We’ve all had friends who think they know what’s best for us. In some cases, they try to tell us who to date; while in others they trick us into a rocket and send us off to space.
Unfortunately for The Hulk, his friends—namely Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange—don’t have very good luck when it comes to getting rockets to the right place. They planned on sending Bruce Banner to an uninhabited, peaceful planet where he could just relax his life away, but instead he wound up on Sakaar where he went from gladiator-slave to king over the course of the epic “Planet Hulk” story as seen in INCREDIBLE HULK #92–105.
King Hulk even met a queen who truly loved him which made the accidental destruction of his kingdom thanks to a malfunction in the rocket all the more painful for the one dubbed “Worldbreaker.” Fueled by rage, he returned to Earth alongside his gladiatorial brethren, the Warbound, to seek revenge on his so-called friends in the pages of WORLD WAR HULK #1–5 by Greg Pak and John Romita Jr.
After making incredibly short work of Black Bolt—later revealed as a Skrull impostor—Hulk landed in Manhattan where he gave people time to leave before turning Madison Square Garden into his own gladiator arena and started taking out those on his hit list. Doctor Strange made several attempts to stop his one-time Defenders ally. As Strange pointed out to his fellow heroes, they needed to face this problem head on and not send it away so that Hulk could attack another planet, get stronger, and then return even angrier.
With that in mind the Master of the Mystic Arts found a small opening in the Hulk’s mind when he conversed with Rick Jones and then forced his way in further when General Ross blasted the Green Goliath with 10 tons of adamantium shards. On the mental plane, Strange tried to appeal to his friend’s humanity, but that resulted in the gamma-irradiated gladiator crushing the mage’s hands worse than ever before.
Far from giving up, Doctor Strange traveled down a much darker path, taking on the demon Zom and facing Hulk on the physical plane. Zom-Strange made short work of the Warbound and then pounded on Hulk for a while until realizing his rampage put innocent people in danger. That gave Hulk a window to smash Strange’s face, sending him into unconsciousness first and then into the arena alongside Stark, Richards and Black Bolt where they fought one another to near-death.
At the end of the story, Hulk stood victorious over all of his former friends, including the seemingly all-powerful Sentry. The only thing that kept him from continuing his war came in an admission from one of his Warbound that they set off the explosion that killed Hulk’s kingdom.
Opening the Book of Vishanti
In WORLD WAR HULK #3, Thunderbolt Ross remembered a time when the President pardoned the Jade Giant and they dedicated an adamantium statue to him. That took place in INCREDIBLE HULK #278 and #279. In the latter issue, Strange spoke at the dedication explaining that “The savage Hulk side of his persona is completely erased.” The love fest didn’t last. 20 issues later, Nightmare provoked Hulk into another rampage with Doctor Strange the target. Though Strange stopped the behemoth, he inadvertently turned him even more savage before joining forces with an army of heroes to help out in INCREDIBLE HULK #300. The ensuing battle nearly destroyed New York City, but Strange stopped the madness by sending Hulk on a journey through dimensions.