Everyone knows that they wouldn’t like Bruce Banner when he’s angry, and when he’s really angry, he’s the strongest one there is - except when he’s not. Incredibly enough, there’s a rather lengthy list of Marvel characters who have defeated the Hulk, who have beaten the Hulk, and who have even killed the Hulk.
Can the Hulk die? These days, a better question might be “can the Hulk go a month without dying?” Journeys to the afterlife are a frequent part of the jade giant’s modern existence, as are the inevitable return trips, now that Banner is widely recognized as the Immortal Hulk. In fact, some of the very best Hulk storylines in recent memory have revolved around his untimely demise and, more importantly, what happened afterward.
But in order to get a dead Hulk, you need someone capable of slaying a Hulk - and that’s still a rather privileged club.
Hoarfen, Child Of The Fenris Wolf, Ate And Digested The Hulk
When: Incredible Hulk #422 (1994)
Who: Hoarfen was the child of the Fenris Wolf - itself the child of Loki - and an unnamed Frost Giant. It was, in essence, a gigantic icy wolf with godly powers.
How: While on a mission with his one-time teammates in the Pantheon to accost their former ally - and another of Loki’s children - Vali Halfling, the Hulk came into conflict with a whole host of Asgardians, including Red Norvell and the Warriors Three. Eventually, the heroes all end up on the same side and cooperate in the capture of Vali - only for Hoarfen to show up unexpectedly and swallow both Hulk and Vali whole, killing them both.
A short time later, Hela, Goddess of Death, resurrected both Hulk and Vali inside Hoarfen’s gullet, after which the Hulk forced his way out with pure brute force.
When: Incredible Hulk #446 (1996)
Who: Onslaught was a being of immense psionic proportions, born from the combined mental energies of Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto after the former had been forced to mind-wipe the latter. Onslaught brought the Marvel Universe to the brink of destruction, necessitating an unprecedented sacrifice of heroes.
How: First, the Hulk shattered Onslaught’s armor with a punch so powerful that the reverberation split him and Bruce Banner into two separate beings. Then, with the Hulk passed out, Banner joined the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and other non-mutant heroes in overwhelming Onslaught with their own energies, seemingly sacrificing themselves in the process - only to be reborn in a pocket dimension of Franklin Richards’s creation.
The Hulk, meanwhile, stayed behind on Earth-616, now untethered from Banner, but with some horrific side effects. Hulk’s insides began to bubble and tear through his skin, and he more-or-less melted in extreme agony, finally settling down into a cocoon of irradiated and immovable slag. Inside, he perished, but from this cocoon, the Hulk would emerge in a brand-new, even angrier form, one he maintained until being inevitably reunited with Banner.
When: Indestructible Hulk #20 (2014)
Who: Dr. Melinda Leucenstern was an astrophysicist and former convict working for Bruce Banner during a time when he was operating his own lab. Other than that, she’s an ordinary human being.
How: Following a mission that saw the Hulk caught up in the explosion of an unstable reactor, Bruce Banner found himself temporarily unable to transform. Taking this opportunity, Leucenstern, on orders from Betty Ross - herself acting on behalf of an organization known as the Ancient Order of the Shield - shoots Banner twice in the back of the head. Supposedly, this was meant to prevent an upcoming extinction-level event committed by the Hulk, predicted by the Order.
This time around, and even after a resurrection, Banner would need extensive reconstructive surgery to recover, part of which involved the injection of Tony Stark’s Extremis formula. This resulted in a brand-new, super-intelligent Hulk personality known as “Doc Green,” who stuck around for a while before the classic Hulk reasserted himself.
When: Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 (2015)
Who: In the far-flung future of 2420, Ultron took over the world and enforced his iron dictatorship with his own team of robotic Avengers, complete with his very own Black Widow.
How: A team of Avengers from various timelines were collected by Doctor Doom and sent into the future to fight Ultron’s Avengers. Early on in the fight, however, the AI Black Widow got her hands on Captain America’s shield and threw it with enormous force, slicing off the Hulk’s head cleanly.
At the time, this was quickly explained away as the Hulk - plucked from a time period in which he was sporting Bruce Banner’s tiny head on top of his giant, green body - having lost a Hulk-shaped mask, and not his actual head. Later, however, this was retconned as a true, legitimate demise, rectified only by the Hulk’s continued immortality.