The Incredible Hulk's boundless rage and seemingly limitless strength made a very real and lasting impact in the Marvel Universe, as has the intellect, wisdom and humanity of his alter ego, Doctor Bruce Banner. Over the years, Banner was many different things to many different people; devoted friend, cousin, loving husband, father, comrade at arms, and implacable enemy. When the burden of the Hulk was recently transferred to Amadeus Cho (the title character of Marvel's new "Totally Awesome Hulk" series) Banner's friends and loved ones were given a new opportunity to renew their bonds with him, but just as they were starting to do that Bruce was suddenly, violently struck down.
Banner's end came in "Civil War II" #3, where a vision by the controversial precognitive Inhuman known as Ulysses of an out of control Hulk led to a worry that his former alter ego was about to return. So a confrontation occurred and when Banner started to get angry he was struck down by fellow Avenger Hawkeye, who was equipped with a special arrow Banner himself created in case the Hulk ever threatened to return. Now the question becomes, how will Banner's friends and family react to his death?
Writer Greg Pak is poised to answer that question; with the help of artists Mike del Mundo and Mahmud Asrar, "Totally Awesome Hulk" will show how Amadeus Cho feels about Banner's death and the conflict that caused it. Then, in "Civil War II: The Fallen," Pak and artist Mark Bagley will show how Banner's passing impacts his extended network of family and friends.
CBR News: I recently read that that Banner is your favorite Marvel legacy character. What was it like to help end his story (at least for now)?
Greg Pak: It's been intense. I've been lucky enough to be able to write some huge emotional moments for Banner over the years, including some key scenes in "Planet Hulk," his showdown with his long-lost son Skaar and confrontation with his own terrible past with his own father, and his reconciliation with Betty at the end of my run in 2010. I've been through a lot with the guy, and was grateful to be approached to write this book. I wanted to use these last moments with Banner to explore what really drives him. And the answer might surprise you.
We all know that the Hulk is all about anger, but that's how he reacts to provocation. After a decade or so of writing Hulk stories, I've come to the conclusion that what actually drives Bruce Banner is love. He's a guy who says he just wants to be left alone. But throughout the years, he's devoted himself to helping and protecting his family and extended family. We're doing our best to dig deep into that in "The Fallen."
In issue #8 you once again reminded us of how close Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner were. And given how he's reacted to people harming Banner in the past and with his current worries about containing the rampaging side of the Hulk, I'm both frightened and excited to see what Amadeus does next.
In his very first appearance in "Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2" #15 over ten years ago, Amadeus bonded with Banner and the Hulk. They've consistently driven each other crazy over the years -- Amadeus is a joker and a motormouth, while Banner's withdrawn and terse. But from the beginning, both have grappled with guilt and anger and both have monumental self-control issues. I think it's also significant that both are outsiders. Neither truly belongs; both have been viewed with suspicion by the superhero community and the world. They understand each other on a fundamental level.
In recent months, Amadeus has become even closer to Banner -- he took on the responsibility for curing him and for taking on his job as the Hulk, and when things got tough and Amadeus realized he might not be in as complete control of his Hulkish side as he thought, he went to Banner for guidance. So Banner's been a friend and, yes, a kind of a father figure, or at least a big brother figure. There's no one on the planet who could understand better what Amadeus is going through and might go through in the future than Banner -- and now Banner is gone. So Amadeus is going to be grappling with some massive, terrible, emotional turmoil.
Is Amadeus willing to listen to outside voices like his sister Maddy, or Carol Danvers and Tony Stark, who might attempt to recruit him for their causes?
You'll see Amadeus's reaction to Banner's death play out in "Totally Awesome Hulk" #9-12. "The Fallen" book comes out shortly after that, and will to explore those questions as well. I don't want to spoil anything, but this may be the angriest Amadeus has been since the death of his parents in his origin story. And when you're the Hulk, anger can be a pretty dangerous emotion...
Banner's death is Amadeus' entry point into the main story of "Civil War II" where, of course, he'll be facing off against a variety of Marvel heroes, including Black Panther. What's it like bouncing T'Challa off of Amadeus?
When I was talking this story over with my editor, Mark Paniccia, T'Challa came to mind as someone who had witnessed and been incredibly wary of the Banner Hulk's potential destructiveness in "Totally Awesome Hulk" #1. When a big chunk of the Kenyan coastline was endangered by a possible Hulk meltdown, T'Challa was all for Tony's last ditch plan of teleporting Banner to the Negative Zone. And T'Challa saw Amadeus breeze in to try to fix the situation -- only to take on the power of the Hulk himself.
So it made sense that T'Challa would see Amadeus as a huge wild card and potential danger. T'Challa also makes huge sense as Amadeus' pursuer, because T'Challa is one of the few Marvel heroes who's as smart as Amadeus -- and who can marshall the kind of technology and firepower necessary to make him a physical match for the Hulk.