb vows. "I'm super-stoked to be working with artists who all have had a big impact on The Hulk: Adam Kubert, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema, Tim Sale, Ian Churchill, John Romita Jr., Mike Deodato, Leinil Yu and of course, my co-conspirator, Ed 'Ed' McGuinness. Just fantastic stuff!"
But when focusing on HULK #22, the coolness simply overwhelms him, making it difficult to narrow down what peaks his excitement most among Red Hulk's challenges in the issue.
"Wow," answers Loeb. "That's a hard choice. When you've got Thor on a rampage I think that's the scariest of all. But as we've seen, the Red Hulk doesn't fear anybody-and that just might get him killed!"
Over in INCREDIBLE HULK #609, Pak emphasizes the upcoming trials and tribulations for Bruce Banner and his wayward son, Skaar, respectively.
"Both are purely emotional," he says of their plights. "But one's all physical and one's all mental. I ain't saying which, but if you're reeeeally smart, I bet you can guess.
"Also, Doctor Doom is critical to INCREDIBLE HULK" #609, and INCREDIBLE HULK #609 may just be critical to Doom. If you care at all about Doom in the Marvel Universe, you will not want to miss this issue."
In the end, both men stand ready to tell this most powerful Hulk tale of them all.
"I've been waiting two years to write the showdown that's coming," explains Pak. "Everything's about to pay off on the most massive scale imaginable."
"Hopefully, it that will all tie together," Loeb says of his World War Hulks wish. "That this mad wild ride that Greg and I have been taking you on and the secrets that will be revealed will be fun and satisfying. It won't be from lack of trying!"
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