The following piece is going to contain spoilers for the second episode of the Disney+ series She-Hulk, and speculate about possible moves in the MCU. So stop reading now if you don’t want to know anything.
Bruce Banner and his intelligent (for now) alter ego The Hulk have been a significant part of the new series She-Hulk, a Marvel Studios programming streaming on Disney+ every Thursday. In the pilot episode of the series, a car accident involving Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) and his cousin Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) leads to the latter receiving radiation-poisoned blood, thereby turning her into She-Hulk (she gets the name in this latest episode).
But there was a plot development in the latest episode of She-Hulk that points to a direction that Marvel might finally be going with Ruffalo’s Hulk character, giving comic fans some hope that a popular storyline could be coming to the big screen… and Hulk might be reverting back to his savage ways. Let’s discuss what we know, as well as what we now think.
What Happens With Hulk In The She-Hulk Episode?
So, Bruce Banner spent the bulk of the first episode of She-Hulk training his cousin on how to live with being a Hulk. There are methods that he suggested for coping with massive mood swings, and ways he thought that Jen might need to handle her newfound celebrity because she;’s an overnight superhero. A lot of this training took place in a remote Mexican location, but by episode 2, Jen has returned to her law practice and has accepted a new job… which might have her defending Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), aka The Abomination.
Jennifer wants the job. But she knows she has to clear it with Bruce first, given the fact that The Abomination tried to destroy The Hulk in the 2008 MCU movie The Incredible Hulk. But Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk says that’s all water under the bridge, and even makes a joke about him being a completely different person at that time (because Edward Norton was playing The Hulk in those early days of the MCU). Before she ends her phone call with Bruce, Jen asks her cousin if he’s coming to Los Angeles any time soon. Banner replies:
The camera pulls back to reveal that Bruce Banner, in his Smart Hulk form, is riding in the Sakaarian spaceship that caused the automobile accident in the She-Hulk pilot. This ship appeared to drop out of nowhere and catch Bruce completely by surprise, forcing Jen off the road and creating the bloody crash that mingled the duo’s blood. So we can assume Bruce is going to get to the bottom of why a Sakaarian ship was on our planet, and what they wanted with The Hulk.
The phone call between Bruce and Jen disconnects as the scene ends, because Hulk’s ship jumps to hyperspace. Where is he going?
Where Could Hulk Show Up Next?
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige clarified that he sees the MCU being broken up into three distinct segments. On the street level, you find characters like Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox), who tend to be based in New York City. Then the likes of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac), and probably the upcoming Blade (Mahershala Ali) occupy what Feige referred to as the supernatural corners of the MCU. And finally, there are stories being told in the cosmic realms of the MCU, and that area is fast expanding.
Because Hulk is taking off in a spaceship, he’s leaving his street-level cousin She-Hulk and heading to the cosmic levels of the MCU, which means there are a few places he might show up next, similar to the way the Guardians of the Galaxy appeared in Thor: Love and Thunder as part of a mission.
The upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 is one of the films that could showcase the return of The Hulk, though I think that’s unlikely. James Gunn plans to close out his trilogy of Guardians films, and appears to have an emotional story ready to be told (according to the footage that was shown at San Diego Comic-Con). Shoehorning the Hulk into that movie doesn’t make a lot of sense, so I don’t think the thread laid out in She-Hulk gets picked up by Gunn.
Nor do I really think that Hulk is going to be part of the other confirmed cosmic MCU movie, The Marvels. Primarily because there are three main characters that will need time and attention in that movie’s narrative – Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) – and the seeds of that story were laid out when Khan and Danvers appeared to switch places in the finale of the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel.
This could drop kick the Hulk to Marvel’s Phase Six, which so far has announced a Fantastic Four feature for November 2024, and two Avengers movies for 2025. Or, a new project featuring the Hulk could be announced at D23 in September.
What We Think This Means For The Hulk
Instead of including Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk in someone else’s movie – as Marvel has done for several years thanks to Thor sequels and Avengers team ups – it’s time to finally make him the centerpiece of his own movie or television series. And if they are going to go that direction, it makes sense for there to finally be an adaptation of the popular comic-book storyline World War Hulk.
For those unaware, World War Hulk was 2007 story arc that followed Hulk into space and then back again so the monster could take on major Marvel heroes. It’s basically triggered when The Illuminati trick Hulk into catapulting into space, where they planned for him to land on a safe planet. He doesn’t, forcing him to participate in vicious gladiator battles and build his own army. In World War Hulk, Banner returns to Earth and wants to settle up with The Illuminati.
World War Hulk followed Planet Hulk (they are two parts of the same whole), and elements of Planet Hulk were used already in Thor: Ragnarok. So any adaptation of World War Hulk would need to make major changes on its way to the screen. But the story does involve Sakaar, a planet that you may remember worshipped Hulk as a warrior hero. And now we have Hulk on his way to space in a Sakaarian ship. So it really feels like we are heading in that direction.
If Marvel plans to use the bones of a World War Hulk story to give their overlooked character the spotlight again, the big question remains: Movie, or Disney+ series? Avengers characters like Hawkeye are getting their own shows. But Thor just held down a movie, so the jury’s out. Also, would this be a post-Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars move? Is the pin going to stay in Hulk that long? Or will he be addressed sooner than that?
Look to D23 in September for more information on where we might see Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk again. Just… move on from Smart Hulk, ok? That gag has completely run its course.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.