[The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Civil War 2 and Totally Awesome Hulk, you have been warned]
Bruce banner is the Hulk. It is his gift and curse. Cue the sad walking away music.
This is one of those indelible comic book things that never seems to change. Mutants are hated and feared. Heroes wear costumes. Batman always wins. Bruce Banner is the Hulk.
He’s been de-powered, he’s been shot into space, they’ve even gone as far as to separate Hulk and Banner into two separate bodies. Eventually though, the Jade Giant always finds a way back, dragging a kicking and screaming Banner along with him. Like a great many other things in the superhero genre, there is almost always a return to the status quo. Eventually Bruce Banner will always be the Hulk.
Now though… now I’m not so sure. Now Bruce Banner isn’t the Hulk anymore. Now some young punk named Amadeus Cho is the Hulk and he’s not incredible, or indestructible even, instead he’s totally awesome.
Late last year the first issue of Totally Awesome Hulk (Written by Greg Pak. Art by Frank Cho. Colors by Sonia Oback.) was released as part of Marvel’s “All New, All Different” line that followed Secret Wars. In it we find Amadeus Cho, a long-time cohort of Banner’s, has become the new Hulk and Bruce is nowhere to be found.
This isn’t exactly uncharted waters where Marvel books are concerned, we’ve seen a lot of mantel passing in recent years. Like with every twist comics throw my way, but especially ones involving my favorite giant green rage-monster, I wanted to see where they were going with this.
How had Cho become The Hulk? This was the biggest question I had. Not because it was out of left field, because it really wasn’t. Amadeus Cho has been one of the most hard-line Hulk supporters in the last ten years (since his creation by Greg Pak in Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2 #15). In fact, this isn’t even the first time Cho has hulked out. During the World War Hulks (note the plural) event everyone and their mother took on a gamma induced hulk-form, Cho included. (Results Varied)
No, I was more curious about the why and how he had become The Hulk. “Ol’ Jade Jaws,” as Ben Grimm might say. Other than making things All New and All Different, what purpose was there in making the Seventh Smartest Person on the planet into the Strongest One There Is? Eventually I got my answer.
Over the course of the first arc of Totally Awesome Hulk we learned how Amadeus had actually absorbed all of the gamma radiation from Banner (Comic Book Science, Yay!), effectively curing him of the Hulk. Seeing as Cho didn’t have nearly the same amount of emotional baggage as Banner, we were led to believe that Amadeus would make for a more stable, less destructive Hulk. It left our favorite gamma-bomb building scientist free of his big green alter-ego. Nothing new there. Bruce has been “cured” before. Surprise-surprise, it has never stuck.
So as Civil War 2 rolled around I was fully expecting Banner to get involved somehow (seeing as he had been shot into space during the previous Civil War). It was a tad predictable; to have Bruce “lose his powers” just in time for the next big crossover event? What were the odds we would see the real Hulk get back into the action?
Then issue number three of Civil War 2 came out. And Bruce Banner died.
No ifs, ands or buts. They killed Bruce Banner with an arrow to the brainpan. Admittedly this isn’t even the first time he’s been shot in the head in recent days (See; 2014’s Indestructible Hulk #20) but this looked like it was a bit more permanent. Hawkeye, at Bruce Banner’s request, shot him in the head with an arrow designed by Banner himself to stop the Hulk from ever coming back. It left the totally awesome Amadeus Cho to stew in the fact that Bruce’s killer was then absolved of all crimes and walked free. (For more information on this, please go listen to our Civil War Report bonus episodes where we talk about it in detail)
So, at least for now, Amadeus is the real Hulk. Death being the revolving door that it is in comic books, who knows how long it will last.
As I write this blog, the dust hasn’t even really settled on this event yet. Another issue of Civil War 2 is due out this week and Totally Awesome Hulk in the week to follow. We’re still right in the middle of the fallout from Banner’s death but all of it has got me thinking; what if this is the new normal? What if Amadeus Cho, for the time being, is going to be The Hulk?
Of all the Marvel mantels being passed to the next generation of heroes in recent years I fell like there is only one other character more deserving of their newfound title (Laura Kinney as Wolverine). Amadeus is a character who has paid his dues. He’s played sidekick to Hulk and Hercules. He’s been manipulated by mad geniuses and overbearing Gods. He has run the 616 obstacle course like a champion for over a decade. Looking back, it all seems like set-up for where we stand today.
A Boy Genius finds a Hero to idolize in the Hulk. This boy is smarter than nearly everyone else in the world, a power in its own right, so he tries to be a hero as well. It’s a rocky start. He eventually makes friends and allies, he’s taken into the wild and crazy life of his Hero. His Hero becomes a friend and a mentor so the Boy, being as smart as he is, tries to grant Bruce Banner his one wish. To be cured. He takes up the mantel of his Hero. He is better, smarter and totally awesome. Then the other heroes turn on Banner. They only ever see the Monster. They kill him and there is nothing the Boy can do to stop it. All he is left with is anger.
As the old saying goes, “The angrier Hulk gets, the stronger he becomes.”
Despite Banner’s death there is a strange sense of “rightness” I have with the current state of Hulk Affairs. It just feels correct to me somehow. Amadeus Cho has a lot of good stuff to chew on, emotionally speaking, and plenty to be angry about. From a story telling perspective it’s a great place to be if you’re the Hulk.
For the last ten years Amadeus Cho has played second fiddle to a lot of other heroes but now, not only is he in the spotlight, he is wrapped up in a huge shakeup in the status quo. With Banner dead it leaves him with all the character motivation he needs to go on a rampage across the Marvel Universe. It would negate his own idea of being a better Hulk, but wouldn’t it be deserved? I honestly don’t know what is going to happen next in Amadeus’ story, but damn if I’m not excited to see.
For now though, the Hulk is dead.
Long live the Hulk.
You can hear Mike every week on the Panel on Panels podcast.