Bruce Banner has always been a man of two faces: the one he shows the world, and his Incredible Hulk side, standing toe-to-toe against other Gamma mutates and villains since his inception in 1962.
But now, with the debut of The Immortal Hulk series, Bruce Banner's faces have become so much more complex and nuanced, branching from just one 'alter' into an entire cast of characters - or 'systems' as Marvel has come to call them, of the Hulk, rooted in the narrative and even-handed, respectful research from the creative team about Dissociative Identity Disorder and its symptoms.
Some of these personas are brand new, while others were introduced in previous runs, with many given a nightmarish new life and characterization thanks to Al Ewing's twisted, yet meticulous plotting.
With Hulk flipping between systems seemingly on an issue-by-issue basis - and in some cases having his body fully possessed by the will of another entity - as Immortal Hulk stomps towards its finale, Newsarama is looking back at all of Hulk's many alters and figuring out how they rank.
10. Mindless Nightmare Hulk
Oddly enough, one of the Immortal Hulk's first appearances was one of his weakest. Debuting in the weekly series Avengers: No Road Home, the Immortal Hulk, mere days away from his own solo series debut, found himself on a goth-infused team-up in Nightmare's Realm with Clint Barton (who had just murdered Bruce Banner in the pages of Civil War II) and Rocket Raccoon.
Serving as the series' C-plot, Hawkeye, Rocket, and the Immortal Hulk bicker and proselytize across Nightmare's realm only to have Nightmare himself take control of the Hulk's mind, directing his rage and newfound (and largely unexplored) cruelty toward Hawkeye, aiming for revenge. Through a nice use of the Hulk as a 'narrative weapon,' he stalks Clint and Rocket through their own nightmares like a Gamma-irradiated Jason Voorhees.
While interesting, this debut version of the Mindless Nightmare Hulk in No Road Home just scratches the surface of what the Hulk is capable of in the 'Immortal' era.
9. Venomized Devil Hulk
Yet another event appearance for the modern Hulk, but one that ultimately doesn't add much to the tapestry of the Immortal era, the Venomized Devil Hulk sort of just stumbles into the title for a set-piece and quick tie-in one-shot as part of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman's Absolute Carnage,
Pulled into the event by virtue of having worn a Venom symbiote at one time, the Devil Hulk is overwhelmed by the ooze - transforming momentarily into a doubly terrifying version of the Devil Hulk, careening through the pages as the heroes and symbiote villain Carnage struggle to keep up.
Over in the tie-in one-shot Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk, the action is a bit more focused and directed as Immortal Hulk series writer Al Ewing weaves a tale of Bruce Banner and Venom dealing with the stolen body of Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross - Hulk's longtime nemesis and a former Red Hulk and temporary symbiote host himself.
The story largely harkens back to some of the more Tales from the Crypt-inspired opening arcs of Immortal Hulk, as well as Ewing's efforts during the Defenders: The Best Defense limited series a few months before, but ultimately the Venomized Devil Hulk lives and dies only in the brief pages of these event comic books.
8. Doc Green
The closest the Hulk will ever be to being called an 'egghead,' the Doc Green persona was Introduced during the Peter David era of The Incredible Hulk , appearing sporadically in the years after before becoming an explicit part of Banner's mindscape in a recent cameo in Immortal Hulk.
Though given a snappy, audience-pleasing version in Avengers: Endgame, Doc Green's real crime is he's just kinda boring.
Doc Green on the page should be a wonderful idea. A marriage of the brains of Banner and the brawn of the Hulk, Peter David famously treated him like a leading man, navigating through the marital woes of Rick Jones while leading monthly adventures with Shadow Base.
Hulk's ascension into the Doc Green persona also paved the way for him to become the villainous Maestro in an alt-future tale (more on him in a bit).
Despite all this, Doc has become a bit of an exposition monster since his comic book heyday, usually popping in and out of runs to info-dump science jargon and exposition on the reader. Al Ewing has yet to fully use Doc Green in Immortal Hulk just yet (like we said, he's only had a cameo), but if anyone can add some more bang back to Doc Green's buck, it's Ewing.
Once upon a time, Sam Sterns died. And then he died again. And again. And again.
And through those deaths he found the Green Door, allowing for the creation of the Leader-Hulk - the recently revealed new antagonist for The Immortal Hulk.
Given a truly striking, David Cronenberg-esque design by series artist Joe Bennett, the Leader-Hulk recently stepped into the pages of the series thanks to Sterns' newfound awareness of what comes after death and his control of the Green Doors; free-standing 'doors' into Gamma-mutates' minds and bodies.
After puppeting longtime Hulk co-star Rick Jones, Sterns manipulated the Devil Hulk into literally exploding, taking innocent lives and leading to Hulk's physical form being imprisoned in the Gamma Flight HQ while Sterns was able to slither into the Hulk's skin behind the scenes.
The scene is trademark Immortal Hulk body horror, and introduces a number of interesting implications for the series in its final issues. That said, aside from the shock of his introduction, the Leader-Hulk hasn't brought too much to the table just yet narratively.
Still, even though Leader-Hulk isn't exactly a 'system' of the Hulk on his own, he counts as another consciousness piloting Hulk's body to his own ends.
6. The Green Scar
The Hulk's 'Conan' phase has been one of his most popular for over a decade, but has recently gained a melancholy edge in The Immortal Hulk.
Introduced in the Greg Pak blockbuster Planet Hulk and re-debuting recently in Banner's mindscape, the Green Scar is the Hulk at his most noble (and most dangerous).
Blasted into space by Marvel's secret order of superheroes the Illuminati and forced into a constant Hulk-form by the barbarous conditions of the planet Sakaar, the Green Scar forms thanks to compounded trauma. But the drive toward revenge and conquest hones him into a much deadlier, and wiser version of the Hulk, tempered by survival instinct and grim shrewdness which then carries him back to Earth, aiming for revenge against his former allies.
Under the pen of Al Ewing, however, the Green Scar functions more as a warrior-philosopher of Banner's mindscape. Using that same shrewdness and self-interest, he recently helped restore order to the mindscape not by the sharpness of their axe, but by the power of his words, encouraging Banner and the Devil Hulk to reconcile and turn against the ongoing attacks from Sam Sterns, the Leader.
It was a powerful use of arguably one of the most popular 'systems' of the Hulk, but one that worked against the stereotype of 'The Hulk-Turned-Gladiator' - for the better, we think.
Standing as a hellish marriage of Banner's intelligence and the Hulk's occasional cruelty, the Maestro has haunted the mind of Bruce Banner for decades now.
First teased in the pages of Peter David's The Incredible Hulk, but fully introduced in 1992's Future Imperfect, David and iconic artist George Perez struck green gold with the creation of the Maestro - a ramped up, villainous progression of Hulk's super-strong, super-smart Doc Green persona.
Like many of the Hulk's alters, Maestro was born of tragedy and immense pain, surviving nuclear war only to be brainwashed alongside many other survivors into a fake virtual reality world built by A.I.M. meant to distract them from the wasteland conditions of the real world. Seeing through the illusion, Maestro led the survivors out of A.I.M.'s clutches – and right into his own.
Once free of A.I.M., Maestro didn't save the world – he smashed it, hammering his relentlessly brutal timeline into a dystopian kingdom under his rule. Over the years, he's popped up as a villain in other timelines of the Marvel Universe, including as a key figure in writer Al Ewing's pre-Immortal Hulk title Contest of Champions.
Maestro remains popular as a villain and as a leading man, with David recently returning to Maestro for a pair of limited series further exploring his origins.
4. Breaker of Worlds
Eons from now, at the end of time, only the Hulk will remain - and he'll leave nothing but destruction in his wake throughout the cosmos.
First theorized as a possible evolution of Hulk by Amadeus Cho in World War Hulk but made nightmarishly explicit in the show-stopping Immortal Hulk #24 and #25, the Breaker of Worlds persona is a Hulk 'system' with enough rage-fueled strength to live up to his ominous name.
Cho theorized that the Hulk could someday turn so powerful, so consumptive, that he could possibly destroy entire worlds in his hands - and in the coda of The Immortal Hulk #24, Al Ewing proved him right, showing a Banner and Hulk who had lasted beyond the heat-death of the universe, standing alone to greet the Sentience of the Cosmos to herald the next age.
Hulk promptly...well...ate them, growing to a new cosmically powered form who can punch apart whole planets and dominate reality under his green thumb.
Massive in both size and power, the Breaker of Worlds portends a grim finale for Hulk's story - though with countless eons between the present day and the universe's end, anything could happen to alter Hulk's fate.
3. Devil Hulk
This Hulk only comes out at night. Because the night time is his time.
Though Bruce Banner's transformation into Hulk originally occurred at nightfall, with his anger-induced transformations coming a short time later, Al Ewing was the first writer to give the specifically nocturnal version of the Hulk a name in the pages of The Immortal Hulk.
Set up as ostensibly the lead character of Immortal Hulk alongside Banner, the Devil Hulk was instantly different than any other Hulk we had seen before - even in Hulk's early stories that inspired the eventual Devil Hulk concept.
Callous and sometimes gleefully cruel, this new Devil Hulk can smell lies, has a strong moral code that he refused to explain, and often operates purely on an almost instinctual drive to dispense his own sometimes twisted brand of justice.
But more than that the Devil Hulk's presence in early arcs of Immortal Hulk was magnetic, demanding the reader's time and attention even now through the current issues of the series, in which this particular 'system' of the Hulk has taken something of a back seat.
The night time might be his time, but the Devil Hulk is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest Hulk personalities of the modern era.
2. Joe Fixit / Grey Hulk
He's got a name. Maybe you've heard it?
Introduced in the Peter David/Todd MacFarlane era of The Incredible Hulk, Joe Fixit, or the Grey Hulk (thanks to his grey skin, which called back to early printings of the Hulk's first appearance in 1962's Incredible Hulk #1) instantly became a fan favorite. Abrasive, brash, and more than a little '40s gangster, Joe Fixit became one of Las Vegas's most feared enforcers and led the PAD Hulk era to new heights of popularity.
Though he's always a fan-favorite when he rears his big galootin' head, Joe Fixit has taken on a whole new life of his own in Immortal Hulk, where he's become almost more of an 'alter' for Bruce Banner specifically than the Hulk.
Once bound to the super-powerful physical form of the Hulk (which he took on when the sun went down, much like the Devil Hulk), Joe Fixit's personality manifested in Bruce Banner's body at a particularly dire moment for the Hulk, ensuring his escape from the villainous General Fortean – a feat he later repeated by manifesting in Banner's body to escape confinement with Gamma Flight.
Now everyone once again knows (and respects) the name Joe Fixit – and he fits in nicely among the eclectic cast of Immortal Hulk, bringing his cult-classic acerbic nature and gallows humor to the title, and even taking the lead in the recent King in Black: Immortal Hulk one-shot.
1. The Big Guy
The heart and soul of The Immortal Hulk and one of the oldest standing 'systems' of the Hulk, the child-like and immensely powerful 'Big Guy' is what most people usually think of when they think of the Hulk (the MCU Avengers have even used the same nickname for Banner's brutish alter ego).
Introduced in Tales to Astonish (with Immortal Hulk formally implementing the 'Big Guy' nickname), the Big Guy is your 'classic' Hulk persona. Hunched, monosyllabic, and quick to anger, the Big Guy wrought untold destruction in his early days due to simple misunderstandings and chance encounters with some of Marvel's other superheroes.
But now The Immortal Hulk has delved into the deep sadness that dwells within the Big Guy's even bigger heart, picking up on the idea that in that form, he is in constant physical pain thanks to both the Gamma radiation of his body, and the toll of his constant battles.
More than that, Al Ewing has utilized Hulk's arch-enemy Sam Sterns and Bruce Banner's profoundly abusive father Brian Banner as both symbols and direct causes of Hulk's emotional strife, further codifying Banner's desire to connect with his sinister father as one of the primary causes of Banner's transformation in the Hulk in the first place.
Though his gut-wrenching sadness, and recent physical predicament of being drained of Gamma leaving him gaunt and even more monstrous have once again turned Hulk into a truly tragic figure, the Big Guy often steals the show amongst the new 'systems' of the Hulk – and he'll likely always be the public's biggest go-to interpretation of what it means when someone says "the Incredible Hulk."
Check out Newsarama's list of the best Hulk stories of all time.