The final chapter in the saga that had started with Planet Hulk, World War Hulks was the culmination of years of work by Greg Pak and Jeph Loeb as they crafted possibly the greatest Hulk storyline since the character’s creation. With so many heroes Hulkified under the Intelligencia’s control, the group’s invasion of the US is launched into full swing, using their army to take over the country (I’m not sure why they wouldn’t try to take over the world, but they’re super-villains, logic isn’t really their thing). To aid in this attack, the eight geniuses the villains had collected were hooked up to a machine that was draining their brain power. Together, their shared a collective mindscape, trying their best to escape. All except Doom of course, who tried to advantage of the situation, only to be stopped by Bruce Banner.
In the real world, the Intellgenica’s force of Hulked-Out Marines attack Washington DC. Skaar, A-Bomb, and Korg try to hold them back, but once the Hulked-Out Heroes arrive, the battle begins to turn against them. A-Bomb declares they need to find Bruce Banner, so Skaar launches him to the hellicarrier, where he finds Banner, escaped from the Intellengica’s machine during his mental battle with Doom, trying to fight off more Hulked-Out-Heroes.
Meanwhile, the battle in DC escalates, Red Hulk arriving to find the Hulked-Out-Heroes fighting each other. Before he can stop them, Red She-Hulk arrives and drains the Red Hulk’s energy, revealing him to be Thunderbolt Ross! Red She-Hulk leaves him then, forcing him to reflect on his life, and all his past mistakes. Wanting to do some good for once, he absorbs the gamma energy from Cosmic Hulk, and after becoming Red Hulk once more, attacks the Leader, draining all the gamma energy out of him, rendering him “normal” as his punishment for everything that had happened.
In the chaos of the battle, Doom tries to channel the Intelligencia’s machine for his own purpose, only to be stopped by Red She-Hulk and thrown from the carrier. Skaar arrives next, stabbing Red She-Hulk with his sword and forcing her to revert to her human form, Betty Ross! Betty begs Bruce to kill her, but before he can decided what to do, Doc Sampson arrives, the man responsible for her transformation, and she becomes enraged, turning back into her Hulk form. As Red She-Hulk, she fights Samson while Banner and Skaar are contacted by Amadeus Cho, who tells them that unless the various Hulked-Out-Heroes are drained of their gamma radiation, they will burn out and die within 24 hours.
Banner rushes into action, freeing his fellow hero scientists from the Intelligencia’s machine. With their help, he creates a machine to drain the gamma energy from the heroes and put it into himself. His friends try to find another way, but Bruce tells that there is none, him being the only person that could handle it. They hook up the machine, and though it works, the amount of gamma radiation begins to be too much even for him. As the energy threatens to overwhelm Banner, but Samson steps in and absorbs the rest, the power killing him in the process, redeeming him for his past crimes. Once Banner completes his transformation into the Hulk, he sets about destroying the Intelligencia’s base ruining their plans. Just as his victory seems assured, he is attacked by Skaar, who intends to kill his father once and for all.
With the Intelligenica defeated, Skaar demands that Hulk fight him. Hulk refuses, not wanting to harm his own son. Finally, Skaar tells Hulk that his wife Caiera had not died in the explosion on Sakaar. She had been alive the whole time... until Skaar had given the planet over to Galactus for consumption, likely dying with everyone else. Horrified and enraged, Hulk attacks Skaar, much to his son’s delight. Red She-Hulk tries to help Hulk, but Skaar knocks her into a building. As the building collapses, Hulk leaps into action, saving the civilians instead of continuing the fight with his son. This action makes Skaar realize that the Hulk is not a monster, that he was capable of love, and stops fighting. Once they both revert to their human forms, they share an embrace.
But it wasn’t over yet, Bruce knowing that Red Hulk had to be stopped, even with the Intelligencia defeated. Turning back into the Hulk, he goes to confront his red counterpart. Red She-Hulk tries to stop Hulk, but She-Hulk intervenes, having recovered from her earlier attack. Jenn takes Red She-Hulk out, knowing that the two male Hulks have to finish this themselves.
Red Hulk and Hulk attack each other brutally, nothing held back as the fight that had been building for more years than either realize finally happens. They battle all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, where Hulk finally beats Red Hulk down. Forced to revert to his human form, Bruce is stunned to see it is Thunderbolt Ross, and for Betty’s sake, doesn’t kill him. Ross is then taken into custody by the Avengers, as the surviving Hulks band together to find a place in the world.
World War Hulks was the culmination of four years of stories for Greg Pak and Jeph Loeb, starting all the way back to Planet Hulk. The heart of the story was not just destruction and chaos, it was about the people behind the various Hulks, and what they meant to each other. In a way this story finalized the Hulk family into what it is today, a loose collection of people trying to make sense of what they are. From here, Red Hulk would end up joining the Avengers to atone for his past sins, while Hulk would go into seclusion, Red She-Hulk going with him for a time, the two’s human personas trying to make sense of their relationship after all this time. One can hope they find some kind of happiness going forward, but as it has always been with the Hulk, happiness comes at a cost, a cost that both might have to pay before the end.