SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Immortal Hulk #2 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Paul Mounts and Cory Petit, on sale now.
When someone comes back from the dead in superhero comics, it usually serves as something of a reset for the resurrected character. They get a new fresh start, a new status quo, maybe a new costume and the worries of their pre-death life are generally put to rest. However, in the case of Bruce Banner, he’s dealing not just with the fallout of his most recent death but all of his deaths in his newly discovered status as The Immortal Hulk.
The latest installment of Marvel’s new horror-tinged take on the Jade Giant reveals the long-lasting consequences of Bruce’s death and how it changes the dynamic between Banner and The Other Guy as we get to know this new incarnation of The Hulk a little bit better.
Like A Hole In The Head
Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez killed Bruce Banner and The Hulk in Civil War II, just a few years ago. Bruce had seemingly cured himself of his Hulk condition and had retired to conduct science in peace, as Amadeus Cho took on the mantle as the new Totally Awesome Hulk. However, the discovery of an Inhuman named Ulysses with precognition powers led to a confrontation between Bruce Banner and The Avengers. Captain America -- secretly an agent of HYDRA -- was worried that this new Inhuman would expose his plans, so conspired to create bigger threats that would prove to be more of a priority and would distract from his own machinations. A discreetly smuggled piece of gamma research shipped to Banner proved to be enough to trigger Ulysses’ powers, creating a vivid vision of The Hulk massacring the heroes of the Marvel Universe.
Carol Danvers led an advance team to Banner’s remote research facility in an attempt to head off any potential Hulk attack, but an argument between Captain Marvel and Iron Man led to a fight nearly breaking out. But as tensions flared, and Bruce Banner got angrier, an arrow sprung from the tree line and struck him right between the eyes, killing him. Hawkeye revealed he’d had a conversation with Banner privately, where he was instructed to fire an experimental arrow at Bruce should he believe he was changing into the Hulk and, according to Barton, there was a flash of green in Bruce’s eyes. Hawkeye was eventually acquitted of Bruce Banner’s death, but it only led to more lines being drawn and sides being chosen in the then-brewing Civil War.
Though dead, the forces of the Marvel Universe couldn’t leave well enough alone and villains conspired to wield the power of The Hulk for themselves. First, The Hand stole Banner’s body and managed to resurrect The Hulk as one of their demonic agents and was forced back into his “eternal” rest by the Avengers Unity Squad. Not long after, he was resurrected again — albeit temporarily — by HYDRA and used as a weapon to destroy The Mount, the secret hideout of the Avengers Resistance.
However, following his return in the pages of Avengers: No Surrender, we learned Bruce was properly resurrected both times due to his unkillable nature, something he’d suspected and had now been confirmed. The only thing keeping him dead this time was the destruction of The Mount, but he was resurrected again by The Challenger as part of the contest between the Elders of the Universe.