WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Immortal Hulk #7, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Paul Mounts and VC's Cory Petit, out now.
The ongoing Immortal Hulk series from Al Ewing and Joe Bennett has introduced us to a new brand of big green beast. Over the years since his introduction, we’ve seen a Grey Hulk, a genius Hulk, a Red Hulk and even a Hulk who’s a mechanic, but never one that only comes out at night after his alter ego Bruce Banner has been killed. But while Immortal Hulk is a fine name, in this week’s issue #7, he’s given a title that’s even more fitting.
After six issues of traveling around fighting against criminals and lowlifes (and the occasional Alpha Flight member), the Avengers have finally caught up to Hulk. Alerted to his activities following his fight against Sasquatch, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes confront their old friend and ally on the road in Iowa, and as this issue develops, Hulk proceeds to wipe the floor with everyone. His first strike against the Mighty Thor, however, leads to his demonic new nickname: Devil Hulk.
We’ve already seen that this new Hulk is more powerful than a lot of his previous forms, but in this issue that power is taken to a new level. Fighting against some of the strongest Avengers to have ever been on the roster -- and winning -- is no small feat, but Hulk manages it with ease. In a short space of time, he totals Ghost Rider’s car, punches Black Panther so hard it nearly overloads his suit, and rips Iron Man’s latest Hulkbuster armor to shreds. Perhaps most impressive of all though, is that he’s able to punch Thor so hard that he fractures the Asgardian's skull and knocks out a tooth.
As Captain America helps Thor to his feet, the Odinson tells his friend that this Hulk is vastly stronger than he was, but more than that, he says he “sees the naked souls of men...smells the lies in our hearts, hidden even from ourselves…” As Cap shows concern that Thor might have a concussion, the Odinson goes on to say that he knows all about gods, myths and legends and that this Hulk is as close to a god -- or a devil -- as has ever been created on Earth.
Thor’s implication is clear. He talks about the mortal world creating a devil from “its rage, its pain, in the shadow of its Armageddon,” meaning the atomic bomb that Bruce Banner was caught in. That moment where Bruce, working with the US Government to create Gamma irradiated weapons of mass destruction, was caught in the blast and transformed into the Incredible Hulk, was no mere accident, but a cosmic reaction to the anger and suffering of a world gripped by the threat of nuclear war. And at that moment, the Devil Hulk was born.
Upon hearing this new nickname, Hulk smiles. “Hnh. Devil Hulk,” he proclaims, “Works for me,” and continues tearing through the Avengers. After an attack from his cousin, Jen Walters, also fails, Stark hits Hulk with a new, "ultimate" weapon that kills Banner, finally bringing down the troubled scientist’s destructive alter ego. As the dust settles, Tony Stark states that he had no choice: this new weapon was the only thing to bring down the “Devil Hulk.”
Despite the nickname clearly catching on, Captain America objects, saying that this wasn’t a devil, but a friend in need. They may have killed Banner, but they all know that it won’t be long until the Immortal Hulk is back, and he'll be angrier than ever. Perhaps “Immortal” is the most accurate name for this new persona, but now that we’ve seen the full power of this latest form against some of the strongest heroes in the Marvel Universe, maybe “Devil Hulk” is a more fitting nickname in the end.