Within the long history of Marvel Comics, there is no one more synonymous with the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme than Doctor Stephen Strange. Over the years, Strange has gone from a budding and uncertain sorcerer to the most proficient albeit tragic Master of the Mystic Arts of his generation. Of course, Doctor Strange is hardly the only Sorcerer Supreme in the multiverse, nor is he the only one whose incredible powers have been saddled with profound loss. In fact, it was none other than Bruce Banner, or at least a version of him, who proved how much worse being Sorcerer Supreme could make things, especially after his greatest triumph led to the creation of the worst Hulk anyone had ever seen.
After an unexpected laboratory explosion engulfed Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Deadpool, the three heroes were thrust across the multiverse and into one of the strangest worlds any of them had ever encountered. Not only was this version of the Marvel Universe devoid of all but a handful of villains thanks to its Peter Parker, but its champion had also left it largely without the need for any other heroes. Unfortunately, the hero’s accomplishments weren’t won so easily, nor all on his own. First glimpsed in 2011’s Incredible Hulks Annual #1 (by John Layman and Al Barrionuevo), the Bruce Banner of this world would explain not only how he became the Sorcerer Supreme, but also how he successfully separated himself from his alter ego. While the former came naturally, the latter meant sending the Hulk straight to Hell, which is exactly where he became a demon.
The Hulk Was the Most Tragic Sorcerer Supreme
While Bruce flourished as the Sorcerer Supreme, the Hulk festered away in Hell, eventually devolving into the orange, horned monstrosity that the heroes would come to face. Thanks to the primary Bruce’s presence in his world, and more importantly that of his own Hulk persona, the Infernal Hulk was able to latch onto his variant and emerge from his demonic prison. The threat of the Infernal Hulk was more than the primary Marvel heroes could handle on their own, although having the villain’s other on their side did give them the means to defeat him. Just as the Infernal Hulk had latched onto another Banner, the Bruce it was born from found a way to fuse the two of them back together just long enough for a fatal blow to be dealt to his mortal body.
The heartbreaking end that the alternate Banner came to may have been necessary to quell the threat of the Infernal Hulk, but it didn’t take away from the impact of his demise. Thankfully, death wasn’t exactly the end of the Sorcerer Supreme’s story, as he would go on to ascend to a higher state of being as his predecessor had. That in itself provided some much-needed catharsis, not to mention a total subversion of the circumstances that led to the creation of the Infernal Hulk, and nearly every other Hulk in history.
The Infernal Hulk’s Creation Was Inevitable
The Infernal Hulk might not have been a natural creation, but his story is one that mirrors numerous versions of the character. By sequestering a being that is essentially a force of psychological and radioactive nature, Sorcerer Supreme Banner was fated from the beginning to create an even greater monster than the one he started out with. The Hulk is simply not a being who can be left in exile without becoming something worse, which is a lesson the primary Banner is still learning to this very day.
After the primary Banner recreated his alter ego’s physical body into one he could take control of from within, he captained his new vessel across realities. Fueled by the undying rage of the Hulk burning away within a mental prison, the Starship Hulk has battled Gods of Thunder and discovered entire planets of his own kind. He has also been subjected to the horrors of Titan, the Hulk’s own Hulk of sorts, one born from the agony felt by Banner’s irradiated other self. Titan wasn’t born from Hell itself, but the torment Banner has subjected his alter ego to hasn’t been far from it. If anything, these encounters should stand as a reminder to Banner that kindness and understanding can be genuine weapons when wielded with a deft hand, while callousness and cruelty will only leave him with stronger enemies.