Before the Civil War, the Illuminati—a group consisting of Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Doctor Strange, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, Professor Xavier and Black Bolt—decided that The Hulk was a threat to the world because of his unstable and dangerous mood swings. Instead of killing him, they shot the green giant into space and towards a planet without intelligent life, hoping that he would find peace. But due to a malfunction in the spaceship, The Hulk landed on Sakaar, a harsh world where he was captured, enslaved, and turned into a gladiator. Thus began Planet Hulk, where Hulk fought for a living and eventually found friends and true love. He eventually toppled the local tyrannical ruler, effectively becoming the new king, and lived Happily Ever After with his allies and his new wife...
...until the ship that brought him to Sakaar blew up. The resulting explosion shattered the planet and killed many people, including Hulk's wife and unborn child. But The Hulk lived—which made him exceptionally angry. The green behemoth gathered his remaining friends and allies into a war party, then returned to Earth with the intent of making the Illuminati pay for what they did to him. At this time, Hulk was in a new form (referred to as the Green Scar) that allowed him to retain his intellect; this form's rage, at levels Hulk had never reached before, was dispassionate and icy cold. Earth's heroes were disorganized and estranged by the Civil War, which left them unable to meet Hulk's invasion in full force. They had also suffered an enormous loss of popular support, which only grew after Hulk revealed what the Illuminati had done to him.
In short: Everyone was screwed when The Hulk got back.
Hulk turned the Earth's heroes—especially the Illuminati—into gladiators so they could feel the struggles and suffering he went through on Sakaar. He spared only Namor, who voted against sending Hulk into space, and Professor X, who wasn't present. (After seeing the result of House of M, Hulk decided that Xavier had suffered enough.) He set the Illuminati against a monster, then forced them to take up weapons and try to kill each other. The moment is eventually interrupted by Sentry, who had overcome his Split Personality problem just in time to bring the battle to Hulk. The two fought each other into exhaustion, but it was enough to shake Hulk out of his rage and remember his humanity and their friendship—just in time for one of Hulk's allies to kill Rick Jones in front of Hulk. That same ally had also caused the destruction of Sakaar in the first place. Hulk became enraged and slayed him, then turned his attention back to his original "foes". The day was "saved" when Iron Man activated a satellite beam that subdued Hulk and turned him back into Bruce Banner. (Jones soon came Back from the Dead once again.)
Bruce Banner was imprisoned until he could control The Hulk; he was later released when the mysterious Red Hulk appeared. Meanwhile, on the planet of Sakaar, a survivor makes his presence known—for he is The Hulk's son, Skaar. But that is another story...
In the aftermath of World War Hulk, the title was turned into The Incredible Hercules.
A sequel was announced on December 1st, 2017, called "World War Hulk II: Smashback", which sees the Totally Awesome Hulk returning to Earth after being dragged to Sakaar and having the Hulk persona finally regain control after having Amadeus Cho keep him back for so long, prompting Carol Danvers and Alpha Flight, Black Panther and the Champions to try to stop him.
World War Hulk includes the following tropes:
- Anti-Villain: Hulk and The Warbound. Hulk for just trying to get some sort of justice (if in an insane and unhelpful method) and the Warbound... for helping Hulk or something.
- Arc Words: "May he who dies... die well" and "Never stop making them pay."
- Armor-Piercing Question: A near-literal version of this trope happens as Hulk is trying to break through Sue Storm's force field to get at Reed. She pleads with The Hulk to stop, so he asks her, "If I sent a bomb, killed your husband, your children, your whole world... would you ever stop?!" Sue is so taken aback by the question that she lets down her guard, which allows Hulk to shatter her force field with the next punch, incapacitate her, and beat the living hell out of her husband.
- Hulk delivers another one to Jim Wilson's father. When the elder Wilson accuses Hulk of Jim's death, Hulk fires back:
- Badass Boast: Several.Doctor Strange: [to Hulk, during a (failed) attempt to talk him down] Hear me well, Bruce... Your anger means nothing to me. I am the SORCERER SUPREME. I could snuff the feeble flame of your mortal life with the merest twitch of a finger. But I am also your friend.Bruce Banner/Hulk:[Seconds later] Got you. *breaks Strange's hands*Black Bolt: [to Hulk, very very quietly] Enough.Hulk: I didn't come here for a whisper. I wanna hear you scream!
- Brawler Lock: The Hulk vs. The Juggernaut is one of these. Hulk wins it through brains.
- Break Them by Talking: When Hulk has the X-Men at his mercy, Mercury shows him the Xavier School's cemetery, then tells him about all of the innocent children who had been murdered by Stryker and the Purifers in the aftermath of the Decimation. This draws a direct comparison between what the mutants have been through and Hulk's own loss, which helps convince Hulk that Xavier has already suffered enough.
- Contemptible Cover: Volume 2, Issue 13 of Heroes for Hire tied into this event; it featured a cover more fitting for a hentai manga than a mainstream superhero comic—Black Cat, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing are all surrounded by tentacles.
- Crisis Crossover: Duh.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: It is hard to describe what Hulk did to the X-Men in any other terms.
- Ghost Rider gets one in on Hulk during his tie-in by more or less having a response to everything Hulk throws his way. Eventually, he decides that Hulk is actually in the right here and drives off. That results in an Oh, Crap! moment for the Illuminati when Doctor Strange points this out.
- In one of the tie-ins, there is also a (probably non-canon) bit of comic relief showing Hulk's fights against weaker Marvel characters. At one point, The Hulk incapacitates one of his foes by flicking them with a finger.
- Dark Action Girl: Elloe, No-Name was this at first.
- Deliberate Injury Gambit:
- X-23 lets Hulk grab her to bring her in close, then puts out his eyes with her foot claws. This makes her one of the few people who actually manages to slow him down, however briefly. Hulk puts her through a wall for her trouble.
- Hulk later reverses this when he lets Wolverine try the same trick; Logan gets to blind Hulk, but Hulk still gets to kick Wolverine's ass and put him out of the fight for good.
- Duel to the Death: See the Arc Words above.
- Everyone Has Standards: Despite his hatred for the Illuminati and the contempt he shows towards the rest of Earth's superheroes, Hulk is still saddened to hear about the demise of Captain America.
- Eye Scream: Hulk gets his eyes put out twice—first by X-23, then by Wolverine. Good thing he can heal. He let Logan cut out his eyes so the X-Man would be close enough to grab.
- Fighting from the Inside: This is averted when Doctor Strange discovers that Banner agrees with The Hulk and is working with him.
- Foreshadowing: Banner tricks Doctor Strange into lowering his guard so Hulk can cripple him. This could be seen as foreshadowing for Bruce's more cold, manipulative behavior after he takes a level in badass during Fall of The Hulks.
- Free-Fall Fight: Hulk vs. Iron Man ends up like this; Hulk trashes Iron Man's Hulkbuster suit while they are in free fall, with Stark Tower collapsing around and beneath them.
- Genre Blind: Korg has no clue when it comes to extraterrestrial tropes. When was the last time you saw someone seriously saying "Take Me to Your Leader"?
- Grey and Gray Morality: Neither side is entirely free from blame, but neither is entirely in the right, either. The Illuminati had done some shady things and ignored evidence that didn't point to Hulk being an uncontrollable monster, but they were not guilty of the crimes levelled against them by Hulk. And while Hulk may have had a good reason to be angry, he went about getting justice in a profoundly counterproductive manner, all while ignoring any evidence that said they were not wholly evil.
- His Own Worst Enemy: Near the conclusion of the story, Hulk declares that he'll hate The Illuminati forever, "almost as much as I hate myself."
- Interrupted Cooldown Hug: This story elevates this trope to an art form. Hulk and Banner actually take advantage of the cooldown hug by letting Doctor Strange think his ploy has worked, all so he lowers his guard — at which point Hulk breaks Strange's hands.
- Jerkass: The Hulk's Green Scar persona takes this turn.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: Doctor Strange does this in an attempt to calm The Hulk down. He fails, then gets his hands broken for his trouble.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: The Illuminati may not have been responsible for the explosion that wrecked Sakaar, but they still deserved an ass-kicking.
- Meditation Powerup: Hiroim watches Hulk almost kill Brood in a fit of rage while fighting a group of Space Pirates. To prevent another such incident, Hiroim teaches Hulk to focus his anger—which turns the green giant's Unstoppable Rage into the Tranquil Fury present for the duration of the story.
- Noble Demon: Hiroim.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The battle with Sentry is a mutual example, though Hulk insisted afterwards that he was still holding back.
- Not So Different:
- In World War Hulk: Frontline, Ben Urich attends the gladiator matches set up by The Hulk so he can report on them later. He is shocked by the bloodlust and barbarism... of his fellow humans, who are cheering on the display. He comments that Hulk's Sakaaran forces cannot be considered invaders or occupiers — after all, how can you be invaded when the invaders are just like you?
- A cornerstone of Hulk's revenge on the Illuminati is giving them a taste of what it's like to be him, from letting people bring up their past misdeeds to their faces to making them fight monsters fresh from Sakaar's arena and eventually each other.
- Oh, Crap!: This was the reaction from a lot of Earth's heroes after Hulk announced his return. Making things worse: Hulk did it after having beaten Black Bolt, one of the few beings on Earth considered more powerful than Hulk. Not only did The Hulk prove how much stronger he was after being sent to Sakaar, he also showed off his posse of super-strong pals, most of whom wanted a heaping helping of revenge.
- The Sakaarans get one when Sentry shatters their starship and busts out something approaching his full power.
- Hardball has one when he realizes the power-negating S.P.I.N. Tech dart that Iron Man is going to use on Hulk is an empty one—because Hardball himself had switched it out when he stole the real one for Hydra.
- Opt Out:
- The Ghost Rider shows up to stop Hulk—but since he is the Spirit of Vengeance, he claims that Hulk's vengeance is justified, then rides away. (Blaze wanted to talk to Hulk and Zarathos did not care, since Lucifer was on Earth. They fought only because Hulk got confused by their argument, thinking Ghost Rider had insulted him.)
- Hulk gives She-Hulk a chance to walk away. She refuses. Things go pretty bad for her after that.
- Out of the Inferno: Hulk does this after the X-Men crash their jet on top of him. He kindly returns it.
- Pet the Dog: Hulk gets a couple of moments to show he's still a hero, deep down.
- He decides to spare Xavier and the X-Men after seeing what he had been through. He says that he came to put Xavier through hell, but Xavier is already going through it.
- Rick Jones tells him Captain America is dead in the aftermath of Civil War; Hulk is shocked and appalled to hear this.
- Despite his grim desire for revenge, Hulk never directly kills anyone, and charges his Warbound to do the same.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After having a few people testify as to why everyone in the Illuminati sucks, Hulk delivers his own testimony:Hulk: Don't like it, do you? It's not fair. Not the whole story. You have excuses. Explanations. You're innocent. These people don't know what really happened. They don't know what's in your heart. Now you know how it feels.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: This is the basic premise of the storyline.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The aforementioned Interrupted Cooldown Hug.
- Smoke Shield: This happens at least twice—once after Tony blasts Hulk with missiles, and once after Human Torch and Storm combine a lightning bolt and a fireball.
- Strange Minds Think Alike:Doctor Strange: [to Tony Stark, referring to the Hulk] He withstood Black Bolt's voice. Do you think your machines can stop him?Hulk: [to Tony Stark, referring to the Sentry] Stupid humans. You think your machines can stop him?
- Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: Miek turned out to have been responsible for the destruction of Sakaar all along.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Hulk insists that no one will die by either his hand or the Warbound's, just to show that they are better than the Illuminati.
- Token Evil Teammate: Barring Hiroim and Korg, everyone from Sakaar wants to nuke Earth and kill everybody. In their defense, until the Big Reveal, it would have seemed to them as if the Illuminati had done the same thing to Sakaar, so this is kinda justified. This is later played straight with Miek, though.
- Tranquil Fury: Though Hulk is "madder than he's ever been", he is nowhere near as savage as he usually is. His time on Sakaar helped make him smarter, and his training with Hiroim helped him focus his anger into this.
- Unstoppable Rage: Hulk gets stronger when he gets angrier, but the birth of the Green Scar persona is implied to have happened when Hulk reached heights of anger even he had never known before.
- Violence Is the Only Option: Not one nonviolent attempt to stop The Hulk or talk him down from his rage succeeds. The characters who try appealing to Hulk's friendship or better nature get slapped down just as brutally as the ones who are out to kill him.
- This goes both ways: Hulk and the Warbound offer everyone who is not in the Illuminati a chance to walk away unscathed. No one takes them up on the offer.
- Wham Episode: Issue #3 is the one where Hulk crushes Doctor Strange's hands. Up until this point, Bruce Banner had not made an appearance in the story, so the possibility of someone getting through to Banner and stopping The Hulk that way was still open. This issue settled that notion when it revealed that, perhaps for the first time, Hulk and Banner were in complete agreement.
- What If?: The What If?: Planet Hulk and What If: World War Hulk specials offered three versions of it:
- In the first version, the nuclear strike that Iron Man launched to subdue Hulk ends up wiping out most of the heroes, one of them being Skrull Queen Veranke (under the guise of Spider-Woman). This causes the Skrulls to view Hulk as a kind of prophet of their upcoming invasion. When the Secret Invasion kicks in, even more heroes die, but Hulk wises up and joins the resistance against the Skrulls. Only it turns out that Wasp, not Hank Pym, was being impersonated by the Skrulls. She plants the human bomb serum to Hank, again, wiping out almost all heroes and humanity... except for The Hulk. When Silver Surfer visits, Hulk demands that Galactus wipe out the Skrull planet as his vengeance; after being left all alone again, Galactus promotes him as his Herald.
- The second version has Thor and the Asgard warriors join in the brawl. They are interrupted when an innocent civilian pleads with them to use their strength not to fight each other, but to help them from peril. Hulk is reminded of his old friendship with the fellow heroes, and Miek's treachery is discovered before it could result in a great disaster. Sentry comes too late, as eventually Thor tells the heroes to redouble their efforts to win the people's trust, and Hulk goes back to Sakaar so he can rebuild the planet and punish the traitorous Miek. Yeah, they really did live Happily Ever After.
- The third version has both Miek and The Hulk dying in the explosion instead of Caiera, who invades and takes over Earth after killing the Illuminati (except possibly Namor and Xavier). She forces Earth's population to build a massive statue for The Hulk that takes twenty-one years to construct; after it is finished, she uses her powers to turn herself into stone so she can join her beloved. Because of Miek's death in the blast, his treachery is never discovered, so Caiera's actions make her look like an utter monster. While she believes herself justified due to the way life on Sakaar works, she damns the human race to live as slaves for an alien race that pretty much worshipped a monster who was far too dangerous to live on Earth. She even lampshades this when she is convinced by Hiroim to spare the rest of the world after killing the Illuminati—if she killed everyone, then nobody would be left to honor The Hulk's memory. Caiera's reply to this logic? "They'll wish they were dead."
- What the Hell, Hero?: Learning about what the Illuminati did — combined with Plethora of Mistakes surrounding the Civil War — led many of Earth's people to root for Hulk and the Warbound.
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: A fresh-from-Civil War Tony Stark does a version of this with She-Hulk. Jennifer forced Tony to use highly illegal and experimental nanites to cut off her powers; she was completely out of order, what with her getting mad at him for sending her cousin into space.
- The Worf Effect: Black Bolt was considered to be one of the most broken characters in Marvel's cosmic realm. Hulk takes him down first, and almost entirely off panel, to prove how much stronger he had become on Sakaar. Subverted come Secret Invasion — the Black Bolt Hulk beat down was actually a Skrull imposter.
- Another example would be when he defeated Doctor Strange, bar none the top sorcerer in the universe, while Strange was channeling a demon so powerful that Umar herself feared it. This was justified by Strange having his attention divided between fighting Hulk and the Warbound and holding Zom back from killing them all, though.
- Hulk also fought Sentry, who was considered the most powerful superhuman on the planet at the time but was also not entirely mentally stable, and they basically fought each other to a stalemate that ended with both powering down and no real victor. This was a rare double Worf-ing, as the point was to show that Sentry and Hulk were the only superpowered beings who could have an all-out, nothing-held-back fight without one instantly obliterating the other.
- Worf Had the Flu: Doctor Strange lost to The Hulk, even though Strange would have won easily if he had been going for the kill. In Strange's defense, the last thing he wanted was to kill his friend Bruce, and his attempt at a non-lethal solution had backfired and left him too crippled for his usual sorcery. He was also struggling to hold Zom back from murdering everyone. When Strange let Zom have control, he was winning, but as soon as he saw that ordinary people were in danger, he got distracted and subsequently lost the fight.
- There is some back-and-forth regarding the Hulk vs Sentry fight, with later writers implying that due to Sentry's then-fragile mental state, he was not at full power, despite the fact that the dialogue in the book all but says that Sentry was meant to be stronger in this fight than he had ever been before.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: Hulk is the only one Sentry can hit... "LIKE THIS."
- Worthy Opponent: After their brief battle, Hiroim seems to consider Iron Fist to be this, shocked that the human was able to actually hurt him.Hiroim: I will pray for you, Iron Fist.