Although the Hulk joined Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as a founding member, he left the team and didn’t really rejoin for decades.
Over the years, the Hulk has easily earned his reputation as one of the strongest Avengers. Unfortunately, that extreme power demands an immense amount of trust from any other hero working alongside the Green Goliath. The early Avengers comics provided the strongest evidence of this, as many of the original members saw the Hulk as too dangerous. This led to one of the shortest tenures in Avengers history.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Avengers #1 saw Loki trick Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and Wasp into assembling to prevent a fake Hulk attack. While the other Avengers took the fight to the Hulk, Thor returned to Asgard where he exposed Loki. After revealing Loki’s presence and intentions to the Avengers, they ceased their battle with the Hulk. This led the group to form a team to prevent future risks. Hulk felt that it would be more beneficial to join the newly found Avengers and drafted himself onto the team.
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This venture would prove to be short-lived with the arrival of the Space Phantom in the very next issue. The Space Phantom had the ability to copy the shape of another being and transport them to Limbo while he acted in their place. This led to the Phantom taking the powerful Avenger’s shape and escalating the already tense relationship between him and his teammates. The Phantom attempted to use the Hulk’s body to steal one of Stark’s advanced weapons, with Stark’s alter ego Iron Man showing up to diffuse the situation.
Though the Phantom possessed the Hulk’s body, he did not retain his courage or endurance, leading to an easy victory for Iron Man. This allowed the real Hulk to return but none of the other heroes realized this and they continued to fight. Giant-Man prevented their fight from getting worse but the damage had been done. After the Avengers were able to send the Space Phantom back to Limbo, the team dealt with the consequences. The Hulk had become aware of his teammates’ distrust of him and no longer felt welcome on the team. Hulk’s departure was later revealed to be further encouraged by the machinations of Mephisto.
Over the years, the Hulk would play both hero and villain to the Avengers without assuming an official role within the team for more than a single issue. Immediately after the events of Avengers #2, Hulk played a much more villainous role against his former teammates in the next issue, teaming up with Namor to take on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Although his fight against then was temporary, the Hulk elected to not rejoin the Avengers as an official, regular member for nearly 50 years after his original departure.
The Hulk would seek out the Avengers to help stop an oppressive threat in 2012’s Avengers Assemble #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. After witnessing an attack on a military convoy, the Hulk battled Zodiac member Aquarius. The villain was able to escape, but the Hulk retrieved a piece of his costume which he promptly brought to Captain America at Avengers tower.
The Hulk then joined a gathering of the Avengers who revealed that another Zodiac member had attempted to steal a weapon that could destroy reality. Cap concluded that those currently gathered would be the only people capable of stopping the threat. This reactivated Hulk’s Avengers status just before they were assaulted by the newly reformed villain team.
The Hulk would hold onto his position as the Avengers battled the likes of the Zodiac, Thanos, and A.I.M. The Hulk’s tenure with the team lasted for the entire run of the second volume of Avengers Assemble and continued into 2012’s Avengers series. He would continue to be a member of the Avengers up until he was shot in the head and had the Extremis virus implanted into his brain, which turned the Hulk into Doc Green.
Even though Hulk has proven himself as a capable member of the Avengers, his condition still elicits mistrust. After the Hulk’s most recent entanglement with the Avengers in Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s Immortal Hulk #47, it’s safe to say that tensions are as high as ever. The Hulk has proven he can mend his bridge with the Avengers and will in all probability need to do so again in the near future.
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