Spoiler Warning for Immortal Hulk #39

Out of all Marvel heroes, Bruce Banner has had one of the most difficult lives. Between the trauma of his childhood abuse and the endless stream of conflicts becoming the Hulk has caused him, Dr. Banner has faced far more adversity than almost any other hero. Given this, it’s hard to imagine that anything could bring the Hulk much lower than he’s been, but with enemies like the Leader, things can always get worse for the Hulk. In Immortal Hulk #39 Bruce Banner is being tortured by the Leader, and it might be the most horrific thing the Hulk has ever endured.

With the Leader causing an explosion that was blamed on Hulk and taking control of the Green Scar persona, the big green brute has been having a tough time lately. Things finally seemed to be turning around though when the Leader’s presence in Banner’s mind unleashed the Devil Hulk. In a rare moment of vulnerability, the Leader showed genuine fear of the Hulk’s strongest persona. All signs pointed to Devil Hulk destroying the invader. Unfortunately for the Hulks though, things are rarely that easy.

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Before Devil Hulk can deliver any sort of beatdown, the Leader reveals that he merged with Bruce Banner’s father. Devil Hulk doesn’t care much either way and vows to kill the Leader no matter what form he takes. Unfortunately, the Leader’s plea for mercy works on the childlike Savage Hulk, who restrains his devilish counterpart to save their father. Devil Hulk tries explaining that the villain needs to die, but is decapitated and disemboweled by the Leader before he can break free. With no one left to stop him, the Leader takes Bruce Banner and melds him with the tangled mess of the Devil Hulk’s entrails, leaving only his torso as the trunk of a grotesque tree.

What makes this issue by writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennet so compelling is how it subverts expectations. The Immortal Hulk series has been building up to a confrontation between Devil Hulk and the Leader controlled Green Scar for some time now, so to see that confrontation end in such an anti-climatic way is surprising. Making this all the more thrilling is where this issue leaves the characters. Bruce Banner is being tortured, Devil Hulk is dead, and the Savage Hulk is an emotional wreck. This puts the Hulk’s fates in the hands of his least reliable persona, Joe-Fixit, but without Hulk’s strength or Banner’s intelligence, readers are left to wonder how Joe of all people could possibly save the Hulks. Immortal Hulk #39 is in stores now.

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