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Times the Avengers treated Hulk like garbage

For some hardcore Hulk fans, the man-monster's higher profile in pop culture since 2012's Avengers is bittersweet. While Mark Ruffalo deserves the praise he's received for his portrayal of Bruce Banner — and in spite of the CGI realization of the Hulk being a triumph in Avengers and every subsequent film in which he's appeared — all of that comes at a price. 

In the comics, the Hulk has rarely been the kind of superhero to "suit up" when some alarm went off, letting him know the world was in danger. Actually, a lot of times Hulk has been the reason for the alarm. While he pitches in every now and then, for the most part the Hulk isn't trying to save the world — he's trying to save himself from a world that has hated and hounded him, including the other superheroes. Sure, he was a founding Avenger, but he didn't last long. He fought Marvel's other heroes as often as he did its villains. That's why as awesome as it is for a diehard Hulkophile to watch his classic Loki-thrashing scene in Avengers, having him take orders from Captain America can evoke more bittersweet emotions.

During the Hulk's many clashes with the Avengers, the team is often just trying to protect other people from his rampages. But the Hulk rarely sees himself as the villain, and sometimes he really isn't. For some examples, here are times the Avengers treated the Hulk like garbage.

Since day one...

While Hulk was one of the original Avengers in 1963's Avengers #1, the story of the group's founding is largely a hunt for the man-monster. 

Magically witnessing the Hulk and his power, Loki — from an island where Odin banished him — theorizes the Hulk might be able to defeat his half-brother Thor. At the time, the Hulk is in hiding, acting as a performer in a circus and juggling full-grown elephants while dressed like a clown. Loki uses his magic to make it appear the Hulk is acting against humanity — when the Hulk uses his power to save a train on a broken track, Loki uses his illusions to make it appear the Hulk is the culprit who wrecked the tracks in the first place. 

The Hulk's non-crimes attract more than just Thor. Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade call out with ham radios to any heroes who could help stem the Hulk's "threat" and Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp answer the call. The three soon-to-be-teammates spend most of Avengers #1 chasing the Hulk and battling him in a factory. Before anyone is seriously hurt, Thor arrives with Loki as his prisoner, having figured out Loki's scheme. 

While the now-iconic cover of Avengers #1 depicts the five original Avengers battling Loki, the only one who truly throws down with him was Thor. The Hulk does nothing but fight off his attackers, who believe the lie that the Hulk is nothing more than a rampaging beast.

Not to mention day two

The Hulk's initial time in the Avengers was short-lived. He rage-quit at the end of Avengers #2, and considering everything, it's tough to blame him. 

In Avengers #2 the team is infiltrated by an alien villain named the Space Phantom, who can mimic the appearance and, to some degree, the powers of different people; when he mimics someone, that person is transported to the realm of Limbo until the Phantom changes back. The Hulk is the first Avenger Space Phantom chooses as his disguise, and acts out while doing so. He speaks rudely to the rest of the team, eventually getting physical. When the smoke clears and everyone realizes what happened, the Hulk's angry at what the Avengers said about him when they believed they were fighting him, and he leaves the team in a huff.

That could have been the end of it, but in Avengers #3 — believing the world isn't safe with a Hulk who isn't being chaperoned by other superheroes — the Avengers actively hunt the Hulk and battle him once more, apparently forgetting it was Loki who had fooled them into thinking the Hulk was a threat in the first place. The Hulk fights them off and eventually allies himself with the aquatic outcast Namor the Sub-Mariner in an attempt to destroy the team and get them off his back.

And more recently...

Not all of the Avengers' unwarranted assaults on the Hulk occurred in Marvel's heyday. As recently as 2018, Immortal Hulk #6 ended with the Avengers tracking down the newly-resurrected Bruce Banner to capture him. One of the biggest reasons for their attack was a battle between the Hulk and the Canadian hero Sasquatch in a hospital, though unbeknownst to the team, the Hulk saved everyone in the hospital from a crazy, possessed, and bloodthirsty Sasquatch.

Immortal Hulk #7 opens with every indication that the Avengers are not going to get their way. The Hulk proves more powerful than ever, hitting Thor so hard that Captain America has to carry him from the battlefield, ripping yet another Hulkbuster armor to pieces, and taking out his cousin She-Hulk with a single punch. Unfortunately for Hulk, Black Panther and Tony Stark have a powerful energy cannon orbiting the Earth, ready to take him out if the Avengers can't do it themselves. Unable to stop him any other way, the Avengers kill the Hulk with the cannon, knowing that in his most recent incarnation the Hulk is always resurrected. 

This time, before he was resurrected, the Hulk was captured by a shadow government agency that chopped his body into a dozen pieces and placed each part in a separate container so that even his inevitable resurrection would render him simply an angry head in a jar. Yay Avengers! 

Blackmail

The first time they recruited him by attacking him. Later, they blackmailed him. When it comes to the Hulk, the Avengers have some bizarre recruitment policies.

In 1988, the High Evolutionary ticked off the whole Marvel Universe in an event that ran through Marvel's annuals called Evolutionary War. The finale takes place in Avengers Annual #17, but there's a problem: the Avengers have disbanded. An alarm summons a band of reserve Avengers anyway, including the mutant Beast. At the end of Incredible Hulk #350, with the Hulk just finishing an epic battle with Ben Grimm, a.k.a. the Thing, the Beast happens upon the Hulk and strong-arms him into helping the Avengers.

At the time, most of the world believed the Hulk had died in a gamma bomb explosion in Incredible Hulk #345. This gray, more intelligent version of the Hulk was living in Las Vegas and he liked the world thinking he was dead, so the Beast did exactly what any honorable, heroic member of the Avengers and the X-Men would do — he told the Hulk if he didn't help the Avengers, he'd reveal to the entire world that he was still alive, making him a wanted man-monster once more. Apparently the "Assemble" in "Avengers Assemble" sometimes means "ASSEMBLE… the sensitive and damaging information on potential members and make copies so we can convince them to join."

In Memoriam

It's no secret the Hulk has some anger issues. Naturally, a Hulk-sized anger includes some huge grudges. But in Marvel Comics, the Hulk isn't the only one who knows how to hold onto a beef.

In 1995's Incredible Hulk #434, the Avengers throw the first punch. The issue is something of an epilogue for the Over the Edge event, in which Nick Fury was killed (he got better), and the Avengers blame the Hulk for Fury's death. In spite of former villains like Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman, and Black Widow counting themselves among the Avengers in attendance — who arguably all knew what it was like to be hounded by the law and needing a bit of forgiveness — the Avengers attack the Hulk as soon as he shows up. It's even the usually rational android Vision who "drew first blood," using his phasing powers to shove his finger into the Hulk's brain. 

The Hulk hardly fights back, uncharacteristically trying to talk his way out of a fight. The whole event reaches a peak of stupidity when U.S.Agent charges the Hulk, who swats the smaller hero away. U.S.Agent flies through the air and hit Fury's coffin, knocking it over.

A battle in the desert

When the Avengers lock horns with the Hulk in 1986's Incredible Hulk #316, it's a different kind of Hulk. The gamma-powered hero Doc Samson has developed a method to physically separate Bruce Banner from his greener half, and as a result, an utterly mindless Hulk incapable even of his old classic "Hulk smash" speech rages through the New Mexico desert destroying everything he sees. The Avengers send their four physically strongest active members — Hercules, Namor, Wonder Man, and Iron Man — to stop him. 

It makes sense the Avengers would want to take out such a destructive version of the green goliath, but half of the quartet formed in the desert to tussle with the Hulk doesn't take it seriously. Wonder Man acts like the pampered Hollywood socialite that he was at the time, and Hercules in particular treats the whole thing like a game, reveling in the challenge of the battle and treating the Hulk as nothing more than an obstacle to throw himself over — which would be more fun if the Avengers hadn't been discussing killing the Hulk. The Greek hero treats it so much like a game that when Doc Samson shows up to stop the other Avengers from fighting the Hulk (because he believes it's his responsibility and no one else's), Hercules thinks it might be more of a challenge and politely asks Hulk to wait for him to finish Fight #2. Moron.

Civil War II

At first it didn't seem like Bruce Banner would have much to do with 2016's Civil War II. He'd been in space during the first Civil War, and by the time the second one came around, Amadeus Cho had drained all the Hulk out of him and was fighting monsters as the new "Totally Awesome" Hulk. But when the Inhuman Ulysses' psychic vision showed the original Hulk on a rampage, apparently murdering most of Marvel's heroes, everything changed. When those heroes found Banner, they discovered he'd been researching gamma radiation again and were less than happy.

A huge group of heroes — most of them Avengers — confronted Banner, many of them hurling accusations at him from every direction while others searched through his work. Because the best thing you can do to someone you worry is going to go nuts and kill you is to antagonize him with as many people surrounding him as possible while you go through his work without his permission. 

Before anything could be resolved, Hawkeye murdered Bruce Banner. Sort of. A flashback later revealed that Banner had actually created the arrows that Clint Barton used to kill him, and that he had given them to the archer specifically in case he should ever need to be put down. Hawkeye claimed he saw Banner's eyes flash with green before he fired, but the art was left purposely ambiguous.

The search for She-Hulk

While it wasn't nearly as popular a comic as Civil War II #3, that 2016 comic was not the first time Hawkeye drew blood from Bruce Banner. While the latter event was to stop the Hulk from coming out, in 2004's Avengers #74, the archer shot Banner to make the Hulk show up. 

Banner's cousin Jen Walters, a.k.a. She-Hulk, had been missing for a while from the Avengers' roster and it's Hawkeye who discovers why: A more savage persona has emerged from She-Hulk, and she's on a rampage. Banner gets close to actually talking down the more savage She-Hulk, but that isn't good enough for Clint Barton. Wanting something to keep She-Hulk occupied to give the Avengers time to get there, Hawkeye fires an arrow through Banner's shoulder in order to force the Hulk to come out and fight. 

She-Hulk is eventually subdued by the Avengers. In spite of the destruction her rampage causes, the Avengers — including She-Hulk — do absolutely nothing to correct reports from the media that it was the Hulk, not She-Hulk, who had been rampaging. Because if there's one thing the Avengers know, it's loyalty.  

Onslaught

While the Avengers and Hulk were both still stinging from a couple of recent clashes — including the one at Nick Fury's funeral and an epic Hulk/Thor battle in 1996's Incredible Hulk #440 — Earth's Mightiest and the Hulk were forced to work together for the line-wide Marvel Comics event Onslaught. While things never got violent between Hulk and his former teammates, it wasn't for lack of the Avengers trying. In Incredible Hulk #445, the Hulk gets tired of the Avengers giving him dirty looks everywhere he goes and tells them so. In spite of Hulk telling them to stop unless they want him to join "the other side," the heroes continue to look at him like they would love nothing more than for the green goliath to try something. 

By the way, treating the Hulk like garbage during Onslaught wasn't just an Avengers game. After the event finale in Onslaught: Marvel Universe #1 — when the Hulk provides the decisive blow against Onslaught by cracking the villain's supposedly impenetrable armor — the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are presumed dead. The Hulk is lying on the ground and the X-Men just… leave him there. Without him, Onslaught would have won, but whatever. Maybe they didn't have room in the van or something. Maybe someone suggested grabbing him and Logan was all, "Yeah, but we're goin' in a different direction…"

Age of Ultron

Comics aren't the only medium in which the Avengers treat the Hulk like trash. Sure, usually in the movies when the Hulk clashes with his teammates, he's the one to initiate the throwdown so it's hard to blame them. But what about a scene that isn't a fight? What about a scene that was an audience pleaser in the theaters?

Toward the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, after Bruce Banner frees Black Widow from Ultron's prison, he's ready to go with Widow's idea to skedaddle and live on the run with her. He doesn't seem at all scared of helping the Avengers fight Ultron, at least not for himself. The last time he transformed it was under the Scarlet Witch's influence, and he ended up going on a deadly rampage in Johannesburg. It was something he didn't want to repeat.

Like the comic book Hawkeye did in Avengers #74, Black Widow takes the choice out of Banner's hands. She pushes him off a ledge, forcing him to transform into the Hulk to save himself because she needs "the other guy." It may have gotten applause in the theater, but considering how close Bruce and Natasha had grown, and how harrowing an experience it is for Banner to transform into the Hulk and back, Widow's push was a chilling betrayal. No Asgardian hammer or titanium fist could wound him more.

The Exile

And of course who could forget — and who would want to — Planet Hulk?

In a four-part story that bridged 2005 and 2006, Bruce Banner agrees to help S.H.I.E.L.D. take out a dangerous space-based Hydra weapon. Unfortunately Admiral Ackbar isn't there to tell the Hulk: "It's a trap!"

While the Hydra threat is presumably real, the primary purpose of Hulk's recruitment is to get him into space. Once he completes his mission and boards the shuttle that he thinks will take him home, the ship heads in a different direction and a recorded message plays. Four members of Marvel's so-called Illuminati — Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Black Bolt — appear before the Hulk, explaining to him that they're sending him away for his own good and that of the Earth. The betrayal leads to one of the most memorable and well-loved Hulk stories in recent memory, Planet Hulk — not to mention the follow-up revenge story, 2007's World War Hulk, which sees the Hulk smash all four of his betrayers as well as a healthy chunk of the rest of Marvel's pantheon.