On the eve of "World War: Hulk" #1, CBR News returns for the final installment of our Tale of the Tape series. Last time, writer Greg Pak played fight doctor and gave us his thoughts on a possible match up between the Hulk and Dr. Strange. Now in round four, we're pitting the Green King against Marvel Comics' walking and thinking arsenal, the invincible Iron Man. Let's get ready to rumble! (™)
Iron Man's exiling the Hulk into space is just the latest chapter in a long and sordid history between the Green Goliath and the Golden Avenger. "The Hulk and Iron Man have known each other for years as both friends and enemies," Greg Pak told CBR News. "They founded the Avengers together -- but the Hulk quit when he heard the hateful remarks uttered by Iron Man and the others when they were fighting a shape-shifting enemy who was pretending to be the Hulk. As the Hulk said, 'I never suspected how much each of you hates me, deep down!' In subsequent years Tony Stark helped Bruce Banner on several occasions -- trying to cure him of the burden of the Hulk and helping create an exoskeleton for the wounded Hulk buddy, Rick Jones. But as much as Banner and Stark may like each other, Iron Man and the Hulk consistently seem to end up on opposite sides. "It makes sense -- both men began as law-and-order scientists working for the military. But while Stark became Iron Man, who more often than not spent his days defending the same institutions that Stark had, Banner became the Hulk, who spent most of his time raging against the army and the government and the superheroes and all the stupid puny humans who hated and hounded him. In many ways, Iron Man and the Hulk might be two of the most diametrically opposed Marvel heroes around.
"Given the number of times he's come to blows with Iron Man in the past, the Hulk can't be too surprised by Iron Man's role in exiling him from the Earth. So Iron Man's betrayal probably doesn't sting the way the betrayal of a genuine friend like Dr. Strange must. But the Hulk lost his whole world, including his queen and unborn child, in the explosion of the shuttle the Illuminati used to send him to Planet Sakaar. So while he may not feel that extra personal pain because of Iron Man's betrayal, the Hulk's rage towards Iron Man nonetheless remains incalculable."
When the Hulk and Iron Man finally confront each other, the Green King's incalculable rage over his exile will be met by the Armored Avenger's steadfast conviction that banishing the Hulk was the right thing to do. "Deep inside, Tony Stark may grieve for Bruce Banner," Pak said. "But Iron Man believes with all his heart that his job is to safeguard the people of Earth. And he's convinced that to do that job, he had to exile the Hulk from the Earth. As he sees it, millions of lives are at stake -- his sense of responsibility probably prevents him from indulging in personal feelings of remorse that could weaken his resolve and possibly endanger the entire world. The will that must be required to control entirely natural human emotions in that kind of way is almost impossible to conceive -- but hey, they don't call this hero 'Iron Man' for nothing."
While Iron Man's emotions may not play a part in a confrontation with the Hulk, his intellect most certainly will. Stark's cunning and scientific acumen are just two weapons in an arsenal that he can bring to bear against the Hulk. "Tony Stark is one of the world's most brilliant inventors," Pak explained. "He's created suits of armor that have helped him conquer the world's most dangerous villains. He's also the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., which puts tremendous military power at his command. And he's been infected with the Extremis virus, which gives him the ability to control all kinds of electronic equipment and machinery through his thoughts alone. Finally, Stark is a futurist who tends to think through any given situation a thousand different ways. No doubt he's prepared for the eventuality of the Hulk's return and will have a variety of new technologies and strategies for confronting the Green Goliath."
Tony Stark may have plenty of strategies to tackle the Hulk he sent into space, but the Hulk who's coming back to Earth is a changed man-monster, and when confronting a gamma-powered emerald engine of anger, the old axiom, "What you don't know can kill you" certainly applies. "Tony has no idea what the Hulk has been through on Sakaar," Pak said. "He doesn't know that the radiation from the exploding shuttle made the Hulk stronger than ever. He doesn't know that the Hulk has a posse of superpowered Warbound gladiator allies backing him up. And he has no conception of the depth of the Hulk's loss and boundlessness of his anger. If Iron Man has been preparing to fight the Hulk he used to know, he might just discover that even with all his machines and technology and strategy, against the might of the Green King of Sakaar, he's not much more than a neatly canned afternoon snack."
CBR News would like to thank Greg Pak, Mark Paniccia, Nate Cosby, and Jim McCann for all their help with this feature.
Round 3 - The Hulk Vs. Dr. Strange
Round 2 - The Hulk Vs. Mr. Fantastic
Round 1 - The Hulk Vs. Black Bolt
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