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Immortal Hulk's Returning Villain, Explained!

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s Immortal Hulk #5, on sale now. Additionally, this article contains depictions and descriptions of spousal and child abuse integral to the backstory of Bruce Banner, the Immortal Hulk.

This week's Immortal Hulk rocked the world of both the Hulk and Bruce Banner by revealing that the ghost of Banner's father, Brian, has possessed Sasquatch (in a similar manner to how Walter Langkowski's spirit almost took control of the Hulk's body years ago in a Hulk/Alpha Flight crossover). The Hulk seemed to foil his father's return by absorbing the gamma radiation that powered Sasquatch and returning the hero to his Langkowski form, thus depriving Brian Banner from having something to possess, but the end of the issue made it clear that the spirit of Banner's father is not going to be going away any time soon.

So, what is the deal with Brian Banner exactly? How did this ghost haunt his son and the Hulk years before he actually began to attack him as a literal ghost?

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Brian Banner seemingly made his debut in an odd fashion in Incredible Hulk #267 (by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema), where the Hulk encountered the powerful being known as Glorion, who could turn people's dreams into reality. We see the Hulk relive Bruce Banner's past through his dreams...

However, the interesting thing about dreams is that you are not stuck with what happens in a dream as if it is accepted fact. So you could take this happy memory and reveal that there is a really bad truth behind it. That's precisely what Mantlo did years later in Incredible Hulk #312 (art by Mike Mignola and Gerry Talaoc), where we see Dr. Brian Banner arrive at the birth of his son and we see him worry about the effects of the atomic research that he had done over the years and whether they might have affected his son. We also see that Banner is an alcoholic jerk who only cares about his wife and not his unborn son.

Later, we see that Brian Banner is resentful over the attention that his wife gives to their son...

When he discovers that his young son is a genius, he assumes that the radiation caused him to be a mutant and he begins to abuse his son, which leads to young Bruce seeing his father as a fantastical monster...

The theory established here (and accepted by later Hulk writers) is that it was Brian Banner's abuse of young Bruce that, in effect, created the Hulk "monster" persona that came out when Bruce was exposed to the high levels of gamma radiation as an adult...

A "temporary insane" Brian Banner later killed his wife, Rebecca, and tries to kill Bruce, as well, when Bruce was visiting her grave...

Brian Banner was later killed, ostensibly by muggers, but years later, Bruce remembered the truth. Bruce accidentally killed his own father.

This being comics, of course, that was not the end of Brian Banner...

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