The Hulk, despite only having one solo outing (the ill-fated Edward Norton movie) has been a crucial part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the very beginning.
Mark Ruffalo‘s sensitive portrayal of Bruce Banner eventually snowballed into a bit of a comedic relief role in the Thor cast for Ragnarok, and buffoonery in Infinity War, but the green machine has always had a tragic slight.
The last time we saw him was in the She-Hulk Marvel series, where things were going well for his new meditative persona, but due to the Hulk’s unique biology, there’s a likely end to the character’s story. It was explored in a 2002 one-shot from Marvel Comics, and it’s probably a little too dour to be adapted for any upcoming Marvel movies.
Hulk: The End was written by Peter David and brought to life by artists Dale Keown, Joe Weems, and Dan Kemp. The story followed an aged Bruce in a distant future as he wandered a barren and irradiated wasteland. His radiation exemption and healing powers gave him an unnaturally extended lifespan.
After exploring for a century, Bruce confirms that he is the last human on Earth. Apart from the odd animal, the only other surviving organisms are giant mutated cockroaches that try to get at him, leaving the Hulk disfigured.
Banner, one night after a restless sleep, drew a comparison between himself and Prometheus; just like Prometheus was doomed to stay alive even while animals consume him for the offense of orienting fire to humanity, Banner speculates that the Hulk, as the quintessence of the “nuclear fire” that destroyed humans, had been condemned to a similar end.
He spends his final moments hallucinating his deceased friends, fellow Avengers, and loved ones and pleads with the Hulk, never one to give up on life, to let him go. The Hulk, however, refused to die (we saw this in the MCU when Banner says he tried to end the Hulk, which resulted in the latter just spitting the bullet he used out).
In the end, the Hulk realizes that the Banner identity has died and that he would also die if he changed back into him. So, the Hulk can only sit and wait, alone with the somber reality that his wish to be left alone, away from Banner, had finally been granted.
A feel-good story if we ever heard one. We think this is a bit too out there to make it into the MCU, but perhaps a What If… episode could do it. To read the comic, visit your local friendly comic book store, read it on Marvel Unlimited, or find it on Amazon.
We’ve got thoughts on why Secret Invasion should have been an Avengers movie and how Marvel needs to learn that killing characters isn’t everything. Or, check out how to watch the Marvel movies in order. We also have Marvel Phase 5 explained, and lists of the best Marvel villains ranked and the best MCU characters. For a different flavor, find out about the new movies coming soon and the best movies of all time.