In case you haven’t heard, Bruce Banner is dead. A blood pact with Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, sets up the unfortunate events leading to Bruce’s killing and then to Clint’s trial for his murder. But after Banner’s death and before Barton’s trial, it was necessary to lay Bruce to rest. The events surrounding Hulk’s interment are what make up the bulk of Marvel’s Civil War II: The Fallen #1, or if you’d like, “Four Hulks and Funeral.”
Greg Pak’s story opens up graveside with a number of super-human and regular-human mourners trying to speak their peace. Protesters on the street are dead set on ruining that peace, angry at Hulk in life for his special brand of violence and angry at him in death for existing at all. As moving as the proceedings are, the occasion is significant not because of who is in attendance, but by those who abstained from the ceremony.
After near disaster is averted through the calming efforts of one the super-mourners, the cemetery is vacated by all but those closest to Banner/Hulk in life — Betty Ross (ex-wife), Rick Jones (oldest friend & A-Bomb), Korg, Elloe Kaifi, and No-Name. Together they are concerned about the absence of the Four Hulks not present — Skaar (Hulk’s son), She-Hulk (comatose from her run-in with Thanos), Red Hulk (General Ross, who is currently powerless and imprisoned), and New Hulk (the adolescent Amadeus Cho) — and the friends set out on a mission to discover why the Hulks were not graveside. Without careful management, the “Fearful Five” worry that the Four Hulks might seek out vengeance for the death of their murdered name sake.
The story picks up as the “Fearful Five” find the missing Hulks and discover their true feelings about their relationships with Banner. Unknown to four of the “Five” is that Rick Jones has an agenda separate from the group’s peaceful efforts. The mission comes to an abrupt halt when Pak implements that most classic of comic book story devices: a riveting and humorous reading of Banner’s last will and testament.
But really, it was probably the most awesome will reading ever. Holograms and presents--you know, typical will reading sort of stuff.
Greg Pak is uniquely qualified to handle the emotional ramifications of Hulk’s death, having written the big green guy for years. A Yale grad with a film-making background, Pak has penned Hulk stories from 2005 to 2009 and has been writing The Totally Awesome Hulk since 2015. His story not only addresses the emotional aspects of Bruce’s death but also tackles the obvious concerns that his contemporaries would logically have about the earth’s remaining Hulks, concerns born from their past experiences of having to control Bruce, and if not, fearing the price that the world could pay.
My favorite take-away from the story was Bruce’s most thoughtful item willed to his loved ones, something I won’t ruin here in my review, but look for it. The item was inexpensive, but shows Pak’s deep understanding of Banner’s evolution from a raw nerve to a man who was more concerned with the public’s well-being than his own life. In fact, I’ll probably use the method he describes to his Hulk friends as a means of avoiding awkward public displays of personal consumer rage (you can read all about that in my soon-to-be daily blog, “I Hate Shopping”).
How long will Bruce remain dead? Will the “Fearful Five” succeed in their attempts to placate the Four Hulks? We get answers to the latter by the end of the issue, and if past experiences with Steve Rogers, Spider-Man, or any other hero that has departed mortality shows, we haven’t seen the last of Bruce Banner. But for now, we have a fine look at what Banner meant to the world and the mark that Hulk left on it.
Pick up your copy of Civil War II: The Fallen #1 at your local comic shop, or order it on-line at Marvel.com