By TJ Dietsch
Greg Pak’s five-year tenure writing The Hulk will conclude later this year with a story entitled “Heart of the Monster,” which kicks off in June’s INCREDIBLE HULK #610. The arc finds the Hulk dealing with the extended family he has put together over the last year including Skaar, Red She Hulk, A-Bomb and the rest as well as a mysterious event that pushes him over the edge.
“One of the ongoing questions regarding The Hulk is whether he's a hero or a monster,” Pak poses. "'Planet Hulk' was really the story of a monster learning how to be a hero, unleashing the hero within. Later, starting with the 'Son of Banner' storyline that began in INCREDIBLE HULK #601, we explored the notion of whether the real monster inside the Hulk might be [Bruce] Banner. During the course of 'Heart of the Monster,' we'll take the theme to its climax with shocking revelations that no Hulk fan will want to miss. For now, I'll just say that what we think we want may have nothing to do with what our hearts truly desire.”
Over the past few years, family has become an important issue for the Green Goliath as he amassed a series of fellow monsters more complex than their outer appearance might suggest. Of course, having people you care about can be considered a liability, giving enemies something to exploit. Pak coyly explains that family definitely plays a part in Hulk and Bruce Banner losing their cool and cutting loose.
“It relates to these themes of family,” Pak says of the looming conflict. “Just maybe not in the way you might expect. I will say that for the last year, The Hulk has heroically struggled to control himself and his terrible anger in order to protect his family. But at a certain point during the course of this story, The Hulk will absolutely cut loose. Whether that marks the beginning of his greatest triumph or most searing tragedy remains to be seen. So I highly recommend contacting your local comics shop and pre-ordering every last issue!”
Pak promises that the story will not only wrap up existing plot elements like Hulk's relationship with his patchwork clan, but also reintroduce a series of familiar allies and enemies.
“Amadeus Cho, She-Hulk, A-Bomb and a surprise femme fatale from The Hulk's past will have particularly important roles to play,” the writer promises. “But The Hulk's going to be front and center throughout the story, facing challenges that only the strongest and angriest one there is has a chance of overcoming. It's also worth mentioning that if you peek at the amazing covers that Paul Pelletier has drawn, you'll get a preview of some of the classic Hulk antagonists who we'll meet during the course of our story. Each of these villains presents unique challenges—and even temptations—to The Hulk in this final battle.”
No stranger to the world of Hulk, himself, Pelletier first worked on the Jade Giant back in 1993 with INCREDIBLE HULK #412. He also rendered a few issues of the most recent SHE-HULK volume, drew FALL OF THE HULKS: ALPHA #1 in 2009 and became the regular INCREDIBLE artist with #605.
“I cannot get enough of Paul's work,” Pak says. “He brings the smash like no one else. But he's also a phenomenal 'actor,' bringing out any humor with just the right touch and absolutely nailing every little emotional nuance. I always know he's going to totally understand the emotional point of a scene and absolutely deliver every big and little character moment. I feel amazingly lucky to have been able to work with him on all of these Hulk stories—and I hope to keep my claws in him as long as I can!”
Before moving on to his next project, though, Pak discussed the evolution of his run with Bruce Banner and his alter ego, stemming from the epic Planet Hulk through World War Hulk and beyond.
“I won't pretend to have had everything lined up from the very beginning,” he confesses. “But somewhere in the middle of writing 'Planet Hulk,' I realized that the end of the story provided a beautiful opportunity to create a Son of Hulk, who eventually became Skaar. And as characters like Red She-Hulk and A-Bomb became available, these big themes of family began to take concrete form. From the beginning, 'Planet Hulk' was about a monster becoming a hero, about a character who just wanted to be left alone forming bonds with friends and a commitment to a community. Expanding that sense of responsibility to family members and exploring the monumental consequences was a natural and exciting next step.”
When it came to the decision to end his tenure on Hulk, Pak realized that the themes and ideas he started playing with back in 2006 had run their course. That doesn't mean it made for an easy decision though.
“I absolutely love the character,” he maintains. “And I love all of the supporting cast members we've built for him over the past five years. But as it became clearer that the big themes I've been working on all this time were coming to a massive head, I realized this was the place to step off. It's actually a pretty special opportunity to create a real ending in serial comics, and embracing it felt like the best way to be true to the story and the character.”For more news, live reports, photos, videos and more from the 2011 Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, stay tuned to Marvel.com all weekend! And to really keep up, download the Marvel Live Event App!