"May he who dies... die well."
"Never stop making them pay."
The storyline centers on the Hulk, naturally. After a fight between The Hulk and The Thing leaves Las Vegas in ruins and kills two dozen people (later retconned), members of the Illuminati—specifically Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt—decided that The Hulk was too dangerous to leave on Earth. Their solution: Send Hulk to a peaceful planet with no intelligent life so he could not hurt anyone, finally granting the green behemoth his wish of being left alone.
Of course, everything goes horribly wrong. The Hulk, who is understandably upset at this turn of events, damages his spaceship; this sends it off-course and into a wormhole. The ship crash lands on the alien planet Sakaar, which is very full of intelligent life—none of which is friendly. Weakened by his trip through the "Great Portal" (as the locals call it), The Hulk is implanted with an obedience disk that forces him to obey commands, then sent to an arena to fight for his freedom.
This storyline is very popular amongst Hulk fans, in part because it gives the not-so-jolly green giant some actual character development for the first time in years. (Stories prior to this one focused on either Bruce Banner or Banner in The Hulk's body.)
Planet Hulk was later adapted into an animated film with the same title; it changed and condensed several aspects of the story (and removed a few characters completely). Despite the changes, it is still considered one of the better Marvel animated films. It is also one of the more violent Marvel movies, thanks to visible displays of blood and a few graphic deaths.
The ending of Planet Hulk led directly into the World War Hulk storyline. Secret Wars (2015) features a Planet Hulk mini-series in which Steve Rogers and Devil Dinosaur journey into Greenland, a region of Battleworld populated by Hulks.
The story is revisited for the Marvel Legacy era in "Return to Planet Hulk" as part of the title rebranding of Amadeus Cho's Totally Awesome Hulk back into The Incredible Hulk as Amadeus is brought to Sakaar unknowingly by those seeking the Worldbreaker.
The Planet Hulk storyline includes the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Elloe grows into this after initial reluctance, and Caiera duels Hulk to a standstill in the animated movie. Both are Dark Action Girls, to an extent.
- Action Survivor: Both Elloe and Miek start out this way before growing into badasses in their own right.
- All There in the Manual: Planet Hulk: Gladiator Guidebook, a special written by Greg Pak in the style of The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe, detailing information about the Planet Sakaar, its people, its political situation, and the characters featured in Planet Hulk.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: In addition to the big green guy himself, you also have the Sakaar Imperials who have pink skin and the Shadow People who have grey skin. The latter are not native to Sakaar.
- An Axe to Grind: The Hulk favored axes as his main weapon. He dropped them for a sword (that he made himself) in "World War Hulk", but promotional art shows him with an axe as well.
- Anti-Hero: Hulk himself rates as a fairly strong antihero in this storyline, at times pushing Type IV.
- Anyone Can Die: The Lancer who forms the band of True Companions, the love interest, and a young child whom a significant amount of time is spent protecting all die in the story.
- Arc Words: "This is the story of the Hulk, and how he finally came home."
- Asskicking Equals Authority: This is more or less how Sakaar runs: Though a mixture of hereditary succession, and proving you're the baddest mofo' on the planet. Hulk eventually defeats the Red King, and ends up king himself.
- Badass Boast: The Hulk gives one so epic, it's broadcast across all of Sakaar:
- Badass Normal: Elloe. Imperials are apparently equal to humans, and Elloe because of her training is the equivalent of an Olympic level athlete; she's still able to fight evenly against Miek after he transforms into a Hive King.
- Barbarian Hero: The Hulk becomes one as the story goes on.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: After a fight between the Hulk and the Thing leaves Las Vegas in ruins and a dozen people dead, the Illuminati - specifically Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt (Professor X wasn't present and Namor voted no) - decided that Hulk was too dangerous to be allowed on Earth, so they came up with a plan to send him to a peaceful world with no intelligent life. The green behemoth always wanted to be left alone, why not grant his wish? Of course, everything goes horribly wrong.
- Blood Knight: A running theme is the inner conflict between Hulk's desire to be left alone and his blood knight tendencies.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Sure, Red King. Tell Caiera you were responsible for the Spikes that killed her family in the past and a village of his own people in the present and then expect her to remain loyal to you. That will end well.
- Boxing Lessons for Superman: Hulk was forced to learn some new techniques to keep up with the other gladiators. Though he seems to learn them very quickly: In his first gladiator battle, he already cut the Red King's cheek:Hulk: Hulk slash.
- Brought Down to Badass: Denied access to his Power Cosmic and weakened by the portal, the Silver Surfer is still able to battle the Hulk and his Warbound—and dominate the fight—until the disk is broken.
- The Caligula: The Red King.
- Cerebus Retcon: The entire reason the Illuminati decide to send the Hulk into space is because he accidentally killed some civilians during a fight with the Thing. The fight in question occurred in Fantastic Four #533-535, and actually came to a peaceful resolution, with no civilian casualties mentioned at the time. There were even jokey moments showing civilians placing bets on the outcome of the fight, a far cry from the tragic incident the event would later be painted as.
- Continuity Cavalcade: This comic has numerous nods to older stories, two in particular:
- The Warbound members telling their stories, which includes nods to the X-Men battling the Brood, Thor's original adventure, and Hulks first transformation as a gray Hulk.
- "Banner War", where the Hulk dreams first of defeating the beasts of Jarella's world and nearly marrying her, then of the Warbound beating up all the heros whom Hulk sees as his tormentors, complete with Miek stabbing The Sentry for making the Hulk sleep in his kitchen.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The "Sakaarson" and "Worldbreaker" concepts are rather similar to the idea of Christ and the Anti-Christ that's popular in many works about Christianity. Also many adherents to the faith refer to "The Prophet" who supposedly foretold all of this, potentially an allusion to either Jesus or Mohammad. The Red King's father was believed by many to be the Sakaarson; the Red King believed himself to be the Sakaarson (though many believed him to be the Worldbreaker); Hiroim believed himself to be the Sakaarson in his youth, but later started believing that the concepts of the Sakaarson and the Worldbreaker were metaphorical. Many believed the Hulk to be the Sakaarson (a belief Hiroim exploited to rally support for the rebellion) while some, including Miek, believed the Hulk to be the Worldbreaker.
- Interestingly, the Silver Surfer was mistaken to be the Sakaarson, or as in Hiroim's first assumption, painted in the fashion of him. This would imply that the prominent beliefs about the Sakaarson would be that he would either have a grey or silver body.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Pretty much the whole Warbound, but also the Spikes, who are mostly children unable to overcome their hunger.
- The Brood is an especially vivid example of this: She looks incredibly evil and monstrous, yet she is one of Hulk's staunchest and most reasonable allies—and one of only two who never starts shit with him in any way. She even plays with some kids.
- Debate and Switch: Zigzagged. The arc raises the ethical concerns of exiling a person to another planet (even an unstable Person of Mass Destruction), and especially doing so without any sort of trial or due process. The goal was to send the Hulk to a "paradise" world where no one would ever hurt him, he'd finally be alone as he always wanted, and have plenty of food. In the main timeline, the Hulk ended up on the wrong planet and the new personality that emerged (the Green Scar) developed a preference for that sort of Death World. Then that planet blew up, ending the debate of whether or not the Hulk/Banner would have been happier there. The What If? for Planet Hulk shows the Hulk's original destination would've been a good place to live, but Banner would still have done his best to signal for rescue. In the end, he would have decided to stay because of a unanticipated factor - namely, discovering a species that was on the road to developing full consciousness, and deciding to serve as their hidden protector as they evolved into humanoid form. However, it doesn't address the initial question of whether it was right to exile the Hulk in the first place.
- Destructive Saviour: The Hulk literally played the dualistic roles of Savior and Destroyer.
- Determinator: The Hulk, of course, but Miek as well, who cut off one of his arms to get out of a bind.
- Downer Ending: The Hulk is just not allowed to have a happy life, is he?
- The Dragon: Caiera the Oldstrong served as the Dragon to the Red King before her HeelFace Turn.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: This is a major threat for the planet Sakaar. The Chekhov's Gun finally goes off in Skaar Son Of Hulk, as Galactus devours Sakaar.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Red King's name is Angmo-Asan. He's never referred to as such throughout the story.
- Extremophile Lifeforms: The spikes are a race resembling the symbiotes, who naturally float in the vacuum of space and feed off cosmic radiation. They're usually peaceful, but become starved and aggressive in terrestrial atmospheres and become parasite zombies.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Lavin Skee, after being mortally wounded:Hiroim: Hold still. I'm a shadow-priest; you'll want a prayer.
Lavin: No, I want a sword.
- Fantastic Racism: The three main races on Sakaar, the Imperials, the Shadows, and the Natives, have varying degrees of prejudice between them, mostly between Imperials and Natives, though Imperials who believe they're an offshoot of the Shadow species tend to think they're superior due to being further evolved.
- Fashionable Asymmetry: The Hulk's gladiator attire.
- Fertile Blood: A major element in Planet Hulk, as Hulk's blood creating life gives greater proof that the Hulk is indeed the prophesied Sakaarson, savior of the world of Sakaar.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The Hulk and the other slaves became friends after experiencing great challenges together as gladiators, and their first moments of cohesion are in the volcanic gladiator training camp, thus being almost literally fire forged. The second day of the gladiator games and the death of Lavin Skee prompts Hiroim to make them Warbound: comrades for life. In-universe, the term "Warbound" explicitly invokes this trope, having fought side-by-side they have bonded and become bound together.
- Foreshadowing: Red King drops a bomb on Caiera as she cradles a child in her arms; her oldstrong powers let her survive the blast, but the child turns to ash in her arms, triggering her HeelFace Turn. This mirrors her own death in the Hulk's arms at the end of the comic, triggering his FaceHeel Turn going into World War Hulk.
- Even before that, in the start of this particular arc, Namor called the Illuminati out, not only on their failure to cure Banner of his condition, but also on the possible consequences of Hulk coming back.
- Forging Scene: The arc ends with the Hulk and Hiroim forging the sword Hulk would go on to use in World War Hulk. This is done with the Book Ends narration "This is the story of the Hulk... and how he finally came home." over a shot of the Hulk pointing his still cooling sword at an image of Earth on the screen.
- Fragile Speedster: Miek pre-transformation.
- Fourth-Date Marriage: The Hulk and Caiera hit it off pretty fast in Planet Hulk. The exact amount of time is hard to pin down but it doesn't seem more than a few weeks, though they are engaged in some fairly intense flirting during their second meeting. It didn't last long, though.
- Gladiator Games
- Hulk Speak: Averted, but it was explained as a NEW version of the Hulk known as the Green Scar, who was able to tap into Banner's intellect to some degree as far as basic intelligence and strategizing (necessary for his survival on the hostile world). The Green Scar is essentially the classic Savage Hulk (who has the mind of a small child) all grown up.
- The animated adaptation of Planet Hulk subverts this, with Hulk talking like this for a few early sentences, but speaking fluent English for the rest of the film.
- I Choose to Stay: Silver Surfer offers to take Hulk back to Earth. Hulk refuses, recounting that the first time he ever saw the Surfer, he thought he was a spaceship, and wanted to make him take him to an alien world away from the humans. Now, he's finally there. This is a big moment in the story because up until this point, the Hulk's motivation was "Smash Red King, get off this rock, smash Earth.", and this showed that he was letting go of revenge. Of course, this was at the half way point...
- Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid: The Hulk wades around in lava several times throughout the story as if it were water (he does get burned early on while his powers are weakened, though). During the climactic fight against the Red King, he dives beneath Sakaar's tectonic plates and shifts them back into place to stop an earthquake.
- The Load: Miek, at first.
- Mr. Fanservice: In universe, Lavin Skee.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Caiera; it's revealed in a flashback in Skaar: Son of Hulk that her obedience disk was removed when she was still a child; her oath to be the Red King's shadow was all that bound her to his service.
- The Nameless: Brood doesn't have a name, and is referred to only as No-name or Brood throughout the story.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Hulk and the rest of the Warbound (apart from Elloe), initially. The latter comes around, though Hulk himself takes a bit longer.
- The Oathbreaker : Hiroim the Shamed is called so for having renounced a previous Warbond pact before joining the Hulk's.
- Perma-Shave: Averted. The Hulk sported stubble all throughout the arc.
- Pet the Dog: Twice for Brood: when she tells a tale to some children using little figures and, later, when she ends up running a daycare.
- Powered Armor: How the Red King fights.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Warbound. The Hero is a monster exiled from his own world by his best friends because of his Unstoppable Rage. The Lancer was a celebrated general who was exiled from his people as a heretic. The Big Guy was a would-be alien conqueror who was forced to kill his own brother. Miek is an unhived, exiled from his own people. Brood is the last survivor of a brood hive destroyed by the X-Men. Elloe was a former noble whose father was executed in front of her. Caiera is the former right hand of a despot.
- Red Baron: The Red King. Also, the Hulk is most commonly referred to by his gladiator name, the Green Scar, and later, the Green King.
- Revenge: Mainly in foreshadowing for World War Hulk, revenge is a recurring theme, with Hulk plotting revenge for his exile, Elloe seeking revenge for the murder of her father, and Miek contemplating taking vengeance for the murder of his father and enslavement of his hive. When asked what he would do, the Hulk responds:Hulk: I'd never stop making them pay.
- Revenge actually summed up the final battle between the Hulk and the Red King, with the former asking Miek to 'chem' all of them together to confront the Red King with his crimes before he smashes him.
- Saved to Enslave: Caeira entered the Red King's service when he spared her; she was unwilling at first but gradually became loyal to him. Might apply to the Hulk as well, for a weak definition of "saved."
- The Sociopath: The Red King, most definitely. He causes untold, needless destruction both For the Evulz and to get what he wants.
- Super Strength: In issue #105, The Hulk pulls tectonic plates◊ (that's 45 quintillion tons each) together on Sakaar (a planet bigger than Earth).
- Took a Level in Badass: Miek eventually manages to hold his own in armed combat before transforming into a Native King, a massive version of his race (roughly the size of the Hulk or Korg) possessing super strength.
- True Companions: The gladiators with whom the Hulk formed a Warbound pact; they even joined hands together like in the page picture up top. Warbound are new families forged in conflicts, with whom teamwork and understanding are the only ways to survive. This is made all the more significant given that each member of the Warbound has lost their actual family, as Miek saw his entire hive slaughtered before him, Korg was forced to kill his own brothers in the Maw, Hiroim was exiled for breaking a previous Warbound pact, the Brood was separated from her sisters, Elloe's father was killed by the foreman of the Maw, etc.
- Unskilled, but Strong: This was subverted when the Hulk is marooned on the harsh planet Sakaar and finds himself weaker then he'd normally be on Earth due to unexplained environmental differences. Press-ganged into becoming a gladiator, Hulk is forced to develop sufficient skills to survive and claw his way to the top. As a result, by the time the arc ends Hulk has not only gained some combat skills but is even stronger and smarter than he was before. And also really, really mad at the people who shot him into space in the first place.
- Villainesses Want Heroes: Caiera, starts out as an Anti-Villain and The Dragon during Planet Hulk, but eventually ends up forming a relationship with the Hulk.
- Weaksauce Weakness: The spikes are weak towards fire. Good thing too, otherwise they would have basically overrun the planet.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
- The Hulk, of course, and being the Worldbreaker, his actions eventually do destroy Sakaar. The warpcore of the ship he arrived in seemingly malfunctioned and exploded causing Sakaar's destruction.
- The Spikes, who are actually space faring beings who feed off of cosmic energy, but their ship crashed on Sakaar and they were forced to eat flesh to survive. Hulk eventually helps them return to the stars.
- Worf Had the Flu: Partly the reason why Hulk was able to beat the Silver Surfer in combat: The obedience disk weakened him, and he recently came through the Great Portal. That, and Norrin stopped fighting after the disk was broken. Hulk likewise suffers this early on in beginning: The Imperials actually consider it a sign of badassery that the Hulk was even able to stand upright having just passed through it, but he later gets enslaved nonetheless.
- You No Take Candle: Miek, Though strictly speaking he actually doesn't speak English and his speech is just translated by Sakaaran talkboxes, he can't seem to grasp verb conjugation at all; "is [verb]ing" is the form he uses for pretty much every verb in every context. In general, his lack of aptitude for speech is implied to be due to his people not naturally communicating verbally, but by "chemming".
- Zombie Apocalypse: Sakaar is just a generation past having survived its own zombie apocalypse, the Spike Wars. The alien parasites known as the spikes function as The Dreaded to the natives of Sakaar.