Outside of the purview of these posts, we have now seen Thanos vs. the Hulk with a little Bruce Banner thrown in. The title was justified. So, let’s move on... Thanos vs. Hulk is about duality. Jim Starlin is a fan of duality and binary pairings and this entire issue is based around them: Maria Hill/Iron Man, Pip/Banner, Hulk/Blastaar, Pip/Blastaar, Pip/Heater Delight, Heater Delight/Quasar, Hulk/Banner, Blastaar/Annihilus, Pip/Thanos... Most of these pairings are temporary or fleeting, but they are constant transitions. There are few scenes or moments that could be describe as containing more than two characters that actually matter in any way. The closest you get are scenes where flunkies are present while the two ‘main’ characters discuss matters (or, I guess, the scenes where Pip, Blastaar, and Banner/Hulk are present, or when Dr. Bultar is there).
These pairings are constant transitions of opposites and contrasts. Representatives of life paired with representatives of death; order and chaos; brains and brawn; male and female; large and small; it’s all a shifting of elements that don’t quite mix, much like the pairing of the dull physical settings amongst the multicolour outer/inner spaces. It’s about things sitting at opposite ends of various spectra, because there are no half measures in cosmic comics. That’s something that a lot of people have never understood. It’s only one element of what makes cosmic comics cosmic, but it’s definitely more important than ‘takes place in space.’ Every conflict, even ones as minor as a conversation (because all conversations in these comics are conflicts) is about more than itself. When Banner and Hulk discuss their situation, it’s about death versus life, brains versus brawn, weak versus strong, smart versus dumb, internal versus external... it’s about primal forces sparring for supremacy.
While nothing may be settled, that’s partly the point. No conflicts are ever truly resolved; nothing is settled. It’s about the conflict itself, the journey, rather than the resolution or destination. The search is what matters; the struggle is everything. Just as Bruce Banner will never be rid of the Hulk and the Hulk will never be rid of Bruce Banner... that final end point is entropy and absolute zero. So, the title of the comic doesn’t really matter, because it’s just a stand in for the various conflicts that ‘Thanos vs. Hulk’ represents. It’s a wonder that every Starlin comic isn’t title ‘X vs. Y’ in some manner or another.
Even the title is a conflict: art vs. marketing. The title came later as part of shifting these four issues from Savage Hulk to its own standalone series. As I’ve discussed before, there’s a reason why Thanos’s name comes first, why it’s framed as these two characters fighting, and how that title doesn’t necessarily reflect what the comic is really about. The title signifies many conflicts Starlin has had over the years of following his creative instincts right into conflicts with publishers and editors and, really, the business side of comics. This isn’t his title, it’s Marvel’s; but, then again, this isn’t really his comic, it’s also Marvel’s. We are witnessing another chapter in the Starlin/corporate publisher conflict that has been playing out for 40 years and will continue for a long time, probably well after everyone involved at Marvel currently has moved on and even after Starlin has died. Good thing issue two has Thanos and the Hulk trade some punches or that’s all that title would signify, eh?