Bring on the Bad Guys: Bruce Banner
By Jim Beard & Ben Morse
A hero can be best measured by the opposition they face, and in the Marvel Universe, the tyrants, thugs and cosmic menaces thrown against our champions clearly mark them as the greatest of all.
Yet “villain” often proves too shallow a term when it comes to the antagonists stacked against the Avengers, X-Men, and others. Their motivations frequently run deeper than mere lust for power or desire for destruction. In many ways, they’re the heroes of their stories.
And in other ways, they’re just pan bad guys.
Join us for a week of examining some of Marvel’s greatest villains and the threats that will define our heroes in the days to come, reliving their histories and peering into their futures.
Doctor Robert Bruce Banner didn’t set out to create a monster, but by pursuing the cause of science he unwittingly unleashed an unparalleled destructive force on an innocent populace. The Hulk, a by-product of accident and mental imbalance, stands as the villainous Hyde to Banner’s fragile Jekyll.
The result of a misbegotten childhood and family life, Bruce Banner’s splintered psyche partnered with his immense intelligence equaled a volatile mix for a scientist working with such a powerful thing as gamma radiation. As an adult, Banner drove himself deep into his work, the culmination of which came in the form of an experimental gamma bomb for the United States government; alas, it blew up in more ways than one.
Racing to save a stray teenager who’d wandered onto the test field, Banner exposed himself to the bomb’s irradiated blast and, in doing so found that a hulking creature immerged from his own mind and body to ravage the countryside. The U.S. military took umbrage to this, and an eternal struggle between irresistible force and immovable object began on that day. The Hulk became “Most Wanted #1.”
At first, Banner’s own repressed anger fueled The Hulk, which translated into a swath of destruction. Then, the Green Goliath tried to act the hero and helped found the mighty Avengers; this didn’t last long and soon the emerald giant trod the earth as a villain alongside Namor the Sub-Mariner against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Hulk’s irascible nature led him into clash after clash with such champions as the Fantastic Four, Wolverine and Spider-Man. By doing so, Banner cemented his unconscious role as one of the world’s great villains.
But Bruce Banner’s mind existed in a highly unstable state throughout. The Hulk became susceptible to manipulation by would-be conquerors and others with ulterior motives. Different personas emerged from the scientist’s cracked cranium, which manifested themselves in different ways—once he even managed to retain his own brilliant mind while in the powerful form of The Hulk. But, always the original brutish, single-minded creature returned, forever hunted and tortured by those who did not understand the war that raged in Banner’s brain.
Several attempts at ridding himself of The Hulk proved to be inconclusive, so Banner often simply rides the storm of his condition. Many have sheltered and protected him, chief among them the lovely Betty Ross and the spunky Rick Jones, but ultimately Bruce Banner stands as the original tortured soul. For a short time, The Hulk found happiness on another world with a wife and a populace that idolized him, but, as ever, fate intervened and threw him crashing back to Earth. Now, other Hulks dot the landscape, mocking Banner with their presence and increasing his guilt at being the foundation for such a heinous legacy.
Time will tell if, ultimately, Bruce Banner will be seen as one of history’s greatest tragedies—or one of its worst villains.
On October 26, writer Jason Aaron and artist Marc Silvestri pick up Banner’s tale in INCREDIBLE HULK #1, promising more than one new twist on this tragic saga.
“He’s going to be a little ‘unbalanced’ to say the least,” warns Senior Editor Mark Paniccia of the series’ protagonist.
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