Thought it was time to stop re-editing stuff into and out of the previous segment and just start a new post. This one's inspired by Lance Eason and paolo, posters on the Hulk Message Board.
First up, some thoughts on Rick Jones' "death": although I'm sure he's not dead, the threat of the death was an interesting and evocative point, as Lance said. After all, the Hulk came into being through a selfless act--Dr. Robert Bruce Banner's rescue of Rick Jones by pushing him into the trench on the G-bomb testing site. Banner might think all of the Hulk's actions are worth his initial sacrifice to save Rick...with the threat that his actions here, preaching to Miek, now contributed indirectly to Rick's possible death, well, that's got to be more than Banner and the Hulk can take. Plus, again, thanks to Lance--there's some nice symmetry to the end of this story with Rick and Bruce in reversed roles, the former having the opportunity to save the latter's life this time around. Nice catch, Lance!
Second, some thoughts about Miek: yes, he's set up as a dark double to the Hulk, with the parallels to the Hulk and following the credo of "Never stop making them pay." Simply put, things happened such that Miek's entire hive is effectively extinct with the current generation. (Nevermind the hive he tried to have with No-Name Brood--Humbug took care of them in Heroes For Hire #15.) He believes that if his people are going to die out, what use is there in living...what use is there in the whole universe living? But he's got a hangup about what he can do about it, so rather than doing the dirty work himself, he'd rather manipulate the being he sees as given to him tailor-made for destruction. (Remember his continued denials that he was the Sakaarson and the World Breaker, from the very first moment such thoughts were brought up.) And he wants everyone, everywhere to pay for the death of his hive. That's his motivation; he's a nihilist, but overall, a cowardly one. Time will tell whether he will actually learn from his mistakes, learn to take matters in his own hands, or throw in with another party willing to do what the Hulk wouldn't.
Okay, time for paolo and the Sentry fight. A lot of people still quarrel and call the fight a stalemate, that it didn't really solve anything. I call BS. I'm looking at it this way: these two had an all out, balls-to-the-wall brawl, expending so much energy each at a sustained length such that it actually caused them both to revert to their regular mortal forms. Hulk burned off his gamma. Sentry burned off....Sentry juice. (That sounds icky.) Who had enough energy left at the end of that to deliver the final punch? The Hulk, Bruce Banner--his eyes were still green with gamma energy. Sentry...didn't show any signs of Sentry-ness at the end. His energies were expended all the way, after taking what the Hulk dished out--the Hulk took what the Sentry had, metamorphosed back to Banner, and kept going. How is this not a mark in the "W" column for the Hulk? *sigh*
There seems to be something for every Hulk fan in the next few months. (SPOILER WARNING for those who want to stay surprised!) Kate Waynesboro seems to have rejoined the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Warbound #1, and there are rumblings the big bad of that mini is none other than the Leader. (Greg Pak has been quoted as saying that #3 of the series will have plenty of Bill Mantlo-era goodness.) On top of that, in the newly-christened The Incredible Hercules series, rumor has it it won't be long before the Pantheon crashes the party. And of course we'll have our fair share of Sakaarian coolness in both Warbound with the Hulk's group on Earth, and the post-apocalypse Sakaar in the spinoff Skaar, Son of Hulk.
Something else good did come out of WWH, and it's found in the four-issue miniseries World War Hulk: Gamma Corps. If you didn't follow this mini, you need to pick it up, either in the single issues or the inevitable trade paperback collection. Frank Tieri and Carlos Ferreira crafted a tale bringing together different characters with DNA from gamma-endowed creatures spliced in. They each have their own unique stories to tell and some are even tied into the Hulk mythos from before they got their new abilities. They're all corralled by General Ryker from Paul Jenkins' short run on the Hulk book. It's a good story backed up by solid art, and it introduces some characters that should have a good impact on future Hulk stories. And how about the irony of the character of Mess! Definitely a diamond in the rough, here. Highly recommended!
For my New Year's resolution, I'd like to see more of Bruce Banner in the Hulk book. Greg P., as much as you said Bruce would be an important part of the mythos, a few placeholder panels and the feeling of importance is no substitute for some genuine dialogue and psychology! Maybe Jeph Loeb will achieve more of a balance...if the red Hulk is Banner....