That last shot of Hulk in the second episode of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law sure feels familiar, doesn’t it?
Seven years ago, in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) underwent a self-imposed exile. Thus began a two-year journey away from Earth, where Hulk landed on Sakaar and became a gladiator until he reunited with a certain friend from work.
Now, in 2022’s She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, Hulk’s past has literally come back to him. At the start of the Disney+ series, a “Class-Eight courier craft” ambushes Bruce, causing a car crash and an accidental blood donation to his cousin, Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany).
But while Jennifer stays on Earth to handle superhero legal cases, Bruce heads off to space to take care of... what, exactly? In an interview with Inverse, She-Hulk: Attorney At Law head writer Jessica Gao talks about what could be the start of a new Hulk project.
Minor spoilers for She-Hulk: Attorney At Law Episode 2 ahead.
At the end of the newest episode of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, Bruce once again heads off to space in a hijacked Sakaaran spaceship. It’s a convenient way to write off Hulk for the rest of She-Hulk, which saves headaches involving everything from Ruffalo’s busy schedule to expensive visual effects. But it also allows the Marvel Cinematic Universe to bookmark Hulk’s next chapter, as She-Hulk head writer Jessica Gao tells Inverse.
“He probably has to take care of some things that have come up since then.”
“We all know from the MCU there was a span of time where he was in space,” Gao says. “We didn't know, and neither did Bruce, what was happening for the majority of that time. So if I were to guess, he probably has to take care of some things that have come up since then.”
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Sakaar
What’s key to understanding Hulk’s curiosity about his past is that he may not remember it. In Thor: Ragnarok, when Hulk reverts to Bruce Banner, Bruce has no recollection of anything that happened since Age of Ultron. When Bruce asks Thor if they saved the city of Sokovia, Thor tells him that all happened two years ago.
Bruce and the Hulk are essentially separate entities, and whatever Hulk experienced is not fully understood by Bruce. So when a Sakaarian ship attacks Bruce, it’s understandable that he would finally decide to venture back into space to see what messes he left behind.
Is She-Hulk setting up World War Hulk in Phase Six?
As of now, it’s unknown when we’ll see Hulk again. Phase Four of the MCU ends in November with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Phase Five has a full slate of shows like Secret Invasion and Ironheart, and movies like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Phase Six, however, is wide open, with only three movies currently announced: Fantastic Four, The Kang Dynasty, and Secret Wars. The latter two are Avengers movies, which makes it a safe bet we’ll see Hulk in them.
For those wondering why there hasn’t been a standalone Hulk movie since 2008, it’s because Universal still has first refusal opportunity to distribute a solo Hulk film, which would take a big cut of profits from Marvel-owner Disney. Marvel has made movies featuring the Hulk, like Thor: Ragnarok, but a solo Hulk movie was out of grasp because of Universal’s ownership.
However, there have been rumors that the movie rights to the Hulk may soon land at Disney. The original deal between Universal and Paramount Pictures (which, at the time, was working with Marvel) had a period of 15 years “commencing on the initial Theatrical Exhibition.” June 2023 is about 15 years since The Incredible Hulk opened in theaters, which means Marvel can theoretically begin production of a new Hulk movie for the MCU during Phase Five.
Meanwhile, there have been rumors of an adaptation of World War Hulk, a 2007 comic book series by Greg Pak that roughly adheres to the Hulk’s current timeline in the MCU.
In 2006, just before the events of Marvel’s Civil War comic book, Hulk was exiled from Earth. In the story Planet Hulk, Hulk lands on Sakaar and becomes an enslaved gladiator. (Sound familiar?) World War Hulk then sees Hulk return to Earth to seek revenge for his banishment by the Illuminati. Yes, those guys.
A World War Hulk movie wasn’t announced at Comic-Con this year, which threw some cold water on the rumors. But maybe we’ll see the Hulk come back from space once Marvel is legally allowed to proceed with a Hulk movie.
Until then, we have She-Hulk.
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law streams new episodes Thursdays on Disney+.