WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the after-credits scene of Immortal Hulk #20 by Al Ewing, Brian Level, Paul Mounts and Clayton Cowles, in stores now.
For the past few weeks, a selection of Marvel's comic books have featured end-credits scenes that are meant to tie into the arrival of August's next big event series, Absolute Carnage, by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman. In the upcoming comic, the villainous Carnage will declare war on the Marvel Universe by going after every creature, dead or alive, who has ever bonded with a Klyntar symbiote to steal the codex -- a trace amount of symbiote -- they left behind inside their hosts.
In the latest issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, we saw that Carnage was keeping tabs on his targets thanks to his drones. Now, in Immortal Hulk #20, we see him go after the codex inside the deceased Thunderbolt Ross -- but something far more sinister may be in the cards.
Thunderbolt Ross was recently killed in the pages of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu's Captain America #6. However, during his time as the Red Hulk, Ross briefly bonded with the Venom symbiote (as well as the Spirit of Vengeance at the same time -- long story), which means that he, too, has a codex that Carnage wants.
In the horror-inclined Immortal Hulk #20, the after-credits scene reveals that Carnage has already gone after Ross. In fact, his grave was desecrated and his body dug up. With all the traces of red left behind, it's clear that this was an act perpetrated by Cletus Kasady. But what is perhaps most concerning is that we are informed Thundebolt's body is missing.
In previous issues like Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage #1, we've seen that Carnage needs only rip out the spines of bodies to consume the codex left inside. In fact, his actions have left a trail of bodies with holes in their backs. So, why didn't he just take Thunderbolt Ross' spine then and there, in the cemetery?
Carnage could have easily ripped out Thunderbolt's codex, but instead he took the body with him. Therefore, it's possible Carnage's plan is more horrific than we thought. We've already seen him take control of other animals and humans with his power, controlling them as his own personal, zombie-like drones. But could he be able to do the same with dead bodies? If that's the case, then Cletus Kasady could also be building an army -- not just of faceless people, but of actual, deceased characters.
We'll have to wait for the start of Absolute Carnage #1 to be certain, but the Immortal Hulk #20 after-credits scene hints that we may see Thunderbolt Ross again -- but he won't necessarily be alive. Well, not exactly alive.
Written by Donny Cates and illustrated by Ryan Stegman, Absolute Carnage #1 goes on sale Aug. 7 from Marvel Comics.