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Absolute Carnage takes us inside the mind of a Venom Hulk

Is the Hulk Venom now? Or is Venom... the Hulk?

The Venom symbiote merges with the Hulk in Absolute Carnage #3, Marvel Comics (2019). Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman/Marvel Comics

Venom, the tag team of Eddie Brock and his symbiote, is having a heck of a time lately, as they strive to keep Carnage from awakening an ancient cosmic evil known as Knull. On top of that, they’re having some serious relationship problems, which came to a head when the symbiote abandoned Eddie entirely for another, stronger host.

That is to say: The Hulk is Venom now.

But what happens when the symbiote, used to existing as a dual entity, comes into contact with the fractured mind of Bruce Banner, who shares his body with three or more different Hulks? That’s the subject of this week’s Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk.

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk #1.]

Bruce Banner sits down on a chair in a black room that exists only within his mind, and thanks his guest for “providing the venue,” in Absolute Carnage: The Immortal Hulk #1, Marvel Comics (2019). Al Ewing, Filipe Andrade/Marvel Comics

Bruce Banner is no stranger to sharing his body with a powerful, malevolent entity — he knows the drill. A good part of the issue is his negotiation with the symbiote, taking place at the speed of thought within the first seconds of it touching him.

But it’s not just Bruce who shows up at the bargaining table. There are three Hulks in his mind: Grey Hulk, Savage Hulk, and Immortal Hulk, and they get a say in whether to let the symbiote into their system.

The interiority of Bruce Banner’s mind, and his relationship to the different incarnations of the Hulk, as personified through alternate personalities, is something that Al Ewing and his collaborators have been exploring in their Eisner nominated Immortal Hulk series.

If anything, Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk is more of an extension of Immortal Hulk than it is of Absolute Carnage, but that makes perfect sense: Ewing is the writer, with art by Filipe Andrade. The book explains how Banner came to be involved with all the good guys in Absolute Carnage (since he’s very much on the run from the government and the Avengers at the moment), and walks through how all of Bruce Banner’s other selves feel about the idea of combining forces with an alien parasite.

Of the four personalities in Banner’s body, only the Immortal Hulk — arguably the best combination of strength and intelligence, but who can only come out at night — is opposed to it.

Left to right: Immortal Hulk, Bruce Banner, Grey Hulk, and Savage Hulk. Second panel: The Venom symbiote, in Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk #1, Marvel Comics (2019).
Left to right: Immortal Hulk, Bruce Banner, Grey Hulk, and Savage Hulk. (And, yes, the black room they’re all in is subtly implied to be made of Venom-stuff.)
Al Ewing, Filipe Andrade/Marvel Comics

On the other side, the slick and smooth talking Grey Hulk is intrigued by the team up possibilities, Savage Hulk wants to help his friends by becoming stronger, and Banner, well. In Ewing’s Immortal Hulk, he has discovered that Gamma energy is connected to an extremely powerful being known as the One Below All, imprisoned in the deepest layer of Hell.

(That’s right, the Hulk does magic stuff now.)

The void-god Knull, imprisoned at the center of the symbiote home planet, sounds a lot like “some facet of the One Below All” to Banner. He wants to help. And so Immortal Hulk is outvoted.

The Venom symbiote is used to forming a dual mind with its host, but here it forms a ... quintuple psyche? Whatever happens, with only two issues of Absolute Carnage left to go, it’ll probably involve a lot of smashing.

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