Having read Greg Pak's thrilling PLANET HULK and (less thrilling but still greatly entertaining) WORLD WAR HULK, I feel very qualified in saying that he's capable of so much more than what he delivers in SKAAR: SON OF HULK. A comparison may not be entirely fair, but, given the 'shared destiny' and obvious relationship between the subject matter, I think it's entirely warranted.
The chief similarity that sets the HULK works and SKAAR apart is the narrative: whereas PLANET HULK and WORLD WAR HULK rely on stories told chronologically, SKAAR does so only about 50% of the time. While the narrative is an admirable attempt to try something different for Pak and his fellow contributors, I didn't find it serving the story favorably in the slightest. Unfortunately -- as we're dealing with a few alien species that bear similarities to one another -- it grows increasingly difficult to identify and recognize them in the flashbacks, which may or may not take place over a period of ten to twenty years (again, it's difficult to determine). So the six part story is broken up repeatedly for flashbacks -- some dealing with Skaar in his youth, some dealing with Old Sam (Skaar's apparent mentor), some with the Axeman (Skaar's nemesis), and some with others -- and, come the conclusion (which I'll touch on in a moment), I found it extremely challenging to understand the who, what, where, when, and (most importantly) "why" of all this stuff.
To be perfectly honest, I can't imagine that author Pak intended for his story to be told this way. Given the ease he demonstrates with the narrative in his work on HULK, I can't believe he would've thought telling the story of the Hulk's offspring would've been greatly accomplished in such a herky-jerky fashion. I have to wonder if he conceived this story before, during, or after the events depicted in PLANET HULK. He clearly creates an impressive world (think THE SAVAGE TALES OF CONAN but on massive steroids!), complete with several cultures and cities and histories, and what author wouldn't want to play to greater creativity in such a place? In fact, his world-building skills displayed in PLANET HULK were what drew me to pick up this volume of SKAAR's origins. I have to wonder whether or not he intended to tell Skaar's beginnings in chronological order, and, perhaps (it's only a theory), the good folks at Marvel said, "No, no, no, that'll take way too long to get to the interesting smash-smash-smash stories of the young behemoth," leaving the author to retool his take on the son of Hulk into a more marketable piece, starting out with the son in his teens and then divulging the related history in flashbacks. As I said, I don't think it serves the narrative very well. It's hard to "care" about these characters when you're still discovering who they are.
And now ... about that conclusion I hinted at? One of my biggest complaints regarding graphic novels or trade paperback collections based on an ongoing title has to do with the fact that, with an ongoing title, you MAY NOT get a complete story when you buy it. It's the ultimate "buyer beware" curse, and SKAAR suffers from it. There isn't a complete story here, and that's a major disappointment, given the already stated problems with the book's start-and-stop narrative. The book ends with no climax but the arrival of another character (a long-time Marvel Comics fan favorite, so, at least, that's a plus). None of the collections major plotlines are resolved. I read an awful lot of graphic novels -- I stopped collecting monthly titles a few years back -- and I've had this problem more with Marvel's lines than I have with any other comic book publisher. Couldn't they at least advertise that it's a part one of two? Since it's an ongoing monthly title, I understand that that may not be the case, but most comic book writers have stated in interviews that they're encouraged to plan these storylines out in 're-publishable' formats, so I don't see what that would be such a bad thing. In this case, the disappointment at reaching no climax only further hurts the book, and I so much wanted to enjoy this one. Outside of the second visit to Pak's wonderfully envisioned universe, there wasn't a whole lot here to love let alone like, but maybe I'll pick up the next collected installment. Or maybe not.
I think Skaar deserved better than a disjointed narrative, and I strongly want to believe that Pak had planned it out that way (not the way it's presented here). The flashbacks hint at something that could've been far more epic in conception and (probable) execution. All I can say, come the last panel, is "better luck next time."
What did you think of this review?