"This is the story of the Hulk..."
"May he who dies...die well."
The storyline centers around The Hulk, naturally, as he is sent into space by Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt. After a fight with the Thing left Las Vegas in ruins and about two dozen dead (later retconned), it was decided that he was too dangerous for Earth, and that they would send him to a peaceful planet with no intelligent life so he couldn't hurt anyone, and finally get his wish of being left alone.
Of course, everything goes horribly wrong. The Hulk, understandably upset at this turn of events, damages his space ship, sending it off course and into a wormhole. He then crash lands on the alien planet Sakaar, which is very full of intelligent life, and none of it is friendly. Weakened by his trip through the "Great Portal", as the locals call it, the Hulk is implanted with an obedience disk, which forces him to obey commands and sent to the great arena to fight for his freedom.
The storyline is very popular among Hulk fans as it gives the green giant some very real character development for the first time in years, where as previously the focus had been on Bruce Banner (or Banner in the Hulk's body). The writing, richly developed setting, cast of new yet familiar characters, and beautiful artwork all combined to make this one of the most praised Hulk storylines of all time. Opinions are divided on the sequel, World War Hulk, however.
Planet Hulk was later adapted into an animated film. The film was very condensed, changing several aspects of the story and removing a few characters completely, but is still considered one of the better Marvel Comics animated adaptations, receiving considerable critical praise. It's also notable for being one of the more violent Marvel animated movies, depicting blood and fairly graphic deaths. Elements of its plot were also incorporated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Thor: Ragnarok.
- Action Girl: Caiera and Elloe. Both Dark Action Girls, to an extent.
- All There in the Manual: Planet Hulk: Gladiator Guidebook, a special written by Greg Pak in the style of The Offical Guide to the Marvel Universe, detailing information about the Planet Sakaar, it's people, its political situation, and the characters featured in Planet Hulk.
- Anticlimax Boss
- Anti-Hero: Hulk himself rates as a fairly strong Type III in this storyline, at times pushing Type IV.
- Arc Words/Book Ends: "This is the story of the Hulk."
- Badass Abnormal: Hiroim, due to a combination of training and his species natural abilities, is slightly above Captain America (comics) in terms of physical capabilities. He's still possibly the most dangerous member of the Warbound next to the Hulk, until Caiera joins.
- Badass Normal: Elloe. Imperials are apparently equal to humans, and Elloe because of her training is the equivalent of an Olympic level athlete; she's still able to fight evenly against Miek after he transforms into a Hive King.
- Barbarian Hero: The Hulk
- Blood Knight: A running theme is the inner conflict between Hulk's desire to be left alone and his blood knight tendencies.
- Boxing Lessons for Superman: Hulk was forced to learn some new techniques to keep up with the other gladiators.
- The Caligula: The Red King
- Continuity Cavalcade: Many nods to older stories. Two in particular:
- The Warband members telling their stories. It includes nods to the X-Men battling the Brood, Thor's original adventure, and Hulk’s first transformation as a gray Hulk.
- "Banner War", where the Hulk dreams first of defeating the beasts of Jarella's world and nearly marrying her, then of the Warbound beating up all the heros whom Hulk sees as his tormentors, complete with Miek stabbing The Sentry for making the Hulk sleep in his kitchen.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The "Sakaarson" and "Worldbreaker" concepts are rather similar to the idea of Christ and the Anti-Christ that's popular in many works about Christianity. Also many adherents to the faith refer to "The Prophet" who supposedly foretold all of this, potentially an allusion to either Jesus or Mohammad. The Red King's father was believed by many to be the Sakaarson; the Red King believed himself to be the Sakaarson (though many believed him to be the Worldbreaker); Hiroim believed himself to be the Sakaarson in his youth, but later started believing that the concepts of the Sakaarson and the Worldbreaker were metaphorical. Many believed the Hulk to be the Sakaarson (a belief Hiroim exploited to rally support for the rebellion) while some, including Miek, believed the Hulk to be the Worldbreaker.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Pretty much the whole Warbound but also the Spikes, who are mostly children unable to overcome their hunger.
- Determinator: The Hulk, of course, but Miek as well, who cut off one of his arms to get out of a bind.
- Downer Ending: The Hulk is just not allowed to have a happy life, is he?
- The Dragon: Caiera is this to the Red King before her Heel Face Turn
- Estrogen Brigade Bait: In universe, Lavin Skee.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Red King's name is Angmo-Asan. He's never referred to as such throughout the story.
- Facing the Bullets One-Liner: Lavin Skee, after being mortally wounded:
Hiroim: Hold still. I'm a shadow-priest; you'll want a prayer.
Lavin: No, I want a sword.
- Fantastic Racism: The three main races on Sakaar, the Imperials, the Shadows, and the Natives, have varying degrees of prejudice between them, mostly between Imperials and Natives, though Imperials who believe they're an offshoot of the Shadow species tend to think they're superior due to being further evolved.
- Five-Man Band: The Warbound
- The Hulk is The Hero (also ostensibly the Biggest Guy)
- Hiroim is The Lancer and also The Smart Guy
- Brood is The Smart Guy largely based on having a dangerous amount of Genre Savvy.
- Korg is The Big Guy, with shades of The Smart Guy stemming from his military experience.
- Miek and Elloe are both The Chick, with Miek later becoming The Big Guy after his transformation.
- Caiera is The Sixth Ranger
- Fragile Speedster: Miek pre-transformation.
- Gladiator Games
- Hot Amazon: Caiera, duh.
- Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid: The Hulk wades around in lava several times throughout the story as if it were water (he does get burned early on while his powers are weakened, though). During the climactic fight against the Red King, he dives beneath Sakaar's tectonic plates and shifts them back into place to stop an earthquake.
- The Load: Miek, at first.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Caiera; it's revealed in a flashback in Skaar: Son of Hulk that her obedience disk was removed when she was still a child; her oath to be the Red King's shadow was all that bound her to his service.
- No Name Given: Brood doesn't have a name, and is referred to only as No-name or Brood throughout the story.
- Pet the Dog: Twice for Brood: when she tells a tale to some children using little figures and, later, when she ends up running a daycare.
- Powered Armor: How the Red King fights.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Warbound. The Hero is a monster exiled from his own world by his best friends because of his Unstoppable Rage. The Lancer was a celebrated general who was exiled from his people as a heretic. The Big Guy was a would-be alien conqueror who was forced to kill his own brother. Miek is an unhived, exiled from his own people. Brood is the last survivor of a brood hive destroyed by the X-Men. Elloe was a former noble whose father was executed in front of her. Caiera is the former right hand of a despot.
- Revenge: Mainly in foreshadowing for World War Hulk, revenge is a recurring theme, with Hulk plotting revenge for his exile, Elloe seeking revenge for the murder of her father, and Miek contemplating taking vengeance for the murder of his father and enslavement of his hive. When asked what he would do, the Hulk responds:
Hulk: I'd never stop making them pay.
- Sobriquet: The Red King. Also, the Hulk is most commonly referred to by his gladiator name, the Green Scar, and later, the Green King.
- Took a Level In Badass: Miek eventually manages to hold his own in armed combat before transforming into a Native King, a massive version of his race (roughly the size of the Hulk or Korg) possessing super strength.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Sakaar is just a generation past having survived its own zombie apocalypse, the Spike Wars. The alien parasites known as the spikes function as The Dreaded to the natives of Sakaar.
The Planet Hulk animated movie provides examples of the following tropes:
- Almost Kiss: Between Hulk and Caiera at the film's close.
- Anti-Villain: Caiera, at first.
- The Cameo: Several of Marvel's "cosmic" characters cameo in this movie; Adam Warlock, Gamora, Pip the Troll, a Skrull, and Grandmaster. Notably, Grandmaster shows up in the shadows behind the Red King as he watches the Hulk's first fight in the arena, suggesting more may be at play here. Thor and Beta Ray Bill show up in a flashback, and Bill returns later.
- Death by Irony: The same spiked bugs that the Red King used to kill Caiera's parents are used on him by Caiera herself by the end of the movie.
- Deuteragonist: Caiera, although she starts out as a Villain Deuteragonist.
- Foreshadowing: Korg mentions how, right before he went into the wormhole that brought his group into Sakaar, they were being followed by Beta Ray Bill.
- Heel Face Turn: Caiera, after learning the Red King, the person she's fiercely loyal to after he saved her, caused the destruction of her village.
- Hey, It's That Voice!:
- Rick D. Wasserman, the voice of the Hulk, is also the voice of AMC, i.e., that guy who goes "previously, on Mad Men/The Walking Dead/Rubicon..."
- Marc Worden reprises his role from the Ultimate Avengers movies and The Invincible Iron Man as Iron Man for his cameo.
- Paul Dobson voices Beta Ray Bill.
- Is that Gaara? And Ukitake? Awesome!
- With Lisa Ann Beley voicing Caiera and Mark Hildreth as the Red King, we are presented with a very disturbing twist on Relena/Heero.
- Kevin Michael Richardson voices Korg. Miek is voiced by Samuel Vincent. Additionally, Michael Kopsa--the friggin' Red Comet himself--voices Lavin Skee.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: since it's the Hulk, this is inevitable. However, special mentions to the battle against Beta Ray Bill, who Hulk continues to pummel even after Bill has already lost consciousness.
- One-Hit Kill: Hulk completely flattens a lava kraken.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Large sections of the story are removed, such as visiting the shadow people and acquiring the stone ship, Brood's character is removed all together and the Warbound section is condensed. Silver Surfer doesn't appear for licensing reasons, and is replaced by Beta Ray Bill. And of course, the ending is either changed or cut short.
- Stupid Evil: The Red King plunges headfirst into this when he, with no prompting, just goes and tells to Caiera (whose entire family was killed by the Spikes) that the Spikes were his weapon from the beginning, and then expects her to remain his faithful servant. Then he wants her killed when she puts a Spike on him.
- This Is Not My Life to Take: Hulk chooses to spare the Red King's life, instead letting Caiera kill him with a spike bug.