WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Immortal Hulk #49, available now from Marvel.
The Immortal Hulk
has been one of the most seismic stories in the Marvel Universe, having reshaped everything there is to know about its titular hero and Marvel's other gamma mutates. As the series draws to a close
, the Hulk desperately needs help finding his way back to Bruce Banner. While the Jade Giant isn't alone, he doesn't have nearly as many allies as he used to, a fact that the Avengers
have just made very clear as their true feelings about the Hulk revealed in Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts, and VC's Cory Petit's Immortal Hulk
Since Joe Fixit fell out with Betty Ross, the Hulk, She-Hulk and Jackie McGee making the trek to the Baxter Building. Even with She-Hulk along for the ride, there is no small amount of tension as the trio makes their way to meet with the Fantastic Four
. Jen has been in touch with the Thing
, who believes he can help Hulk in his quest to find Banner. However, as the trio arrives at the Baxter Building, they are met by the Avengers.
Without a word, Earth's Mightiest Heroes attack the Hulk, savagely beating him for no visible reason. Thankfully, the violence is cut short by the arrival of the Fantastic Four and subsequent intervention in the form of one of Sue Storm's forcefields, but stopping the fight doesn't cover up the dark truth about the Avengers that has just been revealed.
The truth is that the Avengers have never really trusted the Hulk, nor have they ever truly believed that he was one of them. While there is no shortage of instances in which the Hulk has become a menace to society or threat to the world, the same could be said of many other Avengers as well. In the case of the Hulk, he has been the subject of manipulation time after time, and still none of his teammates have figured out that there is a pattern to the Green Goliath's rampages.
When they first joined forces in the classic Avengers
#1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Hulk was the target of the Avengers' aggression after being framed by Loki for blowing up a bridge. Although the heroes discovered the truth and accepted the Hulk into their ranks, the next issue saw the Jade Giant walk away from the team after they once again assumed the worst thanks to the machinations of the Space Phantom
. This is a trend that has existed from the very beginning of the Avengers, and it has only gotten worse over time.
When the demon Nightmare worked his way into the Hulk's psyche and sent him on an uncontrollable rampage, Doctor Strange sent the Hulk into the interdimensional Crossroads
in 1984's Incredible Hulk
#300 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema. This was, at the time, the only way to keep the Hulk from cutting an irreparable swathe of destruction through the country, but none of the heroes responsible for staving off his assault ever took it upon themselves to put any real effort into uncovering the real problem. Nearly the exact same thing would happen over twenty years later in 2006's Incredible Hulk
#91 by Daniel Way and Juan Santacruz, with the Illuminati exiling the Hulk to the farthest reaches of space immediately after he saved the world. Now, the Avengers have only cemented the fact that they've never had the Hulk's best interests at heart.
The Avengers' vicious shunning of the Hulk is a stern indictment of just how heroic Earth's Mightiest Heroes truly are. That this is only the most recent in a long series of betrayals makes it difficult for the team to seek any kind of absolution for their actions even if they wanted to.
With any luck, the Hulk will find Bruce Banner and save the world without losing anyone else. And once the dust settles, he might want to find some new friends who care about more than what he can do for them.