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Marvel just expanded the Hulk family by one more

Skaar, son of Hulk, makes a grumpy debut

Family reunions are always full of surprises, even on She-Hulk. Whose parents are going to make fools of themselves on the dance floor? Whose uncle is going to get a little too tipsy at the open bar? Which cousin is going to turn up with a hitherto unknown son, possessing planet-shattering power drawn from an alien world?

If that last scenario seems far fetched, it’s only because you haven’t spent enough time with the Walters/Banner clan, whose reunion in the finale of She-Hulk came with a surprise guest.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for the final episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.]

Hulk gesturing with his arms outstretched in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Image: Marvel Studios

One of the final scenes of the She-Hulk finale, as promised, explained exactly why Bruce jetted off into space all the way back in the show’s second episode. The brief shot of the green-skinned Skaar (an all-CGI character with no dialogue, but credited to Stargirl actor Wil Deusner) alluded to but did not explain the events between Bruce leaving Earth and returning with relatively smaller but still large adult (teen?) son from another planet.

And so once again it falls to comic books to give us the Skaar (with a K and two As) context.

Who is Skaar, the Hulk’s son?

Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and his son, Skaar (Wil Deusner), a smaller large green man in tattered clothing and an alien haircut, in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Image: Marvel Studios

While Skaar’s debut may have come as an unexpected twist in She-Hulk, longtime fans of Hulk comics know that the character has a surprisingly deep, complicated, and MCU-relevant history to draw from.

Skaar’s comic origins have their roots back in 2006’s “Planet Hulk” storyline. Written by Greg Pak and drawn by Carlo Pagulayan and Aaron Lopresti, that story found Earth’s heroes collectively sighing impatiently at Bruce Banner’s periodic fits of Hulked-out rage, and tricking him into an intergalactic flight that exiled him to a distant galaxy. His eventual destination turned out to be Sakaar, a savage world dominated by gladiatorial combat among captured alien warriors.

Over the course of the next year-and-change of comics, the Hulk found himself a champion of the arena, a leader of a band of rebel warriors against their brutal society, and finally a triumphant ruler of a free Sakaar — only to watch helplessly as the very shuttle that brought him to the planet caused an explosion that wiped out its capital, leaving the Hulk a lonely exile yet again.

If all of this seems slightly familiar, that might be because it provided a very loose inspiration for 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, which repurposed the tragic background of Planet Hulk to craft a memorable road trip buddy comedy between Banner and the God of Thunder. But one important element of the movie’s comic inspiration remained off-screen until now: While living on Sakaar, the Hulk’s comic counterpart met and married a fellow rebel named Caiera the Oldstrong, who died tragically in Sakaar’s destruction… but not before leaving behind two very alive, and very angry, sons.

Wait, who is Caiera the Oldstrong?

The Hulk and Caiera stand trimphant before jubilant Sakaarans in Skaar: Son of Hulk #1 (2008).
Hulk (left) and Caiera (right), beloved rulers of Sakaar.
Image: Greg Pak, Ron Garney/Marvel Comics

Look, I know the question of “Hulk has a son?” confirms, canonically, that the Hulk fucks, which then raises the question “With who?” Just don’t get gross about it, this isn’t Mallrats.

Caiera was a native Sakaarian rebel leader, one of the last to hold what Sakaarians called the Old Power, the ability to channel the planet’s energy into increasing her own strength, stamina, and durability. She used her powers to ensure her unborn children survived Sakaar’s destruction and then became one with the planet.

Let’s get back to the kids

The first of these boys, Skaar, has had the more Hulk-relevant history. Growing up in the wreckage of his lost society, Skaar developed a gladiatorial chip on his shoulder against the father who abandoned his world. So just as the Hulk returned to Earth to get revenge against the heroes who had exiled him in 2007’s “World War Hulk” crossover, Skaar followed behind him swearing revenge. It was, in fact, Jen Walters who first encountered the boy after his arrival, drawn by some combination of family bond and gamma-tracking Hulk-sense. But in any case, their initial brawl was a sideshow: It was papa Bruce that Skaar was after.

Alas, inconveniently, he arrived at precisely the moment that Banner had been temporarily depowered into human form. And since it wouldn’t be sporting to kill dad without a fair fight, the two of them instead formed an unlikely father-son duo, with Banner trying to mentor his semi-savage offspring in the ways of superheroing, and Skaar doing his best to take it to heart… even while promising that he’d finish up his revenge just as soon as Banner got Hulked-out again.

That Odd Couple dynamic, equal parts tense and heartwarming, feels entirely on-point for this She-Hulk series. This first season has covered a fair amount of ground in the emotional life of Jen Walters — dating, identity, bodily acceptance, the challenges of work-appropriate attire for those who periodically get punched by Asgardian construction workers. But at its heart, it’s been about two things: the bonds of family, and learning to embrace (albeit reluctantly) heroic destiny. Both of those lessons are ones that cousin Bruce urged Jen to take to heart back in the show’s pilot episode, and seeing him take on another familial protégé makes a certain amount of sense, even as it adds another wrinkle to the increasingly knotty and chaotic Banner family tree.

“This is my planet, now,” says Skaar as he walks through a lava-strewn plain. He’s a heavily muscled green figure, like the Hulk, but with alien tattoos, shoulder-length hair, and a Conan the Barbarian-esque skirt. In Skaar: Son of Hulk #10 (2009).
Meet Skaar, he wears a skirt.
Image: Greg Pak, Alex Garner/Marvel Comics

Of course, family relationships in Marvel Comics are rarely simple, and Hulk and Skaar’s father-son bonding trip was no exception. The key bit of trouble was that second son that Hulk left behind on Sakaar: a boy named Hiro-Kala, whose life was somehow even more troubled and lonely than his brother’s.

Lacking the strength that Skaar possessed, and growing up weak and put-upon, Hiro-Kala would eventually succumb to madness, and arrive on Earth seeking vengeance of his own. His defeat at the combined hands of Hulk and Skaar finally provided a meaningful bond between that father and son pair, and ended their long love-hate dynamic. That it also ended in tragic loss for Hiro-Kala was the kind of inevitable twist that always seems to dog members of the Banner family, in comics and media adaptations alike.

Since then, Skaar has taken something of a back seat in the comics, as Hulk titles have increasingly worked to slim down the number of gamma-powered supporting cast members around Bruce and Jen. For a time, he joined up with Thunderbolts chief Luke Cage, to help babysit for the evil Dark Avengers during a period when they were filling in for Cage’s team. And not long after that, Skaar was depowered by the Hulk himself under the sway of a shifty alter-ego calling himself Doc Green. This was a moment when wise readers simply shrugged their shoulders, smiled wanly, and muttered “comics!” in a soft voice.

But nothing in superhero fiction ever disappears forever, and this week’s She-Hulk is a small reminder of both the family bonds that tie the Hulks together, and the inevitably chaotic histories that can’t help but pull them apart. Sounds like a good teaser for a second season if you ask me.

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