A new theory suggests the Hulk is actually a Skrull impostor in the MCU, explaining Bruce Banner's strange behavior in both Thor: Ragnarok and this year's Avengers: Infinity War. The shapeshifting race known as the Skrulls are finally becoming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe next year, with Captain Marvel loosely inspired by the Kree-Skrull War. Most viewers are expecting this to be setup for a future "Secret Invasion" plot, which may even means shapeshifting aliens have already secretly replaced some of the MCU's heroes and secondary characters. As a result, all attention is currently focused on the major character arcs; anybody who's acting out of character could potentially be a Skrull.
According to Mark Ruffalo, Marvel is partway through a three-film arc for the Hulk, one that kicked off in last year's Thor: Ragnarok, continued on through Avengers: Infinity War, and will culminate in next year's Avengers 4. But something about this arc seems to be striking an off-note with viewers, to the extent that some are already theorizing Banner has secretly been replaced by Loki.
Over on Reddit, one attentive fan has come up with another possible explanation. He argues that the Hulk has indeed been replaced - but not by Loki. Instead, he suggests that the Bruce Banner we've seen since 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron is actually a Skrull impostor. Let's take a look at the evidence, and assess how likely this theory is.
- This Page: The Basics of the Hulk-Skrull Theory
- Page 2: How The Hulk-Skrull Theory Fits the Ongoing Story of the MCU
Bruce Banner is Seriously out of Character In Thor 3 & Avengers 3
The Hulk of Thor: Ragnarok was very different to the rampaging behemoth we've seen in the MCU to date - so much so that he'd essentially developed a character and personality of his own and learned to speak. When Thor eventually got Hulk to transform back into Banner, we learned that the Hulk had taken the steering wheel for the last two years. That was used to explain why Bruce seemed more than a little flaky and disoriented, to the extent that even Thor felt he seemed out of character. On the face of it, it seemed to be little more than an example of Taika Waititi's sense of humor; but there may well have been more to it than that.
In Avengers: Infinity War, the strangeness simply increased. The Hulk suffered a brutal beat-down at the hands of Thanos, before being cast to Earth - and changing back due to the trauma of it all. Curiously, though, Bruce actually remembered everything he'd experienced as the Hulk - and even knew things about Infinity Stones he had no reason to know. That contrasts with every other transformation, including in Thor: Ragnarok, where Bruce typically can't remember anything he did as the Hulk. The rest of the film controversially avoided Bruce turning into the Hulk again at all, with the two personalities appearing to be in conflict.
Promotional images for Avengers 4 have teased that the Hulk is about to go through another major change in status quo, adopting the so-called "Professor Hulk" persona. This version of the Hulk seems to be less bulky, and thus likely not quite so physically strong. Clearly, we're expected to believe the two personalities are in a state of war, and they'll ultimately blend into one being; viewers seem to be finding that idea unpersuasive, however, and are instead suggesting other alternatives.
Hulk Becoming A Skrull Has Comic Book Precedent
It's commonly believed Captain Marvel will introduce the Skrulls as setup for the famous "Secret Invasion" plotline. In the comics, this arc revealed that the Skrulls had been quietly collecting superheroes over the course of years, capturing and replacing them with their own impostors. Marvel made a conscious decision to avoid having any of the high-profile heroes be replaced; it was felt that would detract from major arcs like "Civil War." If the MCU is indeed heading for a "Secret Invasion" plot, then we can reasonably assume Marvel Studios will exercise similar logic. Titular heroes like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man are probably safe, just because their character arcs are too integral to the MCU's momentum. But secondary Avengers, ranging from the Hulk to Black Widow to Scarlet Witch, could actually have been replaced.
Interestingly, sometimes Skrulls become absorbed in the identities they've assumed, and actually forget that they're impostors. That's especially the case when replacing more complex people - including those who suffer from a form of multiple personality disorder. So if the Hulk has been replaced by a Skrull, he may not be aware of it.
In the comics, the Skrulls can duplicate the powers of superhuman beings, but it's difficult for them to do so. What's more, unpredictable powersets like the Hulk's - a being whose strength grows in proportion to his rage - would likely be even harder, so a Skrull version of the Hulk would actually be weaker than the normal one. That would fit neatly with the Hulk's near-defeat at the hands of Thor, his difficulty when it came to handling Fenris, and the beat-down he suffered at the hands of Thanos.