By Graeme McMillan, The Hollywood Reporter
[Warning: This story spoils elements of Civil War II, No. 3. Do not go any further if you want to remain unaware of the issue’s big moment.]
Marvel Entertainment’s summer comic book storyline Civil War II has claimed the life of another hero — and it’s a big name. Not just big, in fact; big and green. Bruce Banner, the original Hulk, has been murdered … by none other than Clint Barton, the Avenger known as Hawkeye.
Banner’s death in Wednesday’s issue is likely not too much of a surprise to Marvel fans who have been closely following the Civil War II storyline to date. After all, the previous issue of the series ended with Captain Marvel visiting Bruce Banner after it had been revealed by Ulysses — the Inhuman whose ability to predict future events is at the center of the story — that the Hulk was apparently going to kill the other superheroes, and Marvel itself had advertised the third issue of the series with the tagline “One of the biggest heroes in the Marvel Universe will fall!”
The death doesn’t remove the Hulk from Marvel’s comic book universe, however. In fact, in recent months, Banner hasn’t even been the Hulk in Marvel’s comic book lineup, with the sole title featuring a gamma-powered giant — The Totally Awesome Hulk — featuring Amadeus Cho as the lean, green fighting machine after he absorbed the radiation from Banner’s body. The Cho Hulk will continue to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics following Civil War II; his series has already been confirmed for the upcoming fall Marvel NOW! promotion.
This is also far from the first time that Banner will be missing from the Hulk concept in comics; for a brief period in the 1980s, the Hulk and Banner were two different entities altogether, and in 2007, a comic book series titled Hulk focused on a new, red Hulk that turned out to be a souped-up version of traditional Hulkantagonist Thunderbolt Ross.
Whether or not Banner will remain dead is open to question, but unlikely. Comic heroes have a tendency to escape the Grim Reaper at the best of times, with the Human Torch, Spider-Man and Captain America all “dying” and returning over the last decade. That likelihood is only increased with the deceased Banner appearing in movies like Thor: Ragnarok, which is scheduled for release Nov. 3, 2017.
Bruce Banner is the second hero to die as a result of the storyline, which launched in May. The first was War Machine, who was killed by Thanos in the Free Comic Book Day preview issue, with his death confirmed in June’s No. 1. She-Hulk remains on life support in a coma, according to the series’ second issue.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Banner’s death is that Hawkeye is responsible. While the fallout from this plot remains to be seen, Clint Barton isn’t going to be disappearing from comics anytime soon — he is front-and-center in the promotional artwork for the Marvel NOW! title Occupy Avengers, but curiously nowhere to be found in the artwork for the relaunched Hawkeye series (that comic is anchored by Kate Bishop, the teen girl introduced as a new Hawkeye in the 2005 title Young Avengers). Will he lose his superheroic identity after killing Bruce Banner?
Civil War II No. 3 is available digitally and in comic book stores, with the storyline running through multiple Marvel comic book titles until October.