A lot of the problems faced by Marvel Comics' heroes come from the clash between their super heroic lives and the lives of their civilian alter egos. But for one Marvel hero, his super-powered life doesn't just clash with that of his civilian identity -- it actually wars with it! When the jade juggernaut known as the Incredible Hulk isn't angry, he turns into a completely different person, the weaker but brilliant Bruce Banner. And while the Hulk has never liked "Puny" Banner, occasionally the battling personas have come to understandings.
Recently though the Hulk decided he had enough of Banner and asked the villainous scientific genius Doctor Doom to split him and Banner into two separate beings. An unfortunate side effect of the operation was that Banner was driven completely mad and started conducting insane and violent experiments to try and turn himself back into a Hulk. This forced the Hulk into a confrontation with his former alter ego, which proved to be a fatal one.
Of course, in the wake of the emerald behemoth's last adventure, Bruce Banner appears to be dead. So what does the Hulk do now that Banner is out of the picture? And what further plans does Doctor Doom have for him? For the answers to these questions and more, we spoke with writer Jason Aaron -- who set this story in motion when he kicked off this latest volume of "Incredible Hulk" -- about his and artist Jefte Palo's Point One issue and the upcoming "Stay Angry" story arc, the first chapter of which reunited Aaron with his "PunisherMAX" partner, Steve Dillon.
CBR News: Let's start with the big question. At the end of "Incredible Hulk" #7, Bruce Banner appears to perish in a Gamma Bomb explosion. Why kill Bruce off? Had he simply become too mad and too irredeemable? How does killing Banner affect the Hulk?
Jason Aaron: That's a great question, but I'm not sure how much I can answer it without spoiling things. I would say read the next issue. Issue #7.1 is a great jumping on point and it sets up a whole new status quo for the Hulk that plays out over the course of the "Stay Angry" arc that begins with issue #8. It's Hulk like you've never seen him before.
In "Incredible Hulk" #7 the Hulk confronts Doctor Doom, whom he blames for Banner going mad. The confrontation ends when Doctor Doom rebuffs the Hulk and throws him out of his castle, but at the end of the story we see a crew of Doombots gathering up Banner's experiments, indicating that Doom will have a role to play in future arcs. What makes Doom a good foil for the Green Goliath? Is it simply a case of brains versus brawn? Or something else?
Part of is because, in terms of villains in the Marvel Universe, it doesn't get any better than Doctor Doom. The other is that Doom is the one guy in the Marvel Universe than can go toe-to-toe with both Banner and the Hulk. He can match smarts with Banner and can match Hulk in terms of sheer battle strength. That makes him the perfect villain for what I'm doing in this book, so we'll see him pop up again and again throughout this story. He appears briefly in issue #7.1, then we'll see him again down the road. His ultimate goals -- why he would agree to separate Hulk and Banner and what he hopes to gain from that -- are still a mystery.
In their initial confrontation Doom appears to be victorious. What does it mean for someone as egotistical as Doom to get one over on the Hulk?
Well, he certainly has reasons for wanting to put one over on Banner. As for what he wants from the Hulk, that's a good question. We'll start to get some answers in issue #7.1. Then we'll see the rest when Hulk comes back to him in issue #14.
Issue #7 also hinted that Doctor Doom isn't the only Doom in the Hulk's immediate future. Amanda Von Doom and her Mad Squad, who helped the Hulk neutralize Banner, will also have a part to play in upcoming arcs. What can you tell us about their roles in upcoming issues?
They'll definitely be back! They're in the Point One issue which wraps up some of the threads from the Hulk Versus Banner story. Then, just like Doom, we'll see them again down the road. As to what role they'll play and whether they'll be allies or enemies of the Hulk, that remains to be seen.
The love of Bruce Banner's life, Betty Banner (Red She-Hulk), also plays a part in "Incredible Hulk" #7.1. What can you tell us about the dynamic between her and the Hulk? We know that Banner loved Betty, but did the Hulk love her as well?
That's a good question, and it's something we'll certainly explore in the Point One issue. We saw Betty briefly in "Incredible Hulk" #2, where she saw what was going on with Banner, had enough, and left. That doesn't necessarily mean she's going to be okay with the Hulk killing him, though. She knows something is up and is coming to figure out exactly what. All I can say is, expect one of the wildest and weirdest Hulk-Red She-Hulk confrontations you can imagine.
I'm guessing the events of that confrontation will set the stage for "Stay Angry," your next "Incredible Hulk" arc which begins in issue #8. It appears as though this an arc that features stories from several different genres. You kick things off with a crime story guest starring the Punisher, and things appear to get weirder and wilder after that.
That's exactly right. It's five issues, and each issue has a different artist, different setting, different villains and different guest stars. Once you pick up the book, the nature of it will be a little more obvious as to what's going on, but you've never seen Hulk caught up in a situation like this where at the end of the day he's got to stay angry to stay in control.
Along the way he'll cross paths with the Punisher, the Thing, Wolverine and Kraven the Hunter. Plus, there are loads of new villains and characters that span the Marvel Universe; from the ocean floor up into outer space and to the secret jungle layer of the Sasquatches. So it's a lot of craziness that plays with different corners of the Marvel Universe and really puts Hulk through the paces.
Are the stories in "Stay Angry" done-in-ones with connective tissue binding them together, or is this more of a traditional story arc?
There's one overall story being told, and each issue flows into the next one. You could still pick up one and read it, though, and still get a satisfying done-in-one experience.
You kick off "Stay Angry" by reteaming with your "PunisherMAX" collaborator, Steve Dillon. Has Steve ever drawn "The Incredible Hulk" before?
Not to my knowledge. Plus we get to see Steve draw the Punisher again. Steve and I just got done with Punisher, but that was the MAX version of the character and this is the Marvel Universe Punisher that Greg Rucka is currently writing. He's a little different character, but he's still fun to write and see Steve draw.
Finally, what can you tell us about your plans for "Incredible Hulk" following "Stay Angry?" Will "Avengers Vs. X-Men" have an impact on this series?
We won't be tying into "Avengers Vs. X-Men." None of the solo Avengers books will be tying in because they wanted to keep the tie-ins small. The only ones you will see are most of the books with "Avengers" or "X-Men" in the title, and not even all of those will tie-in for the entirety of the series. So the only "Avengers Vs X-Men" tie-ins I'm writing are in the pages of "Wolverine & the X-Men." Hulk will continue on his own, in his own story, which is really one big story that began in issue #1 of this latest volume of "Incredible Hulk." This is one big story told over the course of multiple arcs.
"Incredible Hulk" #7.1 hits stores May 16. "Stay Angry" kicks off in #8, on sale May 30.