A founding member of the Avengers is back in the game this week — and I’m not talking about Voyager, the hero mysteriously retconned into the history of the Avengers.
No, it’s a much bigger name who’s back, not that it should be that much of a surprise. The current Avengers crossover, Avengers: No Surrender, was announced with a tease of this character’s return, and a new series starring the character was just announced yesterday.
But it behooves us to write a few paragraphs of text to keep from spoiling anybody before we get to the real meat of the story.
[Warning: This post contains spoilers for Avengers #682.]
In this week’s Avengers #682, Bruce Banner is back — the Hulk has been resurrected.
Bruce Banner has been among the Marvel Universe’s honored dead (excepting a couple very brief and ultimately failed resurrection attempts) since the Civil War II event in 2016, when Banner was killed by Hawkeye before he could transform into the Hulk. It was an agreement the two Avengers had come to in secret. Banner feared relapsing into his monstrous persona and asked Hawkeye to take him out if he ever showed signs of transforming again, even giving the archer a specially crafted Hulk-killing arrow to do the job.
Hawkeye was tried for murder but acquitted, as the public was mostly fine with the Hulk dying — although there were certainly some Marvel characters who took the loss of Bruce Banner hard, like his cousin, Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk.
Banner’s return to the Marvel Universe was teased at the announcement of Avengers: No Surrender, in the very last seconds of a promotional video, with the green line of a heartbeat monitor and the image of the Hulk’s craggy green face.
The events of No Surrender are a cosmic competition between the Grandmaster (the inspiration for Jeff Goldblum’s Thor: Ragnarok role) and a new villain, the Challenger. Both cosmic entities have assembled strike teams of villains, each tasked with the retrieval of four pyramid-shaped objects scattered across the Earth. The Avengers are merely the obstacles of the cosmic competition, striving to keep the Grandmaster and Challenger’s minions from gaining the power they seek — or at least from destroying everything around them in the process.
Throughout the story, the Challenger has hinted that he has an ace in a hole, a “piece held in reserve,” and in this week’s issue it was finally revealed: It’s the Hulk.
The final page of the issue doesn’t just feature everybody’s favorite big green monster, it also captions him as “The Immortal Hulk,” the same name as the new Hulk series Marvel announced yesterday as part of its Fresh Start relaunch.
Written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, The Immortal Hulk #1 will launch in June.
“It’s a comic about a monster who can’t die,” Ewing told Comic Book Resources, “It’s about a man who believes he can use the darkest elements of his personality to do good in the world, and where that belief leads him. It’s about mortality, atonement and denial. It’s about all the parts of ourselves we don’t like to look at. It’s a horror comic.”
On Twitter, the writer had an even more succinct pitch:
It’s unclear exactly how the Hulk is alive again, stepping out of that cave in Avengers #682. Is it the machinations of the Challenger? Is it just a new manifestation of his durability? Either way, we’ll likely find out in The Immortal Hulk, or maybe even in a further issue of Avengers: No Surrender.