“Banner feels the Hulk has been stolen from him. He wasn’t aware of anything that was going on. He didn’t make the decision to separate; the Hulk did. He just woke up one day and a good portion of his brain and personality had been stolen away. That, of course, doesn’t sit right with him. He wants to know who did it and wants it back,” Aaron explained. “So Banner is hung up on the Hulk. The Hulk was an accident. Banner built a bomb and just happened to get caught in its explosion, which brought this thing out of him. At the end of the day though, the Hulk is still the most significant thing he’s done over the course of his life. The Hulk was something that he told himself for years he had to get rid of, but now that he’s rid of it he can’t really think of anything else that he wants.”
Banner’s desire to recover the Hulk leads him to experiment on a variety of animals, turning them into green-hued, gigantic, super strong man-beasts. In “Incredible Hulk” #3, two of Banner’s creations tracked down and attacked the Hulk leading the Jade Giant to decide to take Banner down once and for all. At the end of the issue Banner caught wind of the Hulk’s coming attack and readied his army of creations for battle.
“I wanted a book filled with big crazy monsters for Hulk to punch in the face. I also liked the idea of Banner getting hung up on the idea of trying to recreate the Hulk in the world around him as well as trying to turn himself into the Hulk again and failing, thus driving himself deeper into madness,” Aaron said. “So issue #4, the first part of the next arc, is actually story subtitled ‘Island of a Thousand Hulks.’ The idea that Banner has become a version of H.G. Wells’ Doctor Moreau and creating hulked out beast-men makes for an interesting fight.”
The arc that begins with “Incredible Hulk” #4, on sale January 11, features art by Whilce Portacio and revolves around the Hulk and Banner duking it out. Banner will be backed up by his army of monsters and the Hulk will have allies as well. In “Incredible Hulk” #3 the Hulk agreed to work with Amanda Von Doom and her agents Mister Gor and B.R.A.I.N. as a member of the Mad Squad, the U.S. Government’s top secret anti-mad scientist squad.
“Once I knew I was taking Banner into full on deranged mad scientist territory I liked the idea of a group of all new characters whose primary objectives are to hunt and kill mad scientists. You saw a little bit of them in this first arc. They play a very big role in the second arc and they’re a lot of fun to write,” Aaron said. “Taking Igor from ‘Young Frankenstein,’ basically, and turning him into James Bond was a blast.
“Amanda Von Doom is another character that will continue to be explored. She’s quite adamant that she has no relation to Doctor Doom, but is that true?” Aaron continued. “So we see the Mad Squad fly into action against Banner in the second arc with Hulk at their side. Even beyond that arc they’ll continue to be a part of Hulk’s world.”
Many Hulk fans are curious about what sort of role Amanda Von Doom will play in the Hulk’s world moving forward, especially considering she’s a strong, attractive woman and given Hulk has fallen for those types before. “Is Amanda the Hulk’s type? That’s an interesting question and another one that will be explored,” Aaron said. “She certainly seems to have taken a liking to the Hulk. So far that hasn’t been reciprocated, but that could definitely change in the coming months.”
The Amanda Von Doom-Hulk dynamic could also become incredibly complicated in the months ahead when the Hulk finds himself confronting one of his and Banner’s great loves, Betty Banner, now the Red She-Hulk. “Given how things play out over the course of the Hulk versus Banner arc, you will definitely see Betty come back in a big way,” Aaron explained. “I don’t have any plans yet for the other Hulk characters, but there will be a big Hulk-Red She-Hulk confrontation coming in the next few issues.”
The Hulk-Banner showdown that kicks off the next year of stories in “The Incredible Hulk” will be a big one with lasting consequences for the stories arriving later in 2012. “There will be huge fall out as things continue to evolve and change in the relationship between these two characters. We’re not going to gloss over things and suddenly have them hugging each other,” Aaron remarked. “The Hulk-Banner relationship is going to continue to get uglier and weirder as things move forward.”
“The Incredible Hulk” #4 by Jason Aaron and Whilce Portacio is on sale January 11, 2012.