WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Avengers #686
The twists and turns keep coming as the Avengers reveal Hulk is more than just immortal - he's intelligent. Marvel's Fresh Start initiative will see a number of books relaunch and once again establish a new status quo for the universe. But before that can happen, their 16-part weekly 'No Surrender' story needs to play out and reveal what the Grandmaster has planned for the Earth. After weeks of teases, we finally saw the resurrection of Bruce Banner's alter-ego and learned how the Hulk has always been immortal. But that's not the worst of it.
With Hulk literally crawling out of his grave in New Mexico as the Challenger's final pawn, the brute headed towards the Avengers' base to claim the final Pyramoid. But while the Avengers have always had trouble containing the Jade Giant, things turned especially bad when even Iron Hulk couldn't stop the beast. Making things worse, Hulk seemed to kill Vision while on his warpath.
When Wonder Man attempts to reason with the man inside the monster in Issue #686, something devastating is revealed.
Avengers #686 mostly focuses on Simon Williams applying his new pacifism to the Hulk, attempting to talk Bruce Banner out of the beast, and stop the rampage. Unsurprisingly, this doesn't work, but the reason why is bad news for everyone on Earth. Readers got a tease of Hulk speaking intelligently last issue, mocking Vision's claim that he was "mindless" after he out-thought and destroyed the hero.
But against Wonder Man, he waxes eloquently like a supervillain and reveals that the Challenger isn't controlling him at all.
It turns out the Hulk went along with the Challenger's plan, not to claim the final Pyramoid but to destroy it. His agenda: to allow the Grandmaster to win and wipe out all life on Earth, leaving the Immortal Hulk to rule over the planet in peace. It's an interesting turn for the character, as his destruction is far from mindless. He doesn't want to spend an eternity fighting, but rather wants the presence of humanity wiped from Earth so that he can finally be left alone.
In the end, Rogue attempts to absorb Hulk's power and Bruce emerges for a moment, but he quickly turns back to the Hulk and destroys the Pyramoid. This final act, however, does succeed in Hulk reverting back to Banner. And though the Grandmaster is triumphant for a moment, he's quickly attacked by the Challenger when the latter party learns that Voyager was a mole all along.
An intelligent and immortal Hulk is certainly worrisome, but he's existed before. Hulk has gained intelligence a number of times, including a future version known as the Maestro who rules the Earth (with humans still on it). So there are plenty of ways for the 'Other Guy' to make life hard for the Avengers.
As for the direction of this fresh take on Hulk, we'll have to wait and see just what will become of him as 'No Surrender' continues.
Avengers #686 is available now from Marvel and comic book retailers.