WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Thanos #17
After an eternity of torture, Marvel's HULK finally wins the peace of death... but not how you might expect. Bruce Banner's immortality became a curse in the pages of the THANOS comic, in which the supervillain was pulled into the future of Marvel's timeline. Well, technically the virtual end of the timeline, when the ancient King Thanos remains the only sapient being in the universe he hasn't killed or beaten.
The Punisher survives as the last Ghost Rider serving the Mad Titan - and the Hulk is chained as the tortured "dog" of Thanos. When introduced to the former Avenger, the true tragedy of his survival was revealed: Hulk begged to be released from his prison, asking Thanos to "K-Kill... Hulk?"
In Thanos #15 Hulk finally dies, but it's anything but peaceful.
If these plot details don't make it clear on their own, the recent arc of Charles Soule and Geoff Shaw's run titled "Thanos Wins" has embraced the amplified evil and power of the famous supervillain. That includes slaughtering the Avengers, the rest of Earth's heroes, the Celestials, even Galactus himself. Now that Marvel has revealed that Hulk has always been immortal, it explains why he somehow survived the assault of Thanos.
It also explains his desperation, surviving by apparently feeding on his friends and scraps from the table of King Thanos.
So when Silver Surfer arrives as the last Thor worthy of the hammer Mjolnir, and seeking to destroy Thanos for destroying the universe, Hulk is both figuratively and literally "unleashed." At first loosing his fury on Silver Surfer, showing that the man who had once been Bruce Banner was lost to the rage of the Hulk. Luckily for him, Norrin Radd still remembers the heroic version of the Hulk even after thousands of years apart. And in the movies as in the comics, a calm reminder of the friend still alive inside the Hulk is what's needed to bring Banner back.
It helps when you're able to stand your ground against the attacks of the Hulk, enduring ferocious punches that result only in the massive green fists being bruised and bloodied. With the same blessing of the "Power Cosmic" that Galactus gives to Punisher as his herald, PLUS the powers of Thor, Silver Surfer is almost unstoppable.
Which explains why he can afford to show mercy and comfort to Banner even in the middle of a battle with not one but two versions of Thanos.
In the end, Bruce Banner is released from his immortality through a magical attack delivered from a weapon connected to Asgard (not Mjolnir, don't worry). And, just as Silver Surfer promised, it really was "all over soon." What the Silver Surfer didn't plan was having his pain end just as quickly.
We won't spoil that climax of the issue since it really does conclude one of Silver Surfer's greatest stories never told, millennia into the future of the Marvel Universe. But hey, at least Hulk had a version of his good friend Thor by his side at the end.
And most of all... that he doesn't have to die alone.
Thanos #17 is available from Marvel Comics.