Greg Pak and Greg Land reveal their plans for Amadeus Cho on Planet Hulk.

Greg Pak returns to Planet Hulk, but this time the Totally Awesome Hulk Amadeus Cho joins him for the ride. As Marvel Legacy gets underway, Greg Land comes on to bring the world of Sakaar to life in the ‘Return to Planet Hulk’ arc kicking off with THE INCREDIBLE HULK #708. What has it been like to return to Sakaar with a Hulk other than Bruce Banner?

Greg Pak: It’s a blast. I’ve been thinking about Sakaar a ton this year after having written the PLANET HULK prose novel that comes out in October, so getting the chance to go back in comics is tremendous. And going back with Amadeus opens up some new opportunities in the storytelling that’s a huge amount of fun. This is a big, big story for Amadeus — he’s on an emotional precipice as the story begins and he will come out of the story a different person. Big, big stakes! Will we see different sides of Sakaar than what we were exposed to in Planet Hulk?

Greg Pak: We’ll literally see a different side of the planet! During the original PLANET HULK story, folks frequently mentioned the Red King’s war on the neighboring nation of Fillia. In RETURN TO PLANET HULK, Amadeus will land on that other continent — which is now a desolate wasteland devastated by the Red King’s bombing campaigns. So it’ll be familiar and fun for PLANET HULK fans, but it’s a distinct situation and culture that explores another part of Sakaar and the legend of the Worldbreaker. What has the design process been like for these new parts of the planet? How have you been able to put your own spin on the original look and feel of the world?

Greg Land: Hulk first encounters a group of the planet’s desert people that utilize vehicles that are cobbled together from old engines, metal scrapes and their planet’s version of automobiles.  The tricky thing here is to make the rides look unique and functional, being dynamic looking as well. Big wheels and tires are a must for the desert-like conditions.  As far as the inhabitants, their overall look is similar to the original Planet Hulk, with more of an emphasis on ragged clothing and hand welded/hammered armor. How much can you tell us about how Sakaar has changed since Banner’s time there?

Greg Pak: We start this story from the POV of folks in Fillia who suffered for years from the catastrophic bombing campaigns of the Red King. Their cities and farms were destroyed and the survivors ended up roaming the wasteland in packs, fighting for survival. Now a specific clan is about to be destroyed by their enemy. But the members of this clan heard strange, thrilling stories of the Green Scar, the Worldbreaker, a huge green alien who fell through the Great Portal and smashed the Red King. And they start to wonder if they could bring that champion back to fight for them…

And I’ll say no more! Read the books — they’re gonna be great! Beyond the planet itself, how have the characters we know from Planet Hulk changed, in demeanor or appearance?

Greg Pak: You’ll see familiar Sakaarian species like the insectivorid Hivers, the gray Shadow, and the red Imperials, but we’re introducing a brand new set of supporting characters and villains here. And since they inhabit a different part of the world and have been through different experiences, the look and feel is more barbarian post-disaster than the ancient Rome sci-fi of the original. It’s a tremendous amount of fun — new worldbuilding based on the incredibly fun worldbuilding we did during the original story.

Greg Land: As the series moves forward, I hope to be able to get more details in specific characters if they continue. I will tweak costuming as I become more comfortable with who the individuals are in terms of attitude, importance, etc. I’ve not been involved in the direction/formation of the series and have only worked on the first issue. So I have no idea what is going to be happening but will jump into the designs as I get the scripts. Hopefully, some new monstrous characters will be involved. Amadeus had a little involvement with the original Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines, how will that color his experience on this excursion? How will his differences from Banner affect that?

Greg Pak: TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #23 and the GENERATIONS: HULK one-shot set up this story in a big way by drawing some key differences between Banner and Amadeus and laying out the huge challenge Amadeus faces at this point in his life. So I won’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but that’s a good place to start peeking for some possible hints about this. Hulk’s armor from the original story has become iconic. Will Amadeus change up his look in this arc?

Greg Pak: Yeah, Amadeus will have a different look from the original — partly because this is a part of the world less influenced by the Imperial culture of the Red King’s people that played off of those ancient Roman motifs. In Fillia, everything’s in chaotic free-for-all, so everyone’s armor and weaponry and vehicles end up being drawn from many different sources. I love what Greg Land’s doing with the look and feel here — he’s clearly having a total blast with all of this in his designs for all the characters and gear.

And keep your eyes open for a key armoring-up scene in an early issue that gives more emotional context about where Amadeus’s armor comes from in this world.

Greg Land: The editors supplied me with a finished piece of Amadeaus’ new armor/look for the adventure, so I am using this as a guideline. The first Planet Hulk led right into World War Hulk. Should readers expect similar implications to this storyline?

Greg Pak: Anything’s possible. Keep on reading!

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What’s cooking in the lab? We asked Greg Pak to spill the beans!

The various Weapon X programs have been a thorn in the side of mutantkind for decades, but new management might turn that thorn into a chainsaw. On July 26, Reverend Stryker finally releases Batch H in WEAPON X #6, and we can only imagine what writer Greg Pak and artist Greg Land have in store for us. “They’re cooking up a killer, and we’ll see if our heroes can handle it,” warns Pak.

So just what kind of killer is Batch H? Unfortunately, I can’t give you a straight answer as Pak effectively danced around my questioning like a true, seasoned comic book writer. However, I can tell you that this creation branches out from the typical mutant powered goodie bag featuring Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath, and Domino, to include some gifts from Totally Awesome Hulk! “That’s like a machine gun with a bazooka, some hand grenades and a bunch of knives thrown in; and then the Hulk is a nuke,” explains Pak, “He’s the strongest entity in the Marvel universe so if anyone has that power they’re a huge threat. They could wipe out all mutants.”

Now, which of Hulk’s abilities Stryker successfully melded with his freaky skin suit cyborgs remains a mystery. But, when asked what powers he would give a pro mutant operative to combat Batch H, Pak said you’d probably want something with Professor X’s mind, the ability to put people to sleep, and some kind of influence over emotion to pacify the threat.

Weapon X #6 cover by Skan

Dealing with this hodge-podge of overpowered superhumans won’t be the team’s only issue. “A key question being explored is, is the human recruit still there?” says Pak. Each cyborg starts as an average Joe, human host that Stryker recruits. And while a few arguably villainous characters on the team may be down for whatever, our usual heroes are definitely not. “They’re not murderers. They don’t want to kill anyone. So it’s very important to find out if the people are still there,” explains Pak.

“It’s chilling and it’s creepy and you’re going to want to read it,” teases Pak, “There are surprises coming, a big twist coming.” Plus, like everything else he does, there will of course be humor woven in. That includes more bickering from our favorite old married couple, Logan and Sabretooth, and more of the everyday office life characterizations Pak had a good time sneaking in. “One of the fun things in this whole series is seeing the every day life of the people in the Weapon X facility and how they deal with what they’re doing,” raves Pak, “It’s not one monolithic attitude. We get to see different ways of dealing with human atrocities,”

Get your action, horror, and office life fix on July 26 in WEAPON X #6 written by Greg Pak with art by Greg Land!

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Greg Pak crashes the Totally Awesome Hulk into the world of Weapon X!

By Josh Weiss

The Weapon X program has returned, and while it couldn’t be described as “better than ever,” it’s up to its old shenanigans of hunting down and eliminating mutants as well as utilizing their powers. However, this time there’s a bit of a twist: The lethal cyborgs at the program’s disposal also have Amadeus Cho—aka the Hulk—in their crosshairs! He’ll have to team up with Old Man Logan and Sabretooth to discover the murderous machinations against mutant kind in this summer’s brand-new arc, “Weapons of Mutant Destruction” coming to the pages of TOTALLY AWESOME HULK and the upcoming WEAPON X!

We spoke with writer Greg Pak, responsible for both books and the crossover, about exciting team-ups, man-eating aliens ,and the mysterious threat known only as Weapon Gamma. TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #19 will serve as a prelude to this arc. Was it hard to set the stage without giving too much away before it launches proper in June? 

Greg Pak: Well, no. Every issue in this whole storyline has its own internal story and matters so it does set some things up, but it also is its own adventure that plays an important role both in terms of plot and character at this moment in time. I don’t do kind of treading water stories [Laughs]. I strive hard not to do that kind of story, you know what I mean? If there’s gonna be a thing that sets something up [it] is because there’s an important element or character beat that is worth covering in that early issue. Every story is hard. To a certain extent there’s always new challenges with everything you’re trying to do, but I wouldn’t say this is any harder than any other part of the story. I will say it’s all ridiculously fun. We spent a lot of time developing this and nailing down all the details. I’d go into the Marvel offices and have big meetings with the editors and that’s hard work, but by the end of it, we were kind of cackling together as we figured out how big things could happen and some fun twists and in particular, just really fun character moments so that this thing is developing in a way that makes for hopefully, both a thrilling action story, but also has these great character development moments throughout so that it matters on every level. What’s been keeping the Weapon X program out of sight all these years and other than picking off mutants, can you tell us what else they’re after this time around?

Greg Pak: I can’t reveal too much; I don’t want to spoil what’s happening in the story, but I can say that yes, the big mission is the extermination of mutants. And that’s been from time-to-time in Weapon X—with various Weapon X programs over the years that has been an objective, but at other times, it seemed like they were more interested in just creating super soldiers for other reasons and other purposes, but that’s front and center this time around. There is a classic Marvel villain who has basically taken over Weapon X and we will reveal that individual as the story progresses and it will hopefully be a big shock and a lot of fun. What makes it a little different is that over the years there have been a bunch of different super soldier programs and the new Weapon X program is the best of the best. They are culling their technology and techniques from the past and picking the best methods and it’s bigger and badder than ever and they have a plan, and this plan, it’s a very specific and precise plan that could work [Laughs]. I think the other fun of it is that we are, and this will become clear as the story goes on, but we’re doing some real world building. We’re spending a lot of time with these villains. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that a great story really depends on the antagonists, that you need formidable and compelling villains in order to really get deep into your story and I’m really thrilled about what we’re doing with these villains and with this whole world that they’ve created with the Weapon X program. We’ve got two main villains and they’re just very interesting—they have a very interesting relationship and there’s some really interesting contrast between the two of them and I can’t wait until we can reveal more. Why target these specific heroes and villains like Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, Domino, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath, and The Hulk right off the bat? 

Greg Pak: That is an excellent question [Laughs] and the answer will be revealed…no, like I said, there’s a very specific reason why Weapon X is going after these specific characters and I’m not gonna give that up, but if you think about what those characters do and what they’re capable of, maybe readers will come up with their own ideas, but all will be revealed over the course of these few issues. Can you give anything away about this mysterious Weapon Gamma? Is its title related to the radiation that gave Banner and Amadeus their powers? 

Greg Pak: Well there’s an interesting image that’s been revealed of a big Hulk-like figure in a tank with some Wolverine claws and so, we’ll see what’s in Batch H as the story progresses. I cannot tell you more [Laughs], but Weapon X has a plan and that certainly appears to be part of this plan. Exactly what it is, we will see.

Weapons of Mutant Destruction Alpha #1 cover What was it like teaming up a wise-cracking teenager like Amadeus Cho with the more jaded and grizzled personalities of Old Man Logan and Sabretooth?

Greg Pak: That is a lot of the hook of the story. It’s just like I’m looking for interesting contrasts between our two main villains within our group of heroes. You always wanna have, particularly when you’re working in a team book, you wanna have different voices. You want every character to have his/her own distinct voice. So that makes not only just the rhythm of dialogue more fun, but it gives you drama and tension and humor and fun character beats. It allows your characters to develop, basically, when your heroes are challenging each other in interesting ways. It also allows you to dig deeper into the themes of your book and so, if we’ve got this group of badasses, basically, who are used to doing what needs to be done no matter what that is and then you’ve got Amadeus Cho who is, in a lot of ways, a much more idealistic hero who doesn’t believe that nothing is impossible. He’s all about possibility as opposed to a cynical acceptance of reality. The last thing he is, is a killer—he’s a Hulk so he’s a smasher now, but he’s a cocky 19-year-old kid who thinks he’s the best Hulk there ever was and part of that for him is that he thinks he’s smart and he finds ways around problems and cuts the Gordian Knot and doesn’t accept that the worst outcome is what needs to happen. He saves lives and he’s not a lesser of two evils kind of person. And so that’s a very interesting point of view to throw into the mix when you’ve got folks like Logan who have seen the very worst that humanity has to offer and has responded with the worst from time-to-time and folks like Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike in particular who are straight up villains—who have been straight-up villains many times in their careers, but who are now working with these heroes for reasons that will be revealed as the story progresses. It’s a lot of fun. My editors, as the story developed, they suggested bringing The Hulk into the mix and I thought about it for two seconds and I was like, “That really makes a lot of sense.” It makes sense just on this emotional character level. As you’ll see, it also makes perfect sense in terms of plot and our villains’ plans. On that note, how do longtime enemies Logan and Sabretooth feel about forging an alliance? 

Greg Pak: [Laughs] Well they hate each other’s guts, right? What’s beautiful about those guys too and it’s a classic kind of setup, they hate each other, but they also probably know each other better than they know anybody else on the planet. They’ve known each other longer than just about anybody else who’s alive and they’re so very in similar in so many ways. If the person you know the best is the person you hate the most, that’s a very interesting dynamic to play with so they’ve been a lot of fun to write. It’s the kind of fun thing where as they team up then they also know just how to get under each other’s skin, even though they’re working together so they’ve been great to work with together. How does Amadeus, as a non-mutant, feel about being hunted by the Weapon X cyborgs? 

Greg Pak: I think [Amadeus] is the kind of person who has always been an outsider his whole life. He’s not a person who’s like, “Oh, how strange it is that I’m a human working with mutants.” That kind of thought wouldn’t formulate itself in his head. He’d just be like, “Let’s do this!” [Laughs] If somebody’s out persecuting somebody, Amadeus is gonna be like, “This is garbage and this has got to be stopped.” Basically, Amadeus immediately identifies with whoever the underdog is like most great classic super heroes, but I think with Amadeus in particular, that’s a big part of his drive. He’s gonna stick with the underdog and feel right at home fighting alongside them until he finds out what his new friends are capable of. [Laughs] We’ll see what happens then. You’re re-teaming with artist Mahmud Asrar for this story. What kind of tone did you guys want the artwork to convey?

Greg Pak:  Mahmud is amazing. He’s been drawing [TOTALLY AWESOME HULK] for a while and I just love everything he does. You see it coming through in the “Protectors” arc we’re doing right now where we’ve got a bunch of Asian-American super heroes teaming up with Amadeus and they’re taking on these humanivore aliens who have basically kidnapped a bunch of Manhattanites and put them in a food colony outside of Seknarf Seven and so our heroes are fighting to save their lives, save all these New Yorkers. But in that storyline, it’s a big fun goofy story of a bunch of mostly young heroes and a few crotchety older heroes taking on crazy comic book alien super villains. And there’s also a lot of little fun dynamics and little moments between these characters and Mahmud just kills on all that! At the same time, it’s a big action story and there’s also these kind of some very emotionally searing moments in it and Mahmud’s killin’ all that too. So the new story, where you’ve got the WEAPON X book and the TOTALLY AWESOME HULK book coming together, has some of these lighter elements from [TOTALLY AWESOME HULK], but then some really dark stuff and some very hardcore moments and action. And Mahmud is a great artist to nail all of that so he’s doing a tremendous job. What will this arc mean for the future of mutantkind in the Marvel Universe?

Greg Pak: An excellent question. You’re gonna have to buy every single issue to find out. [Laughs]

“Weapons of Mutant Destruction” gets underway with TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #19, available May 24!

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Greg Pak revives the infamous program, whether the X-Men like it or not!

Weapon X has returned with a new leader and a new mission. But they won’t be around much longer if Old Man Logan and Sabretooth have their way. The deadly duo has gathered Lady Deathstrike, Domino, and Warpath and formed a new team to combat the revived Weapon X before they can get too far off the ground.

WEAPON X writer Greg Pak, who will launch the series next year with artist Greg Land, sat down with us to tell how this team comes together and what kind of threats they will face in the battle against this new enemy. Weapon X is back; what’s this new reformed program’s goal?

Greg Pak: The Weapon X program is back, and it’s more deadly than ever—but this time its objective isn’t just to use mutants. Now it wants to exterminate them. And the powers and abilities of this new Weapon X threat are so terrifying that you need both heroes and villains teaming up to handle it. So get ready for a blockbuster thriller of a comic book with a brutal group of heroes and anti-heroes stretched to their limits in a battle for the survival of mutantkind. And of course, we’re going to have tons of fun as our heroes drive each other crazy along the way. Wolverine and Sabretooth have a history, but this particular Logan hasn’t really seen much of this Sabretooth. What has it been like writing these two together?

Greg Pak: It’s a blast. You’ve got an older Logan, who’s been through a whole different set of experiences teaming up with this Sabretooth he doesn’t really know. It’s always fun to have these two characters tangle with each other, particularly when they have to team up for any amount of time. But this time, you have the added dynamic of an older, wiser—well, potentially wiser, anyway—Wolverine teaming up with a younger Sabretooth. They’re a blast to write together; you can put those two characters together and fun things will just happen. They’re so similar, and yet have different ways for dealing with the world and totally different sets of morals and ethics. So for them to find common ground and fight alongside each other instead of against each other, it’s a fun challenge. And, of course, you get the chance for hugely fun conflicts of all kinds. As a writer, one of the most fun things to write is characters who behave badly. And seeing characters who hate each other be forced to work together, it’s classic! How do Logan and Sabretooth end up pulling this team together to take on Weapon X?

Greg Pak: The question is whether these heroes and anti-heroes can come together at all and work together, and whether they can handle what’s coming. This new Weapon X is bigger and badder than it’s ever been and will unleash its attacks in ways we’ve never seen before. Logan’s pulling this particular team together is because he needs a team that’s the best at what they do, and are willing to go the distance. And yet you create huge problems for yourself when you get people this dangerous in the same room together. So the stakes and potential for disaster are pretty sky high. Logan and Sabretooth have clear stakes in this as products of the previous Weapon X program, but what motivations do Domino, Warpath, and Lady Deathstrike have to join the battle?

Greg Pak: Some of these characters are more strictly heroic than others, they’re always going to stick their necks out when someone’s in danger, that’s just who they are and what they do. But Lady Deathstrike, for instance, she’s not been like that, traditionally. But Weapon X is out to exterminate everyone, so there are certain points where you set aside your qualms about the people you’re working with to fight the thing that has to be fought. These folks are going to be at that stage, but as the story goes on, you’ll see who’s willing to do what when it needs to happen, and who’s not. There will be points where the job at hand requires genuine heroism, and there may be points where the job requires something else altogether. This is a story that will test how villainous our villains are, and how heroic our heroes are. And on the flip side, it will show us how heroic these villains can be, and how villainous our heroes could become. It will push both sides to their breaking points. Our characters are going to find things out about themselves that they may not like, and that may be good or that may be terrible.

And I’ll also say, I’m thinking of this book as a series of big, blockbuster action-thrillers. It’s going to be a big satisfying series of huge emotional and physical explosions. It’s the kind of thing that I love to do, which is combine big genre action with genuine emotional story. And we’ve got great, smart, terrifying villains, so it’s going to be very satisfying to see our team take them on.

Weapon X by Greg Land

Weapon X by Greg Land Will the team come up against any familiar foes or team up with any friendly faces?

Greg Pak: I’m not quite at liberty to disclose anything beyond our team just yet, but I can say for sure there will be some familiar faces and some totally new surprises. That’s always the most fun way for me to tackle: drawing some fun stuff from classic continuity while creating new threats from new angles. But who exactly is the figure behind this new Weapon X program? That’s a big part of the ongoing mystery of the book. Dontcha dare miss a single issue! What has it been like to work with Greg Land on art again?

Greg Pak: It’s great to get to work together again; this is the first time we’ve worked together since X-MEN: PHOENIX – ENDSONG almost 11 years ago now. Greg did a tremendous job on that, and we’ve talked over the years about trying to work together again, so I’m excited to be back with him again on another X-book. He’s been working on character designs and covers, and you can just look at Old Man Logan snarling on that cover and see we’re in for some fun action already. I think he’ll bring his great energy to this project, what I loved about working together on ENDSONG was that we had a lot of quiet, intimate moments between characters, and we had a lot of big, crazy action moments, and Greg’s good at delivering on all that. I’ve promised to give him lots of nice splash pages where he can go nuts. He’s capable of all kinds of stuff, and I’m hoping we can work all his artistic muscles on this book. What about this new project that has you most excited?

Greg Pak: I’ve done a ton of X-Men books over the years, but mostly limited series and short runs on some ongoing titles. So this is a chance to really dig into an ongoing series, and I’m really excited for that. It also harkens back to the themes of my favorite X-Men books growing up, and, in a way, this might be the most classic X-Men book that I’ve had the opportunity to work on; what’s more classic X-Men than heroes and anti-heroes teaming up to battle against genocidal monsters? And even just doing a book called “Weapon X” is pretty tremendous. Back in the day, that original Weapon X series [in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS] was huge for me. It was up there with “Daredevil: Born Again” for me as this modern classic. So I’m happy to play in all these different sandboxes, and I really love this particular group of heroes and villains we’re working with.

I’ve inherited a lot of teams on different books over the years, and the best thing is when you can get to the point where you put any two members of a team in a room together and the scene practically writes itself, just by the virtue of the dynamics of those characters, little points of sympathy and conflict just present themselves naturally. I feel like we’ve got a really fun, focused group with these five characters. Each one of them makes total sense in the team, given the mission, but they all have their own distinct ethical codes and backgrounds, even speech patterns, that are all different in very fun ways. Jeff Lemire did great stuff with Lady Deathstrike in OLD MAN LOGAN that’s going to be incredibly fun to build on. We’ve already talked about Logan and Sabretooth, but then you think about Sabretooth and Domino, or Sabretooth and Warpath, or Warpath and Domino, and the different kinds of relationships these heroes are going to have. Warpath and Sabretooth are going to have a very different dynamic than Warpath and Old Man Logan. It’s figuring out who’s going to be friends, who’s going to even feel comfortable around each other, who’s going to be watching whose back, and who might be secretly sharpening the knives. It’s going to be a blast playing with all those dynamics.

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