WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Thanos #15
When Thanos conquers the Marvel Universe, he makes sure to keep a souvenir in the Hulk – his new attack dog. It’s a heartbreaking and twisted development in the already grim Thanos comic from Marvel. Set thousands of years in the future when Thanos eventually won, the Mad Titan is now King Thanos, ruler of the cosmos… which is limited to about a half a dozen people. Himself, the Ghost Rider who used to be Punisher, the new Thor who used to be Silver Surfer, and now, the man who was once Bruce Banner… reduced to some horrifying conditions.
Those who haven’t been following the comic series from Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw may have trouble getting their bearings in a story so strange, but that actually helps put you into Thanos’s boots. Not the King Thanos millennia from now, but the modern day one, yanked forward in time to offer backup to his older self. It’s a story so strange, the idea that Hulk has lived through it all to become a “Dog” at the villain’s side isn’t even that hard to believe.
Accepting that Hulk was broken to the point that he ate Captain America? That may take some time to process.
When Thanos first made the leap into the last days of the Marvel Universe, the tone of cosmic opera and fantasy was immediately clear (even more than his series had been to that point). A Thanos team-up across eons was a thrilling twist, but fans weren’t ready for Frank Castle’s Ghost Rider (or his new solo comic). When Frank – driven mad by centuries alone on a dead Earth – takes Thanos to feed the King’s “Dog,” the absurdity of the story ramps up even further. At this point, even Thanos himself seems to just be accepting everything shown to him as further proof of how wild the future really gets.
In a different story, fans might see Hulk, old and grey, living in a dark pit filled with the bones of his food and former friends, and feel saddened. Disgusted, even. Having the off-kilter Ghost Rider delivering the news of the Steve-Rogers-meal makes it all seem like the fever dream it’s been playing at so far. And with almost anything possible at this point, it’s simply doubling down on the terrible, joyless, grim nightmare Thanos turns the Marvel Universe into thousands of years from now.
On top of that, it’s a real cheap shot to deliver this story around the same time that Marvel confirms the Hulk is immortal. Which means he couldn’t be killed by Thanos, but couldn’t be freed from his tyranny, either (it’s still unclear if Bruce healed from the earlier battles, in which Thanos eviscerated the Avengers, and reduced Hulk’s head to a skull, or if that was the Totally Awesome Hulk‘s final moments).
It’s hard to believe that we’ve truly seen the last of Hulk in this story, even if the two Thanoses will have their hands full with the Silver Surfer turned Thor. Bruce Banner may get his revenge, yet. And prove that leashed or not, he is and will always be a very good boy.
Thanos #16 is available now from Marvel Comics.