SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Civil War II” #3, on sale now.
Comic book deaths often leave a back door open for a quick revival, but if Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez are planning on undoing the one in “Civil War II” #3, they hid their contingency plans pretty well.
The latest issue of Marvel’s chart-topping event revolves around one thing: the death of Bruce Banner. Note that it’s not the death of the Incredible Hulk -Â the angry green entity that’s been dormant or deferred elsewhere of late. Though he hasn’t been seen on the pages of Marvel comics since the eight-month jump the publisher’s fictional comic book universe took after last year’s “Secret Wars” event, Banner has apparently been hiding out in a remote location and experimenting on himself to keep the Hulk at bay. When the future-prophesizing Inhuman Ulysses foresaw that the Hulk would murder several of the Avengers, that quiet time ended.
Bendis structures issue #3 around the trial of Bruce’s initially unknown killer, alternating between testimony from “Civil War II’s” main protagonists Tony Stark and Carol Danvers. As the flashbacks to the massive showdown at Banner’s lab commence, we finally find that it was the arrow of Clint “Hawkeye” Barton that ended his former teammates life in shocking and definitive fashion.
This isn’t the first death Bendis has delivered as a Marvel event maestro. In particular, the death of Ares in 2010’s “Siege” and Hawkeye’s own heroic end during “Avengers Disassembled” remain high atop the list of more memorable fatalities in recent history. But killing a god or letting a hero blow up amid reality-warping plot twists is different than driving an arrow into the eye of a defenseless human. And the act of killing off one of the pillars of the Marvel Universe at the hands of another Silver Age mainstay will doubtlessly stir up debate over the story. So bets can be placed as to when, how or even if Banner will make his Marvel U return.
In the meantime, fallout from the death will continue to play out in “Civil War II,” first in regard to the question of whether Banner really asked Hawkeye to kill him, or whether Clint really saw his friend’s eyes going green the moment before he took his shot. While the rest of issue #3 covers that story in detail, what is yet to be seen is how this death will affect the debate between Tony and Carol over whether Ulysses powers are a spook story or a military asset.
As for the future of the Hulk, the mantle of the character remains in the hands of the gamma-active Amadeus Cho in the pages of “The Totally Awesome Hulk.” But if Banner’s decision to have himself killed rather than embrace his green-side holds true, it’ll be a far cry from the original “Civil War” story where the scientist was shot into space before the major action of that event began. That betrayal/cosmic exile lead to the massive “Planet Hulk” story and subsequent “World War Hulk” event that altered the status quo of the Jade Giant ever since, and in many ways led to Cho becoming the current incarnation of the Hulk.
The story continues later this month when “Civil War II” #4 arrives in comic shops on July 27.
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