by Michael DeLaney
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
In recent comic book history The Avengers have very little love for The Hulk, and the feeling is mutual. The Avengers see Hulk as a liability – a ticking time bomb that is bound to go off and destroy everything in his path. For The Hulk, The Avengers are quasi authoritarians who won’t leave him alone. It’s from this perspective that The Immortal Hulk 7 is framed.
Collateral damage in superhero stories is a plot point that is probably too prevalent nowadays. Instead of focusing on the body count of those scenarios however, Al Ewing deals with the weight of deeming what constitutes as “necessary loss.”
Joe Bennett brilliantly opens the issue with the image of a boy playing with action figures of Iron Man and Captain Marvel.
At first glance these two panels are seemingly innocuous – representative of the type of dialogue any child would recreate when play with their toys. But the little boy Julian may be something of a prophet, as we will later see the real Captain Marvel and Iron Man arguing about unleashing their own super weapon to take down The Hulk.
As they work to incapacitate The Hulk, The Avengers are at odds about using their devastating weapon “Code: Helios” as a last resort. Iron Man is trigger happy and ready to drop the bomb whereas Captains Marvel and America are far more hesitant.
America’s superheroes have often been compared to/aligned with the U.S. government, and in this instance Ewing gives them the dangerous power and responsibility that that entails. Like President Truman and the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, The Avengers must weigh the costs and benefits of deploying their weapon. Sure the immediate area has been entirely evacuated, but by initiating Code: Helios The Avengers are effectively rendering an entire town homeless.
In the wake of Secret Empire, it’s common for any of Captain America’s opponents to throw the sins of his doppelgänger in his face – Hulk is no exception. I think in this instance it is more appropriate than most however. After all, when you’re using the equivalent of an atomic bomb on your own soil however, how much different are you from Hydra?
Two additional things worth noting in the above panels: first is the tragic mis-coloring of Captain America’s uniform. With his chainmail design you could mistake him for Aquaman cosplaying as Captain America. Second is Hulk’s reflection in Captain America’s shield, reminding us that Bruce’s father Brian Banner is (mostly?) in control here.
The last thing I want to touch on is Jennifer Walters AKA She-Hulk. I will admit that I haven’t been closely following Jason Aaron’s The Avengers, but I’m not clear on why She-Hulk…Hulkier than usual. Regardless of the why, Ewing and Bennett use her current form to their advantage with the themes of this issue.
She-Hulk is the last line of defense before Iron Man decides to enact Code: Helios, because what’s better at stopping The Hulk than another Hulk? It’s that very notion that terrifies Jennifer, and Hulk exploits it. Iron Man and The Avengers sacrifice a little bit of their humanity by obliterating The Hulk and everything around him. When Jennifer looks into the mirror that is her cousin, does she realize that she has sacrificed her humanity as well?
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?