Marvel Is Killing Off One Of Its Oldest Superheroes

Seriously, it's a big one.

Superhero deaths happen — and get reversed — so often that they're not shocking anymore. The big death that happens today in Civil War #3 isn't just major because of who passes away, but also for what it signifies about Marvel's current stewardship of its characters.

The build-up to Civil War #3 — written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez, Olivier Copiel, Justin Ponsor and Clayton Cowles — has been months in the making. After a new Inhuman character named Ulysses gains the ability to experience visions of the future, philosophical debate about what to do with foreknowledge of catastrophic events splits Marvel's heroes into anti- and pro-interventionist camps. One of the first pre-emptive battles stopped cosmic conqueror Thanos from wreaking on Earth but also claimed the life of another longtime hero. His passing was an indirect consequence of the interventionist debate but the character who dies in this week's comic does so in a way directly connected to Ulysses' visions.

In Civil War #2, a group of Marvel heroes simultaneously experienced one of Ulysses' predictive seizures with him, seeing a moment where the Hulk seemingly killed the majority of the Avengers. That issue ended with pro-intervention faction leader Captain Marvel paying a visit to the super-scientist.

Civil War #3 picks up where that issue left off, showing a confrontation between the blissfully Hulk-free Banner and his Avengers cohorts. Recent issues of the main Hulk title have shown Bruce Banner adjusting to a reality where he doesn't have to worry about turning into a raging engine of destruction anymore. He hasn't posed a danger to anyone for a while.

Yet, he still might. That's the reason that the Avengers, X-Men, and Inhumans converge on Banner's secret lab while Carol Danvers and Tony Stark talk to Banner about Ulysses' visions.

It turns out Banner has been running gamma-related experiments to (according to him) minimise the possibility of him Hulking out. This revelation causes tensions to escalate and Bruce gets understandably angry at the suspicion being cast on him.

Then, the ultimate preemptive option suddenly gets exercised.

The events of that fateful day are being related in retrospect, at a trial being held to determine the guilt of Hawkeye. During Clint Barton's testimony, he tells the court about a conversation he had with Banner months before. Barton says that Banner gave him a special arrowhead designed to kill him if it ever seemed like he would change into the Hulk again.

That device was what Hawkeye used but it's left unclear as to whether Banner was actually going to transform.

My biggest problem with Civil War II #3 is how Banner is portrayed. This isn't the man who stared at the horizon, calmer and more at peace with himself than ever before.

That wonderful moment of self-acceptance gets cut off at the knees by images of Banner screaming and unable to control his reactions. Are his reactions within the realm of safe emotional response for him? Probably, but it feels like Bruce's window of loving his new life is cut short because the plot demanded it.

And so, Bruce Banner is dead. For now. Since this is superhero comics, there's every chance that he'll come back; that's a matter of when not if. But the impact of his death has more meaning outside the Marvel Universe than inside the fictional continuity.

The House of Spider-Man has been aggressively diversifying its characters over the last few years with new heroes from different genders and ethnic backgrounds. Some like Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel took on heroic monikers that were defunct. Others, like Miles Morales and Sam Wilson, are sharing the titles alongside the first people who were Spider-Man and Captain America. The general understanding around the latter paradigm has been that fans who prefer Peter Parker and Steve Rogers still get to see them in action while providing offering readers who want a different flavour of wall-crawler or shield-wielder. The multiplication of these various heroic legacies makes business sense as it broadens demographic appeal and seemingly suggests new directions for film adaptations as actors age or opt out of their roles.

However, Banner's death signals a change. Moving forward, Amadeus Cho will be the primary green-skinned, gamma-powered giant on the Marvel Comics landscape. (She-Hulk's status is still up in the air after she suffered grievous injuries in the Thanos fight, while General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross will be resuming his Red Hulk persona in the upcoming U.S.Avengers title.) The Hulk of the old guard won't be there for those who want to ignore Cho.

The same goes for the Tony Stark's Iron Man and the Clint Barton's Hawkeye, neither of whom seem to be part of the upcoming slate of Marvel Now titles that will debut after Civil War II. There's a new level of dramatic uncertainty to the future of the Marvel Universe now, because it seems like the status quo where heroic mantles are shared by multiple people is shifting. There may be more than one Thor, Captain America, and Spider-Man in the months and years ahead or there might not. And the ones left standing may not be the characters that many fans grew up with.


Comments

    I can't help but look at that bit with Banner giving Hawkeye the device that'll kill the Hulk and think of Superman giving Batman a piece of kryptonite years ago in the DC comics. Not saying it's a deliberate rip off of that moment, but damn it comes across that way...

    I know theres a shadow there, but I always imagined the hulk with a much larger dong....

      Why do you think he's always so angry?

    He will be back, the current Hulk run is a fair dud in terms of sales and Banner is always a handy sales tool for events. He is just as useful as Tony... oh wait... bugger Marvel.

    Clearly been out of comics for ages. Alan Davis and Mark Farmer still working together. Awesome. Loved their work on Excalibur when it first began. Someone needs to go into a comic store methinks.....

    Not a fan of Amadeus Cho as the new 'Totally Awesome Hulk' but the book wrapped up Bruce Banner nicely. He had conquered the raging beast within and was settling into a peaceful retirement. Little things like playing Minecraft, building instead of destroying. And then Bendis happened.

    While I can see a Bruce entrusting another Avenger to take care of matters if he should ever Hulk out again, it shouldn't be Clint 'Avengers never kill' Barton. Hawkeye is that guy on the team, ready to call them out if authority oversteps their bounds.

    I'm afraid they've trashed two characters just for a convenient Tony vs Carol showdown.

      You mean the convenient "Trash the character I have spent a couple of years building back up after we just about made him the most dis likeable protagonist in comics" showdown? Because lets face it; this is just Marvel sending Tony off down the shitter.

    I have not read comics in a while, but I think this would be an interesting time for Marvel to introduce a feature of Judge Dredd comics, the progression of characters in real time.
    I thought it was interesting that each year, Judge Dredd in the comics gets a year older.

    This would be interesting in Marvel because a character who is in his prime now might develop issues fighting newer, younger villains (or heroes).

    Marvel comics are a train wreck of awful writing and gimmicks these days. Yet because most of them appease the SJW friendly media outlets, they have their stuff constantly posted that makes me thankful i stopped buying comics after Civil War.

    Not having read any of these, was it banner-hulk that Ulysses saw or just a generic hulk?

    Keep killing off those white characters Marvel. Eventually you'll have none left to sacrifice and then you'll be forced to off a minority diversity character and totally destroy yourself apologising to your SJW masters.

      Because they haven't already killed off any established non-white characters in the name of plot progression so far in Civil War II ...

        Rhodes only died so that the new Iron Man could be a black chick and she hulk is green. Please try again.

          So Marvel has never killed off minority characters for the sake of plot progression?
          So Goliath in the first Civil War doesn't count?
          Or even Thunderbird - a native american X-man seemingly introduced so that Marvel could kill him off?

            I never said they hadn't but Rhodes death just so happens to be before announcing the new iron man... both stories are written by Bendis. Just seems like too much of a coincidence.

    Oof, Civil War 2 sure is running roughshod over a lot of Marvel.

      Its pretty much a send off for Marvel sales figures, they are just servicing those Disney morals (read as balls'n'shaft).

    I know a lot of people hate the original Civil War, but I liked it (even though the ending was rubbish). Civil War 2? I'm not even interested in it enough to hate it.

    Ah, good old Bendis being Bendis and totally ignoring continuity just so he can tell his version of the story.

    Banner in Civil War II is totally at odds with the Banner we saw in Totally Awesome Hulk, but apparently it's okay because Bendis!

    Hawkeye in Civil War II is totally at odds with the Hawkeye we've seen recently and his no killing policy, but apparently it's okay because Bendis!

    /sarcasm

    Oh, and Evan we will be seeing Barton Hawkeye after Civil War II as he's the lead in the new Occupy Avengers book.

    Last edited 15/07/16 10:46 am

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