Dark Son: An Incredible Hulks Primer
by: Gary Miller
Is everyone ready for Incredible Hulks #612, on sale September 1? It’s the first part of “Dark Son,” the saga that introduces not only an honest-to-gosh team of Hulks for the first time ever, but also the Hulk will meet his son Skaar’s twin brother, the (apparently) villainous Hiro-Kala. (Yes, I’ve read the story in question, and it’s an incredible start to the new status quo. But that’s a story for a different blog!) While it’s true he’s not exactly a new member of the Hulk cast, his appearances have caused some confusion, and perhaps justifiably so. Now, before that momentous issue hits the comic shop near you, I’d like to take the opportunity and roll out the welcome mat for Hiro-Kala, giving you the story so far, along with a bit of commentary on the direction of his arc thus far. Ready? Go!
I. The Misbegotten Son
The blind priest Hiro-Amin discovers the boy who would be named Hiro-Kala seven days after the destruction of Crown City, floating in a canoe, and brings him aboard a slave ship. The crew had set out to find and kill the son of the Hulk before his suspected Old Power proved to be a danger to the planet. The Shadow Priest marks the boy, believing him too old to be the Hulk’s offspring. (Blame the Hulk and Caiera’s genetics for prematurely aging the youth.) He then becomes slave to the Imperial Prime cum barbarian, Axeman Bone. On one of their voyages, they find a green-eyed boy possessed of the Old Power. Upon his death, his portion of the Old Power passes to Hiro-Amin. Later still, Hiro-Kala escapes from Axeman Bone’s camp and treks across the desert, miraculously surviving without food or water, calming a Great Devil Corker, and rescuing a young Imperial girl. Eventually he finds Hiro-Amin, strung up after an ill-fated battle with Skaar, and earns his freedom from slavery–as well as his name–by killing the renegade priest.
Hiro-Kala covets the Old Power for he wants to use it to defeat his brother, Skaar, and believes he failed in his endeavor to obtain it by killing Hiro-Amin. Soon afterward, however, he begins to feel the “stones” talking to him, possessing the Old Power, after all. Just as Skaar does, having also just inherited the power, he hears the voice of their late mother, the Shadow warrior Caiera. “You’re killing your mother all over again,” he says to the newly empowered Skaar, not knowing he too is Caiera’s offspring. Skaar brushes off his brother, but Hiro-Kala soon accompanies him, the enslaved Silver Surfer, and the Imperial barbarians led by the Red King, his daughter Princess Omaka, and Axeman Bone, on their march into Fillia. Finally, he meets Caiera’s stone form face-to-face while Skaar fights the Silver Surfer and Galactus prepares to devour Sakaar. He watches as Caiera and the Surfer save the people of Sakaar, moving their great stone ships offworld as Galactus finally devours the planet. He watches as Caiera throws his brother, Skaar, into a portal that will transport him across the galaxy to their father’s planet, Earth. He also watches as Skaar fatefully awakens Galactus from the slumber the Old Power granted him, turning his satiety into compulsive hunger that endangers the very universe. Hiro-Kala leaves on one of the ships….and thence begins the next part of his journey.
II. Dark Son Rising
With the Old Power devoured by Galactus when he destroyed Sakaar, the great ships should be stranded and powerless; however, some force still guides them across space. That force is the Old Power, still possessed by Hiro-Kala. He uses it to go to Galactus. Still less than a speck of dust before him, Hiro-Kala tells him that the Old Power will poison him. Thanks to the Old Power, he finally knows the identity of his father and mother, and with that revelation, a ghostly vision of Caiera appears, formed from the Old Power. She regrets not having recognized him for her son. He cries and returns to the main stone ship, putting into effect his radical plan to have revenge upon Galactus for destroying his homeworld. He directs the ships to the planet of Gaiusar, the first planet the Shadow People healed using their power, thousands of years ago. On that planet, Old Sam reveals the origin of the Old Power–that it was a scientific invention of the Shadow, meant to eclipse Galactus’ own Power Cosmic. Hiro-Kala systematically manipulates the people of the planet into believing he is their God. He raises the ire of his own closest companions–Old Sam, Princess Omaka, Axeman Bone and his daughter Lihla–so much so that Omaka and Old Sam ally themselves with the Gaiusarians against him. He in turn defeats Gaiusar’s greatest warriors and appeals to their governments, all to fuel the peoples’ beliefs.
The people’s faith in Hiro-Kala, a “false god,” somehow pollutes the Old Power, and when Galactus finally arrives to devour the planet, the power acts like a poison. Is it the souls of the people of this world crying in torment? Why would it be so different than when Galactus fed on other planets? Regardless, Hiro-Kala sacrificed Gaiusar to save other planets, for if Galactus would feed on another infected planet, he would die. Before consuming another planet, Galactus must always ask himself: “Has Hiro-Kala been here first?” Also, Hiro-Kala reveals his “New Power” before Galactus, triggered by hatred, and born of his mother’s Old Power combined with the Power Cosmic. Green waves of energy emanate from Hiro-Kala toward the Devourer of Worlds, who then vomits the ichor of souls. Their power lashes out at Hiro-Kala, permanently scarring one side of his face before he returns to the ship. On his way back, the ghost of Caiera appears for one final time. “What you have done in silence is greater than anyone can ever know,” she says, approving of his condemnation of the Old Power and his war against Galactus to save a universe. Once aboard the ship, Hiro-Kala has but one thing to say to Bone, Lihla, and his crew: “Find my brother. Wherever he is, find him. We’re going in that direction.”
III. The Conquest of Jarella’s World
Having begun the quest to find his brother, Skaar, Hiro-Kala and his crew are soon diverted from that task. In the Microverse, a subatomic realm, the alien Psyklop wage war on the planet where once lived another love of the Hulk’s, the late Queen Jarella of K’ai. Her niece, Jentorra, having studied under the Sorcerer Triad, conjures a spell to bring the Hulk back to their world as the Triad had done before (Incredible Hulk #351-352). However, because the stone ships are near the Fault, a rip in space created in a cosmic accident (see War of Kings for the whole story), the spell instead teleports the Hulk’s nearest blood-relative to K’ai. Hiro-Kala arrives in time to defeat a horde of Psyklop that had swarmed Jentorra. While his crewmen follow, drawn to his New Power inside the Fault, another crew came to K’ai attempting a reluctant rescue: that of the HMS Endeavor III, consisting of former Micronauts Arcturus Rann and Princess Marionette, with their new, robotic teammate “Carl,” a Death’s Head guard. While the Micronauts make landfall in one of K’ai’s oceans, Hiro-Kala finds his mind awakened by the Psyklop to visions of the future before he kills them all with his New Power. He proclaims himself a “new monster for a new age,” and when the people of K’ai discover he is the son of their hero, the Hulk, they pour on the same worship as they afforded his father since Jarella’s death. He also uses his New Power to resurrect those the Psyklop killed, making them vessels for his power. He leads those so empowered to ships, themselves powered by some mysterious energy on K’ai only the Triad could tap into, for the purpose of sending them throughout the Microverse to eliminate the Old Power.
Hiro-Kala then shows Lihla the same visions of the future the Psyklop awakened–a future where he is the most powerful being in the universe. There, Lihla is his queen, and Galactus is his servant. Galactus, his armor white, warns that the New Power will be so potent, powered by Hiro’s love, it will eventually collapse reality. Frightened by the possible future, Lihla still remains close and allows him to present her with a bauble to wear around her neck, a token of his trust. Meanwhile, Hiro-Kala’s followers find Marionette, Carl and an unconscious Rann and engage them in battle. Rann is now dying, poisoned by radiation over the thousand years he has wielded the Enigma Force. Now, he seeks a cure: the Enigma Force Nullifier, hidden somewhere on K’ai, possibly having some other purpose. While Rann sleeps, the Enigma Force warns him of the gravest threat to the Microverse: Hiro-Kala. And back in the city, Jentorra sees the bauble around Lihla’s neck and steals it. It glows to life under her touch, revealed as the Enigma Force Nullifier that Rann was after! She uses it to try to kill Hiro-Kala, but he swiftly defeats her and takes it back. As Lihla admits her love for him, he stands at the precipice of his destiny.
However, the Enigma Force Nullifier flees Hiro-Kala, and finds Rann, whom it gives a choice: either he can use it to cure himself, or he can avert Hiro-Kala’s impending apocalypse. After the Nullifier gives him further visions that match those of Hiro-Kala, he decides he must use the power for the greater good. He arrives in the city, shattering Hiro-Kala’s body, but Hiro-Kala grows, his body reforming even as the Nullifier has begun to do its work, altering the fabric of the Microverse. Jentorra begins to weave a spell to transport Hiro-Kala back to his father’s universe, but Rann protests, saying he must stay or else the Nullifier’s work will be for nothing. In need of escape, Hiro-Kala hijacks the spell with his New Power, augmenting it so it transports the entire planet and his armada of ships through the Fault. Once the spell is complete, Hiro-Kala kills Lihla, seeing the act as saving billions of lives, hoping to avoid the destiny revealed him by the Psyklop. Rann’s Endeavor retrieves the rest of his crew just in time to escape. Weeks later, after concluding nothing in the Microverse has changed, he and Marionette decide to add reinforcements to their Micronauts–I mean, Enigma Force, and go through the Fault after Hiro-Kala.
IV. Dark Son Escalating
Hiro-Kala has used up all his New Power in teleporting K’ai through the Fault, toward the universe that is home to Hiro-Kala’s father, the incredible Hulk. Taking advantage of his powerlessness, Axeman Bone attacks Hiro, determined to avenge his daughter, chasing him into a deep chasm, one of many on the broken planet. At chasm’s bottom, Hiro-Kala finds the Worldmind of K’ai, a self-aware orb that reads his thoughts. The Worldmind reveals that it is dying, having been ripped from its home in the Microverse. It tells Hiro-Kala the Old Power is not as destructive as he believes, and tries to get him to confront his heritage: “Are you your brother’s keeper….or your father’s son?” It then shows Hiro the War-Mind, a group of dead guardians culled from the Pit’ll Pawob Assassin’s Guild. It cedes control over the War-Mind to Hiro-Kala, who wastes no time in sending them to eliminate Axeman Bone. But the War-Mind is hard to control, and quickly escapes to the surface to menace the remaining red-skinned crew.
Though his New Power is gone, Hiro-Kala finds he still possesses the Old Power, and uses it to heal the Worldmind. He and the Worldmind then share their power to save K’ai, healing its fissures and leaving its surface teeming with plant life. On the way to the surface, he sees visions of his father, the Hulk, with Queen Jarella of K’ai. They remind him of his own lost love, Lihla, and what their love would have wrought. As he rises, he thinks how unstoppable he would be if he possessed all the Worldmind’s power. Then, the earthquakes stop, K’ai stabilizes, and the people rejoice in Hiro-Kala, their new king. Axeman Bone returns from the chasm, only to become Hiro-Kala’s slave as restitution for his transgressions, his axe transformed into his new chains. With Bone at his feet, and surrounded by the War-Mind soldiers, Hiro-Kala declares that he is nothing like his father the Hulk, that he has no light to guide the K’aitians, but that he will bring them hope in the darkness of this new, unknown universe…he will be their “Dark Son.”
And there you have it: the full story of Hiro-Kala, son of Hulk, leading up to the “Dark Son” saga beginning in Incredible Hulks #612. It’s a long and winding road, and I can totally see why confusion exists over some of his exploits. The constants in his story appear to be his lust for some kind of power–first the Old Power, then his own New Power, then the Enigma Force, and finally the K’aitian Worldmind. In fact, it is his power quest that is the most confusing part of his story, as you can almost never tell from one moment to the next just what his current power source is! He is also a schemer, with the plans he’s had regarding Galactus and ridding multiple realms of the Old Power. His plans often appear quite mad, and he just might be. Sacrificing an entire world to potentially save a universe? Killing a potential future love to spare the lives of billions? Is life sacred to Hiro-Kala, or does he only save or kill to suit whatever his endgame is? Only one thing is sure: currently he still uses the power he claims to despise, the Old Power, as he makes his way to his brother, Skaar.
The current milieu to which writer Scott Reed brought Hiro-Kala in the “Realm of Kings” crossover is noteworthy in that it ties the new son of Hulk to the period in the Hulk’s history most likened to the early Sakaar stories: the K’ai, or Jarella sagas of the 1970s and early 1980s. Thematically it works, because it was there that the Hulk first became a king, and thanks to the writing of Peter David in the late 1980s, he has been worshipped as a quasi-religious figure in the wake of the tragedies that have befallen K’ai over the years. Reed and artist Miguel Munera have evoked certain elements from the original Jarella stories in new ways. The Psyklop reappear, this time as an invading force like Star Trek’s Borg instead of one insectovorid being. Jentorra herself is the niece to Jarella and has ties to the Sorcerer Triad of Torla, Holi, and Moli. Key scenes from the Hulk’s time on K’ai have been recreated as statues everywhere (wonderful conjurings, by the way, of the Sal Buscema and Herb Trimpe eras). And in the closing arc, the War-Mind is made from dead members of the Pit’ll Pawob guild of assassins, which Lord Visis hired repeatedly to kill the Hulk and Jarella (including its most infamous assassin, Fialan). Even the series’ logo hearkens back to the Hulk’s 1970s classic logo used during virtually the entire span of Jarella stories.
It’s been interesting too that the Micronauts–er, the Enigma Force have been brought into the storyline. Their Microverses weren’t originally linked, but thanks to Peter David’s Captain Marvel run, they have been for some time, and Reed uses this fact to great effect. In fact, the storyline comes off as a love letter to the work of Harlan Ellison, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and Bill Mantlo all in one. It’s just a shame, then, that the art team feels like the weak link. Terry Pallot is a veteran inker, and Jeffrey Huet has done good work in the past over “Planet Hulk” artist Carlo Pagulayan, but they can’t bring Miguel Munera’s plain layouts and stilted character work to life. In some ways, I long for the detailed, busy work of Son of Hulk’s Andres Guinaldo on this series, but I’m afraid the sequel series during “Dark Son,” Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force will again team the very capable Reed with the mediocre Munera. At the very least, the Incredible Hulks series, with artists Brian Ching, Tom Raney, and Barry Kitson, should offer the strongest portrayals yet of young Hiro-Kala and his world.
So, are you ready for the arrival of the “Dark Son”?
The early adventures of Hiro-Kala are available in SKAAR: SON OF HULK and HULK: PLANET SKAAR. His battle with Galactus is in SON OF HULK: DARK SON RISING, and his arrival on K’ai is in REALM OF KINGS. All except REALM are now available in softcover, while REALM is in a hardcover edition.
To read more about the Hulk’s adventures in K’ai, read HULK: HEART OF THE ATOM, available in a Marvel Premiere Classic hardcover.