WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Immortal Hulk #13 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennet, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Rafael Fonteriz, Paul Mounts and VC's Cory Petit, in stores now.
Since relaunching as The Immortal Hulk, Marvel's jade giant's monthly adventures have pushed the character to new emotional, and frankly, horrific heights. Now painted as a psychological horror story, Bruce Banner and Hulk have been in a Jekyll and Hyde situation unlike any they've dealt with before. Not only is the Green Goliath only able to come out at night, most importantly, even if you dissect the Hulk into a million pieces, he simply can't be killed.
But he isn't just stronger and faster -- Hulk is smarter, too, a development we'v learned is tied to a mysterious Green Door and the hellish realm that lies beyond. In the latest chapter, though, we find out this connection isn't a recent occurrence; the very essence of the Green Door is tied to the Hulk's origin story, and the concept of gamma radiation itself.
As Bruce meets the devilish manifestation of the One Below All, taking the form of his abusive father Brian, we learn gamma isn't just a particle or a wave, it's something "much more." In fact, the form of nuclear energy is part science and part magic. It's a demonic energy that can open rifts to this supernatural realm, a place which is actually a hell below the Hell we're accustomed to in the Marvel Universe.
It turns out that over the years, gamma exposure has allowed heroes to became avatars for this dark lord, a devil that may well surpass even Mephisto's power. That's why Hulk was corrupted by it, giving way to a new personality called the Devil Hulk, and why Crusher Creel was separated from his Absorbing Man abilities. It was part of the demon's ploy to have the Absorbing Man suck all the gamma radiation from Bruce, combine it with Creel's new power as a Red Hulk, overloading him so he fulfill the order Hulk was resisting -- break down the Green Door and allow this demon to cross the barrier. As its dark dimension consumes New Mexico, we learn why these gamma-powered individuals have been walking, talking weapons of mass destruction; they were simply tools for the One Below All to gain his freedom.
Gamma radiation created the doorway for possession, and as Bruce finally understands, it was the key to the Green Door all along. It turns out, his own accident happened at the Los Diablos base in New Mexico, cracking open this portal and inspiring the One to manipulate him and others like him to return to ground zero to literally unleash hell on Earth.
Retconning gamma radiation like this is intriguing; there's a lot a story can do when the lines are blurred between science and mysticism. Clearly, gamma-influenced beings were decaying mentally even as they , without even knowing that their origins were tied to something so sinister. This now leaves us wondering if the One Above All also helped splinter Bruce's psyche to produce different Hulks, such as Joe Fixit or the Savage Hulk.
Bruce has been experiencing multiple personality disorder on a whole new level, and in this realm, Crusher, Bruce and even Walter Langowski are all able to separate themselves from their monster identities. It could be that the One Below All was always intent on separating man from beast, in order to trick the monsters into helping him raze the planet, though it will be a little longer to see if that is indeed, the case.
One thing is for sure, though -- now that the secret's out, it'll be interesting to watch Bruce and his fellow scientists dig deeper to find out exactly what makes gamma radiation the energy of the apocalypse, and what they can do to stop the Marvel Universe's new demonic heavy hitter.