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Reading Marvel comics always feels like walking in on a group mid-conversation — you just nod and try to mimic their emotions. If you’re at least slightly familiar with Marvel Comics, it’s like walking in on a group of old friends mid-conversation at your high school reunion. You’re familiar with a version of these characters, but things have obviously changed a good deal since you last saw them. You’ll wander through their meandering stories and whisper “When did Captain America get a battle axe and a red Dinosaur” to yourself later on, feeling old and alone.

Sometimes you feel more old, sometimes you feel more alone

sometimes you feel more old, sometimes you feel more alone

Planet Hulk may be the worst offender in this category. Like of all time. I thought Planet Hulk was a Planet that Hulk was on, not a Planet (of) Hulk(s). The difference is neatly explained in a 10-page addition to the Planet Hulk storyline in which a wily employee of BannerTech Industries sacrifices himself to turn a gamma bomb, stolen from BannerTech and then launched at their own HQ, into a…different Gamma bomb? Like one that hulkifies everyone it touches rather than disintegrating them. It’s really a terrible design for a bomb — “Just so you know, before we sell this to you, it can be easily modified mid-flight into a gaint hulk ray that will turn everyone you just tried to murder into the strongest beings on the planet.” Also Planet Hulk really isn’t about Hulk, it’s about Captain America, who, as I mentioned, has a fucking battle axe and a pet dinosaur now.

not MY Captain America

not MY Captain America

Master of Kung Fu is refreshing in its limited scope. There’s a giant tournament every so often to determine who gets to be emperor, and the emperor’s fuckup son wants a shot at the throne so he can be less evil than his dad. The son’s been in hiding for years, reveals himself in the first issue, and papa sends some evil cronies after him — nice and simple. I mean I just summed the whole thing up in two sentences. Of course that also sort of betrays the story as being pretty bland. Being limited in scope is nice but less bombastic does not automatically mean better and Master of Kung Fu works through its non-bombastic paces with such a rushed, cursory tone that it’s hard to actually enjoy. Master of Kung Fu seems like an opportunity to get some storytelling into Battleworld that is isn’t burdened by a massive backstory but winds up being limited in scope like Saltines are limited in taste.

Saltines - Limited in Scope!

now with 30% less scope!

I’m not usually a big fan of The Hulk as a character, and it’s specifically because he lends himself too easily to dumb shenanigans like planets full of himself and whatnot. But this is part of Battleworld–the biggest, dumbest, most McGuffiniest thing Marvel’s undertaken in a good while. So I’m willing to give Planet Hulk a lot of extra leeway. There’s like two panels of a single page in which a giant group of Thors fight a giant group of Hulks and it’s just the tiniest aside from the real story. Since we’re already at a place where Marvel’s two biggest multiverses have literally collided and are duking it out on a planet called fucking Battleworld, why not let go of your reservations and see what it’s like to be an insane person for a bit?

shine on you crazy diamond

shine on you crazy diamond

And honestly, Master of Kung Fu felt…a little flat to me. He’s a pretty standard character in a pretty standard setting, and to an extent so are of the characters in Planet Hulk, but they’re in a big, dumb standard setting with lots more craziness going on. I love to root for the little guy, but Master of Kung Fu seems like a middleweight fighter in a tank battle right now. Winner: Planet of Hulks