In recent years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation of the Hulk has been used primarily for comedic effect, whether by throwing childlike tantrums in Thor: Ragnarok or by being surprisingly well-adjusted in Avengers: Endgame. But the pages of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett's Immortal Hulk tell a far darker story. Ewing and Bennett have turned Bruce Banner's life into a horror story, and both fans and critics are absolutely loving it. The series has a 9.0 average rating on Comic Book Roundup and was nominated for one of the prestigious Eisner Awards in 2019.
It's taken several shocking events to bring Banner and the Hulk to this dark place. Let's take a look at how Banner lost the Hulk persona, was slain by a friend, got resurrected against his will multiple times, and ran afoul of the mysterious "One Below All," a being who resides in the lowest recesses of Hell itself.
Hot off the heels of 2015's monumental Secret Wars crossover, Marvel launched the All-New, All-Different Marvel branding campaign for their entire line of comics. Many changes were made when it came to classic Marvel heroes: Laura Kinney took on the mantle of Wolverine; the Fantastic Four's Thing joined the Guardians of the Galaxy; and Miles Morales, the Ultimate Comics version of Spider-Man, appeared in the main Marvel Universe.
Another of these changes was the transformation of Amadeus Cho into the "Totally Awesome Hulk" after he used nanites to transfer Banner's Hulk persona and all of its gamma radiation into his own body. Cho continues to have these powers to this day, fighting the bad guys under the name Brawn with both the Champions and the New Agents of Atlas.
Marvel's big summer crossover event for 2016 was Civil War II, a sequel of sorts to the classic 2006 Marvel crossover Civil War. The entire crossover tells the tale of Ulysses, a newly found Inhuman character with the supposed ability to predict the future. Captain Marvel and her team of superheroes want to use this power to stop wrongdoings before they happen, even though Ulysses's ability is predicated on probabilities and not the actual future. Iron Man and his cohorts cannot abide by this and, bam, conflict ensues.
In the second issue of Civil War II, Ulysses has a vision of Banner turning into the Hulk again and... let's just say it's not a happy reunion for all of our favorite heroes. In Ulysses's vision, the Hulk goes on a devastating rampage that leaves a city in a fiery ruin while numerous Avengers members meet their makers.
During the third issue of Civil War II, a massive coalition of superheroes go to Banner's supposedly secret (clearly, it's not-so-secret) lab to talk about what is going on. Henry McCoy, the X-Men's Beast, finds evidence that Banner has been experimenting on himself. McCoy asks Banner, "You're injecting yourself with treated dead gamma cells?"
The heroes are appalled, but Banner tries to defend himself by arguing, "My new work has kept the Hulk away."
Things escalate as Maria Hill, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., tries to apprehend Banner, and he begins to get a bit angry. Just as Tony Stark is telling him to calm down, an arrow comes flying out from a nearby tree line and strikes Banner in the head. It turns out it was Hawkeye, acting on Banner's order to take him out with a specialized arrow if he ever starts to "Hulk out" again.
This solution to the Hulk problem works for a time, but few characters are ever truly gone in the realm of comic books... and that goes double for the Hulk.
The Hand has been a pretty big-time nefarious force in the pages of Marvel Comics since its debut in Frank Miller's Daredevil #174 in September 1981. Though most notable for going up against Daredevil and Wolverine, this group of ninjas who serve the demonic master known as the Beast have also come up against many other heroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men.
After the events of Civil War II, the Hand takes Banner and performs a resurrection ritual to bring a mindless version of the Hulk back to life... because what the Hulk really needed to become was a mummified zombie servant to evil ninja masters.