Hulk may not get his own MCU solo movie, but the monstrous Avengers hero could reappear in several different versions as part of Marvel’s Phase 4.
Phase 4 of the MCU could potentially include a number of different versions of the Hulk. The hero’s own arc in the MCU seemed to come to an end with the arrival of Smart Hulk in Avengers: Endgame, but Phase 4 will see the beginning of a new chapter with the arrival of She-Hulk and that may not be the only way Hulk impacts the post-Infinity Saga MCU.
In the comics, there have been a number of different versions of Hulk, including the traditional Savage Hulk who started the MCU and the Professor Hulk type who ended Endgame. On top of those characters, alternate timeline Hulks and other gamma-powered individuals have created something of a Hulk family spectrum. That much is fitting, considering Hulk is the Marvel character most tied to identity conflict and the MCU’s heavy focus on that side of the character makes further exploration of that same spectrum on the big screen and in Disney+’s new Marvel shows a pertinent new direction.
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Despite the fact that Hulk is still not in line for his own solo movie, the genius mutant’s genetics may well be all over Phase 4 of the MCU. And given that it doesn’t look like there’s an awful lot of left in Hulk’s current storyline – unless Marvel address the fact that Banner’s Avengers: Endgame Hulk solution is a betrayal of the character – the possibilities for how many Hulk alternates and those characters created (and potentially created) by Hulk’s genetics are impressive. Here’s every possibility from those confirmed to rumors and possibilities.
The only solidly confirmed version of Hulk’s family is She-Hulk, whose debut will come in Disney+’s 2022 original show of the same name. While Tatiana Maslany denied her casting in the titular role, show-runner Jessica Gao has subsequently confirmed that she will be playing the titular hero and her alter-ego Jennifer Susan Walters. In the comics, the lawyer is Bruce Banner’s cousin who inherited a milder version of his powers after an emergency blood transfusion. Whether that origin is followed closely by the Disney+ remains to be seen, but a casting call did suggest it would be, as well as calling She-Hulk a future Avengers, which could mean she crosses over into the movies too.
While Smart Hulk would most fit coming into a future Avengers movie, given his limited scope for a solo movie, he should play a part in She-Hulk’s origin story. As Jennifer’s cousin – assuming that link isn’t dropped – Bruce Banner’s blood has to be the cause of her transformation and it arguably makes more sense now that he has become “Smart Hulk” in the wake of Avengers: Endgame. Even with Jennifer’s life potentially on the line (again assuming the comic origin is reused), Banner would never willingly curse someone else with the conflict that has threatened to break him throughout the MCU. Now that he has found balance, it may suit his new outlook on life to see his condition as less of a curse. Hopefully, Banner’s new form returns in future movies too, but for now, an appearance in She-Hulk in 2022 fits.
As long as General Thaddeus Ross remains an active character in the MCU – which he has been following his surprising return in Captain: America Civil War – the question of the Thunderbolts and Red Hulk will pass around among fans. Red Hulk has already been in two MCU scripts – first in Civil War and then in Endgame, as confirmed by co-writer Christopher Markus – but so far, no plans have turned into anything concrete. But with Hulk’s threat now blunted by Banner’s transformation into Smart Hulk and Ross unlikely to accept the idea of a publicly-accepted Hulk – given his obsessive hatred of his arch-enemy – the stage is perfectly set for Ross’ own transformation to take Hulk down once and for all. Taking matters into his own hands on the appearance of She-Hulk, and using Banner’s own genetics – which remain in his possession after the events of The Incredible Hulk – to advance his own evolution would make a lot of sense.
If The Abomination was to appear in Phase 4, it would be the delayed culmination of plans that originally would have seen him return to the MCU in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, as Tim Roth confirmed. The monstrous villain was also eyed as a potential recruit to the original Avengers Initiative and is one of the most prominent loose ends in the MCU. His last known whereabouts were in a cryostasis facility in Alaska and as long as he remains in the background, his return to the MCU remains a possibility. Abomination would be a particularly interesting addition to Hulk’s story now that Banner has become Smart Hulk, as a pertinent reminder of what Hulk could have been. And with Zemo returning to Phase 4 to potentially make at least some of the Avengers face up to the ghosts of their past, Abomination could serve another important narrative function.
Dr. Samuel Sterns is another character who could be re-introduced to Phase 4 having been exposed to Bruce Banner’s mutated blood back in The Incredible Hulk. That had been marked as his origin, presumably to be explored in the canceled direct sequel, that would have seen Banner’s ally in his first official MCU appearance transformed into the long-term comics supervillain, the Leader. Kevin Feige has previously spoken about not bringing back characters without the correct set-up, but She-Hulk is one such option and there’s some suggestion that Falcon & The Winter Soldier is going to bring back characters from the earliest MCU movies.
Original (Savage) Hulk
A Different Multiverse Hulk (Like Grey Hulk)
Young Bruce Banner
Perhaps the least spectacular of all of the Hulk “variants” would be the possible inclusion of a young Bruce Banner in She-Hulk. According to one rumor, a 10-year-old Bruce Banner will appear in She-Hulk’s Disney+ show, suggesting that MCU fans will get to see something the franchise has so far avoided: Bruce’s past. With Jennifer Walters the focal point of her own show, it seems likely her familial link to Bruce will be explored, particularly if his blood is the only option to save her from certain death. Naturally, that means Bruce will not yet be mutated, but there is a possibility that the MCU lore around “genetic markers” that made the twins good HYDRA candidates in Strucker’s experiments could be further explored. That might be used to explain why Banner’s family line would be susceptible to genetic mutation at least. Hopefully, that means Hulk himself appears in She-Hulk as well as his young alter-ego.
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