SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Avengers #684 by Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Paco Medina, Joe Bennett, Juan Vlasco, Ruy Jose, Jesus Aburtov, Morry Hollowell and Cory Petit, on sale now.
The Hulk is back -- and he is angry.
This is to be expected, of course, as the jade giant did just spend quite some time being dead. However, this is a Hulk with an anger unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before, as all he wants to do is die. But for some reason, the people of the Marvel Universe just won’t let him rest.
Resurrected by The Challenger to interfere in his cosmic game against The Grandmaster, The Hulk is set on a path straight towards his allies in The Avengers, and you know what they say: It takes a Hulk to stop a Hulk.
The current Red Hulk isn’t Thunderbolt Ross, but a relatively new character named General Robert Maverick, who was at first an antagonist for Roberto de Costa’s (the former New Mutant known as Sunspot) team of New Avengers. Working as part of The Troubleshooters program, which was also monitoring Captain Marvel’s team of Ultimates, Maverick oversaw the creation of the American Kaiju project as part of an effort to take down Avengers Idea Mechanics. When AIM was folded into the US government and became American Intelligence Mechanics, Sunspot thought it best to have Maverick as an ally rather than an enemy, and brought him on as a member of the USAvengers.
Armed with a plug-in which can flood his body with gamma radiation, Maverick became the new Red Hulk, although a fleet of nanites in his bloodstream would limit the time he spent Hulked up to one hour per day. Eventually, a Hydra mole in AIM manipulated Maverick into disabling the nanites, allowing Hydra to take control of them and Maverick as a result. The nanites were flushed out of his system, and due to a prolonged tenure in his Hulked-up form, Maverick return to his regular self with a litany of physical ailments, red skin and the strong advice that he not Hulk up again, lest he die.
Hulk vs Hulk
While the combined forces of every Avenger available struggles to hold off The Hulk, Maverick approaches his New Avengers teammate Dr. Toni Ho with a suggestion: He may not be able to safely turn into The Red Hulk, and going against Banner would surely kill him, but what if he had a certain augmentation? Toni retired as Iron Patriot due to her girlfriend’s concerns about her retreating into the armor, but the armor is still knocking around. This idea has just led to one of the most exciting Avengers-related cliffhangers of the year, when Maverick steps out in the Iron Patriot armor to face down The Immortal Hulk.
It’s a striking image; all he needs is an Uru hammer, and he’d be a combination of Marvel’s four biggest heroes, after all. That said, even with the power of the Red Hulk and the Iron Patriot armor, things don’t look too good for Maverick. He’s more vulnerable than he’s willing to admit, and a clash with The Hulk could lead to his death. While he’d be dying an Avenger, more importantly he’d be sacrificing himself for his country, the highest honor someone in his position can imagine. We’ve not got long to wait for the Hulk v Iron Hulk showdown and it’s sure to be a slobberknocker; let’s just hope that the Avengers make it through The Hulk’s rampage without any casualties.