Warning! This article contains spoilers for Immortal Hulk #50

After three years of the excitingly epic and refreshingly unique deep-dive into the Hulk mythos as fans have never seen before, the Immortal Hulk has finally reached its breathtaking conclusion. Immortal Hulk #50 not only brought with it the end of the latest Hulk saga, but also opened up the character to exciting new stories to come. While the future is bright for the Hulk, it is the look into the past this issue brings to fans that makes the finale so memorable. The Immortal Hulk finale uncovers the secret history behind the Hulk and his greatest foe, Samuel Sterns AKA the Leader


In Immortal Hulk #50 by Al Ewing with art by Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose, Hulk, Joe Fixit, and investigative reporter Jackie McGee travel to Hell and challenge the Leader and the One Below All, who have all but become the same being, and manage to save Bruce from his hellish fate. Once Banner is rescued, the One Below All reveals his true identity as the One Above All, a being of both light and darkness. Everyone escapes from Hell with their lives, including Sam Sterns, making for a happy ending for all, but while the storyline moves forward towards its ultimate conclusion, it also takes fans on a journey backwards in time, uncovering the origins of the Hulk and the Leader’s mutual disdain, which goes back long before they were born. 

The final issue of the Immortal Hulk introduces fans to two brothers living in Ohio in the year 1901 who go by the names Robert and Samuel, last name Sterns. Robert travels to Samuel’s house in the middle of the night during a blizzard, and while Samuel is surprised to see him, he takes the opportunity to show his brother a recent discovery. Samuel has gotten his hands on a valuable piece of gamma irradiated material. However, Robert doesn’t care about the discovery because he is there to exact vengeance on his brother for sleeping with his wife. Robert shoves the gamma material into Samuel’s mouth, killing him, then goes home and throws his pregnant wife out into the snow, disowning both her and the child she bears and cursing her family name as he does it. Her family name is Banner. 

Aside from the revelation that Bruce Banner and Samuel Sterns are actually related, the issue makes some striking parallels between the two Sterns brothers and Bruce and Sam themselves, as well as establishing that both the Leader and the Hulk had gamma in their family bloodlines. When Samuel first shows Robert the gamma rock, the glow of it produces two distinct shadows on the wall behind, with Samuel as the Leader and Robert the Hulk. Even their physical attributes resemble their future descendants, and when Robert eventually kills his brother, he all but says “Hulk smash” while he does it. Their history is played out alongside the present day adventure of the Hulk battling the Leader in the Below-Place, making their long-standing struggle feel as though it is eternal, lasting outside of time, fated to happen across all points of history forever. 

Once team Hulk saves Bruce from the One Below All, they also inadvertently save Samuel Sterns who is stripped of his gamma mutation. Before they take their leave, the Hulks debate leaving Sterns in the Hell of his own creation, but the most innocent version of the Hulk decides to take him home with them, and even to forgive him, which speaks to the overall message of the Immortal Hulk story. While the higher powers are allegedly responsible for everyone’s fate, the only writers of one’s own destiny is themself. The Hulk puts an end to the hateful relationship he and the Leader have shared over the years and literally saves himself in the process, and in doing so truly becomes a hero by the end of the Immortal Hulk.

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