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"Puny humans. I've come to smash."
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) made the decision that Hulk was a threat to the world because of his unstable and dangerous mood swings. Instead of killing him, they shot him into space, towards a planet without intelligent life where they hoped he'd find peace.
However, due to a malfunction in the spaceship, the planet he landed on was Sakaar: a very harsh world where Hulk 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, toppling the local tyrannical ruler and effectively becoming the king himself. And they all lived Happily Ever After... or did they?
Unexpectedly, the ship which brought him to Sakaar exploded, shattering the planet and killing many people, including Hulk's wife and unborn child. Hulk got mad. So he gathered his remaining friends and returned to Earth, hellbent on making the Illuminati pay for what they did to him. At this time Hulk was in a new form, the Green Scar, who retained his mind and whose rage, while at levels it had never touched before, was dispassionate and icy cold. Already disorganized and estranged by Civil War, the heroes were unable to meet him in force. They were also suffering an enormous loss of popular support, which only increased once Hulk revealed what the Illuminati had done to him. In short, they're all fucked when Hulk gets back.
Hulk then turns the Earth heroes, especially the Illuminati, into gladiators, to make them feel his struggles and suffering before he was King. He spares Namor, who voted against the decision, and Professor X, who wasn't present (and 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 Superman Captain Ersatz The Sentry, who had overcome his Split Personality problem just in time to bring the battle to Hulk. The two beat 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. Oh, and that same ally had been the one who caused the destruction of Sakaar in the first place. Hulk goes off his rocker and slays him; everyone else would've been fucked if not for Iron Man activating a satellite beam that subdued Hulk and turns him back to Bruce Banner. (Jones soon came Back From the Dead. Again.)
Bruce Banner is later imprisoned until he can control his Hulk self, and was later released when the mysterious Red Hulk appeared. Meanwhile, in the planet of Sakaar, it turns out that Hulk's son Skaar survived. But that is another story...
In the aftermath of World War Hulk, the title was turned into The Incredible Hercules.
Tropes used in World War Hulk:
- Anti-Hero (Type IV)/ Anti-Villain: The Warbound
- Arc Words: "May he who dies...die well" and "Never stop making them pay."
- Armor-Piercing Question: Almost literally; as Hulk is trying to break through Sue Storm's force field to get at Reed, she pleads with him to stop. Hulk responds, "If I sent a bomb, killed your husband, your children, your whole world...would you ever stop?!" Sue is so taken aback that she lets down her guard, allowing Hulk to shatter her force field with the next punch, incapacitating her, and beat the living hell out of her husband.
- Badass Boast: Dr. Strange delivers a pretty sweet one during his Journey to the Center of the Mind:
Dr. Strange: Hear me well, Bruce... Your anger means nothing to me. I am the SORCERER SUPREME. I could snuff the feeble frame of your mortal life with the merest twitch of a finger. But I am also your friend.
Hulk: I wanna hear you scream!
- He says this to Black Bolt. The man's shouts can level cities.
- Brawler Lock: Hulk and the Juggernaut. Hulk wins it through brains.
- Crisis Crossover: Duh.
- Curb Stomp Battle: It's hard to describe what the Hulk did to the X-men in any other terms. Ghost Rider gets one in on Hulk during his tie-in to the story, more or less having a response to everything Hulk throws his way. Eventually he just drives off, figuring Hulk is actually in the right here, resulting in an Oh Crap moment for the Illuminati when Dr. Strange points this out to them.
- In one of the tie-ins, there's also a (probably non-canon) bit of comic relief showing the Hulk's fights against weaker Marvel characters, which show the Hulk, among other things, incapacitating them by flicking them with one finger.
- Dark Action Girl: Elloe, No-Name was this at first.
- Deus Ex Machina: Played straight, complete with an Ass Pull.
- Duel to the Death: See the Arc Words above.
- Eye Scream: Hulk gets his eyes put out twice, the first time by X-23, and then by Wolverine. Good thing he can heal. He actually let Logan cut out his eyes so he'd get close enough to grab.
- Face Heel Turn: Miek, who turned out to have been responsible for the destruction of Sakaar all along.
- Fan Nickname: "War to See Who Is The Most Epically Brain Damaged By Running Into the Hulk's Fists Repeatedly"
- Fighting From the Inside: Averted, as Doctor Strange and others discover. Bruce Banner agrees with the Hulk and is working with him.
- Five-Man Band: Hulk and The Warbound:
- The Hero - Hulk
- The Lancer - Hiroim, who doubles up as The Smart Guy
- The Big Guy - Korg
- The Chick - Elloe sometimes, and although Brood fits this one better, we don't want to think about that too much....
- The Sixth Ranger - Miek
- The Tagalong Kid - Poor Arch-E 5912, who gets killed off-panel in a tie-in issue.
- He came back to life in Damage Control though.
- Free-Fall Fight: Hulk vs Iron Man ends up like this, with Hulk trashing Iron Man's Hulkbuster suit while they're in a state of free fall with Stark Tower collapsing around and beneath them.
- Genre Savvy: Strange starts off like this, realizing that if they sent the Hulk away again with magic, he'd just smash up wherever they sent him to, and come back angrier and stronger. He promptly loses his savvy from there on out, though. Also, in the Gamma Corps one shot, old joke villain The Clown of the Circus of Crime demonstrates a downright scary(though not dangerous ) amount of genre savvy when he correctly deduces General Ryker's plan before he even gets a word out.
- Grey and Gray Morality
- Hijinks Ensue: World War Hulk was Hulk returning from an alien planet and immediately deciding to punch everything on Earth. The heroes respond by trying to punch Hulk, even though that NEVER WORKS. Hijinks ensue.
- Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Elevated to an art form.
- Hulk and Banner actually take advantage of the cool down hug by letting Doctor Strange think it's working, tricking him into lowering his guard.
- Ironic Echo:
Doctor Strange: (to Tony Stark, referring to the Hulk) He withstood Blackbolt's voice. Do you think your machines can stop him?
- Jerkass: There is no question that the Hulk's persona takes this turn.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: Dr. Strange tries this to get Hulk to calm down. It doesn't work, and Strange gets his hands broken.
- Noble Demon: Hiroim.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The battle with Sentry is a mutual example, though Hulk insisted afterwards that even then he was 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's shocked by the blood lust and barbarism...of his fellow humans who are cheering the display. He comments that the Hulk's Sakaaran forces aren't invading or occupying Earth. You can't be invaded when the invaders are just like you.
- Oh Crap: The reaction many of the heroes had when Hulk announced his return, having already beaten Black Bolt, one of the very few beings on Earth who was considered more powerful than him showing he's even stronger than he was before, and in addition has a posse of super-strong pals, most of whom are all are jonesing for Revenge.
- Out of the Inferno: After the X-men crash their jet on top of him. He kindly returns it.
- The Power of Friendship: Oh so cruelly subverted.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After having a few people testify as to why the members of the Illuminati suck, Hulk delivers one himself.
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.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Literally.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Basically.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Interrupted Cooldown Hug, more irritating than ever, of course.
- Smoke Shield: At least twice; after Tony blasts him with missiles, and after the Human Torch and Storm combine a lightning bolt and fireball.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Hulk's rule for himself and his Warbound is that none of them will kill a human (showing themselves to be 'better' than the Illuminati). Beating them to within inches of their lives, however? Perfectly acceptable.
- Token Evil Teammate: With the single exception of Hiroim, everyone from Sakaar wants to nuke Earth and kill everybody. In their defense, until the Big Reveal at the end it did seem like Earthmen (specifically the Illuminati) had done the same thing to their home planet, so this is kinda justified. Later played straight with Miek, though.
- Not quite everyone; Korg wanted to leave after a while, thinking they'd made their point.
- Tranquil Fury: Though Hulk is "madder than he's ever been", he's nowhere near as savage as he usually is due to his time on Sakaar making him smarter.
- Unstoppable Rage: The madder Hulk gets, the stronger he.... aw, fuck it, we're sick of hearing it, too.
- Of course, the birth of the Green Scar persona is implied to have been caused by the Hulk reaching heights of anger he never had before, too.
- Ghost Rider looks like he's going to go into one against the Hulk when Johnny lets the Spirit of Vengeance take over, but he rides away because according to Doctor Strange, there are no innocents to avenge.
- 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 unashamedly out to kill him.
- What If: Three versions of it:
- One version had it that Iron Man's nuclear strike to subdue Hulk ended up wiping out most of the heroes, one of them being Skrull Queen Veranke (under the guise of Spider Woman), causing the Skrulls to view Hulk as some sort of prophet of their upcoming invasion. When Secret Invasion kicks in, even more heroes die, but Hulk wises up and joins the resistance against Skrull... and then it turns out Wasp was being impersonated by the Skrulls rather than Hank Pym, and then plants the human bomb serum to Hank, again, wiping out almost all heroes and humanity... except Hulk. When Silver Surfer visits, Hulk demands that Galactus wipe out the Skrull planet as his vengeance, and after being left all alone again, Galactus promotes him as his Herald.
- Another version had Thor and the Asgard warriors join in the brawl, but was interrupted when an innocent civilian pleads them to use their strength not to fight each other, but to help them from peril. While doing that, Hulk was reminded of his old friendship with the fellow heroes, and Miek's treachery was discovered before it could result a great disaster. Sentry came too late as eventually Thor told the heroes to redouble their efforts to win the people's trust, and Hulk went back to Sakaar to rebuild the planet and punish the traitorous Miek. Yeah, they really DID live Happily Ever After.
- A third has both Miek and the Hulk dying instead of Caiera, who goes on such an utter retaliatory attack that she actually kills the Illuminati (except possibly Namor and Prof. X), and takes over the planet, forcing the humans and the other heroes to build a massive statue for the Hulk that takes twenty-one years to construct before using her powers to turn herself permanently to stone. Because of Miek's death in the blast, his treachery is never discovered, meaning that Caiera's actions make her an utter monster because while she believed herself justified due to the way life on Sakaar works, the human race is now damned to live as slaves to people who pretty much worshiped a monster that was too dangerous to live on their world. She even lampshades it when she is convinced by Hiroim to spare the rest of the world after killing the Illuminati because if she didn't nobody would be left to honor his memory, to which she claims, "They'll wish they were dead". To be fair, she's probably right, also features the first appearance by an Adult Skaar, one of the sons of Hulk by Caiera.
- What the Hell, Hero?: After learning about what the Illuminati did, and what with the Plethora Of Bad Decisions surrounding the Civil War, many people end up rooting for the Hulk and his Warbound.
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Tony Stark, just coming off Civil War mind you, does a version of this with She-Hulk. It's not Tony's fault that Jennifer made him use highly illegal and experimental nanites to cut off her powers. After all she was completely out of order getting mad at him for sending her cousin into space.
- The Worf Effect: Black Bolt was considered to be one of the very broken characters in cosmic Marvel, but Hulk takes him down first, and almost entirely off panel. Though that ends up subverted come Secret Invasion, when it turns out Hulk just beat down his Skrull imposter.
- A better example would be when he defeated Dr Strange (one of, if not the, strongest sorcerer in the universe), who was at the time channeling the powers of the demon Zom, and who had bragged at length about how easily he could turn Hulk to dust. Unfortunately for Strange, he could either beat Hulk or hold back Zom from murdering everyone, not both.
- Hulk also beat the Sentry, who was considered the most powerful superhuman on the planet at the time, albeit not entirely mentally stable.
- World of Cardboard Speech: Because Hulk's the only one the 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.