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Is She-Hulk setting up an MCU World War Hulk when he smashed the entire Marvel Universe

World War Hulk cover excerpt
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

She-Hulk episode 2 is now streaming on Disney Plus, and along with progressing Jennifer Walters' narrative as a burgeoning superhero lawyer, her cousin Bruce Banner's MCU story also seems to enter its next chapter (or 'phase', to borrow a Marvel Studios term).

Following up on the sudden appearance of a Sakaaran ship that caused the accident that resulted in Jennifer Walters transforming into She-Hulk in the first episode, the second episode finds Bruce aboard that very same ship, apparently headed back to the planet Sakaar - a place he last visited in Thor: Ragnarok.

She-Hulk episode 2 still

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Thor: Ragnarok partially adapted the comic story Planet Hulk (opens in new tab) which introduced Sakaar into the Marvel Universe (and which is about to get a sequel in a new limited series). But the implications raised by Banner's return to the planet in the MCU have many fans speculating about that story's sequel, World War Hulk (opens in new tab), in which the ol' jade giant goes on a rampage against those who exiled him into space in the first place, taking the fight to nearly the entire Marvel Universe in the process.

Now, with all the pieces seemingly in place in the MCU, could World War Hulk be on the horizon? 

It may seem like a bit of a longshot, given the Hulk's current place and standing in the MCU, but in comics, 2007's World War Hulk was an important stepping stone on the road to 2015's Secret Wars (opens in new tab), which will soon give some spiritual inspiration to the now officially-announced Avengers: Secret Wars movie.

So what actually happened in World War Hulk, and how could the story offer some hints about what may lie ahead in the MCU? 

As always, Newsarama has the answers, straight from comics.

What is World War Hulk?

World War Hulk panel

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

World War Hulk is a 2007 Marvel Comics event by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Christina Strain, which follows the events of the 2006 story 'Planet Hulk'. To understand World War Hulk, it's important to briefly explain the details of Planet Hulk. 

In that story, which was partially-liberally adapted in the film Thor: Ragnarok, Hulk is exiled into space by the secret society of powerful heroes known as the Illuminati, who decide that Hulk's rampages are too big a threat to Earth to remain unchecked. They exile him to the planet Sakaar, where Hulk becomes a gladiator known as the Green Scar in the planet's fighting pits, ala Thor: Ragnarok. 

Hulk eventually leads a rebellion against the planet's despotic leaders, and makes his way back to Earth intent on getting revenge on those who exiled him to space - and that's where World War Hulk kicks off.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
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When Hulk's Sakaaran wife is killed in an explosion caused by the ship which originally brought Hulk to Sakaar, he declares war on the Illuminati, gathering his crew of loyal warriors known as his Warbound to his side.

(Two of the Warbound, Korg and Miek, have become Thor supporting characters in the MCU after debuting in Thor: Ragnarok).

He returns to Earth where he exposes the secret group's existence to the world, and demands to confront the members of the Illuminati who banished him to space - Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Charles Xavier, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange (Hulk decides not to attack his old ally Namor, the only member of the Illuminati who voted not to exile him).

What happens in World War Hulk?

Supercharged with Gamma from his time on Sakaar, Hulk takes down Black Bolt after withstanding his powerful and deadly voice. He defeats Iron Man while totally destroying Stark Tower in a fight that may have inspired Avengers: Age of Ultron's Hulkbuster scene in which Tony calls the armor down from a satellite. He beats a demon-empowered Doctor Strange and crushes his hands. And fully smashes the combined might of two teams of Avengers as well as Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. 

However, in an act of mercy, Hulk decides not to take down Xavier after he discovers that all but around 200 mutants lost their powers in the events of the story House of M, in which Wanda Maximoff casts her infamous-in-comic-book-circles "No more mutants" spell - though he does defeat basically all the X-Men.

Using Sakaaran technology to neutralize the powers of his fallen foes and their allies, Hulk gathers Richards, Stark, Strange, and Black Bolt in New York City's Madison Square Garden, where he forces them to battle Sakaaran monsters for survival - and promises they'll have to fight each other to the death afterward. 

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After a fight with the ultra-powerful and extremely unstable hero the Sentry leaves Hulk vulnerable in Bruce Banner form, he Hulks back out after discovering that the explosion that killed his wife on Sakaar was caused by loyalists to the tyrannical leader he overthrew.

And not only does he Hulk out, he rages so hard that he begins to exude a world-threatening level of Gamma radiation.

With the Illuminati members now free of Hulk's arena, Tony Stark calls down a satellite strike with a weapon designed to neutralize the Hulk, ending his rampage and diffusing the Gamma radiation. Now stuck in human form as Bruce Banner, Hulk is imprisoned in a special SHIELD containment unit three miles below the surface of the Earth.

World War Hulk in the MCU

World War Hulk panel

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The aftermath of World War Hulk took Hulk out of the Marvel Universe for a little while, with the just-introduced-into-the-MCU Hercules taking over his title as Incredible Hercules. Meanwhile, the aftermath of Bruce Banner losing his Gamma powers led to General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross becoming the Red Hulk.

There have been some hints and Easter eggs potentially indicating the eventual MCU introduction of a Red Hulk, and of course, there's the upcoming Thunderbolts film, featuring a team that once included Red Hulk in its membership. The original Red Hulk, Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross may be off the table in the MCU as actor William Hurt who portrayed him has passed away, but there's always the possibility of a recasting, or of using the second Red Hulk, General Robert Maverick.

But perhaps most significant is the potential that Bruce Banner could once again lose control of his Hulk, as seen in the first episode of She-Hulk, and once again become a Sakaaran gladiator - possibly even getting a full-on MCU Planet Hulk story.

And if that happened, the next logical jump would be World War Hulk - and finally seeing a truly unleashed 'Worldbreaker' Hulk in the MCU.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
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Though the core MCU doesn't have an Illuminati like the alt-reality version shown in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it is about to have a Secret Wars - an event that had some of its roots in World War Hulk's exposure of the original Illuminati in the Marvel Universe. 

Marvel Studios doesn't always follow the same exact path of the original comic book tales they adapt, but there's a comic book precedent for some level of connection between Hulk, the Illuminati's downfall, and Secret Wars. So perhaps a World War Hulk adaptation may give the public some reason to doubt the beloved heroes of the Avengers in the MCU, rather than involving a direct version of the Illuminati.

There's also always the chance that Marvel could pull a big reveal, and show that there actually has been an unseen Illuminati in the core MCU this whole time. After all, that's how they were revealed in comics.

All of this is speculation of course - but there are now more than a few clues that point to at least the potential for some version of World War Hulk to hit the MCU.

World War Hulk is one of the best Hulk stories of all time.

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)