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She-Hulk: Attorney At Law Sets Up The Return Of This Classic MCU Villain

Contains spoilers for "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" Episode 2

The first episode of "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" takes care of the obligatory origin story stuff, as well as the fight scene between Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Jennifer Walters' (Tatiana Maslany) newly-created She-Hulk form. It also introduces viewers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of classic She-Hulk villain Titania (Jameela Jamil)

Episode 2, on the other hand, flies Hulk out of the picture rather literally, giving Jen the full spotlight as she tries to juggle her new powers with her lawyer career. She eventually scores a gig as the attorney of "The Incredible Hulk" villain Emil "Abomination" Blonsky (Tim Roth), who has used his years of absence from the MCU to become a surprisingly chill guy — as well as a friend and sparring partner of Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong), as "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" reveals. 

It seems pretty clear that Jen Walters' Abomination-themed legal woes are only beginning. What's more, the incarcerated Phase One antagonist's return in the MCU is just the latest sign that points to another, possibly much worse Marvel villain ... who might be making a comeback sooner rather than later. 

Abomination's return and She-Hulk's origin story both point to the Leader

Every once in a while, a MCU storyline disappears without explanation. Now that "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" has reconfirmed that the MCU Hulk's blood can create new gamma-powered individuals, one of these old plot threads might be about to make a major comeback.

Characters from 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" have been trickling back in the MCU for a while. Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) has been a semi-regular presence since the 2011 Marvel One-Shot "The Consultant," and now that Abomination is back, there's only one major Hulk antagonist from the movie who remains missing in action. This would be none other than Dr. Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson of "Watchmen" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" fame), aka the Leader. Sterns is easily a major enough villain to bring back at some point down the line, and he has long been among the characters fans want to see in "She-Hulk." 

In "The Incredible Hulk," Sterns is a cellular biologist who's able to synthesize Bruce Banner's (Played by Edward Norton in that film) blood and create all sorts of serums. He later uses these to create Abomination, which goes either very well or horribly badly for Sterns, depending on your outlook. The last we see of the character, he becomes exposed to the liquids he created through a head wound, and with a chilling smile on his face, begins his metamorphosis into the super-intelligent Leader.

Could Samuel Sterns return in the MCU?

Stern has been conspicuously — or perhaps intelligently – absent from the MCU ever since "The Incredible Hulk," but recent breadcrumbs suggest that he may not be gone for good. Apart from other "The Incredible Hulk" characters now running around the MCU, it's worth noting that Jen becomes She-Hulk after an open-wound exposure to Hulk's blood, which is exactly what happened to Sterns the last we saw him. 

What's more, the fact that he managed to create Abomination proves that Sterns has been able to manipulate Hulk's blood more than enough to circumvent the genetic compatibility issue Bruce tells Jen about in Episode 1, so there's a pretty good chance that Sterns has not only survived his ordeal — he may very well have been running around with a Gamma-empowered brain for years.

It's understandable that the MCU steered clear of a comics-accurate version of the Leader in its early phases, when things were at least making an attempt to stay relatively grounded. That time, however, has passed long ago, and with the vastly more absurd M.O.D.O.K. set to appear in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,"  the Leader's brand of big-brained supervillainy would fit right in.

Could the classic Hulk villain enter the MCU by matching wits with She-Hulk, or might he prefer to save his grand entrance for some other Hulk-themed future situation? Fans will have to watch new episodes of "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" as they drop on Disney+ every Thursday to find out.