Marvel Adds a Horrible New Power to Hulk’s ‘Strongest’ Quote

Immortal Hulk #50 reveals a horrible secret behind one of the Hulk’s most famous catchphrases, one which goes back over a century in the past.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Immortal Hulk #50, on sale now from Marvel Comics.

The Hulk has frequently boasted that he’s the “strongest there is.” Over the years, this catchphrase has been depicted as a testament to the Green Goliath’s immense physical strength and power. Yet in Immortal Hulk #50, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts and VC’s Cory Petit, the Hulk’s famous phrase just took on a much darker, more symbolic meaning.

Certain parts of this issue flashback to the early 20th century, featuring the ancestors of both Bruce Banner and Samuel Sterns. In one flashback, Robert Sterns kicks his pregnant wife, Beatrice Banner, out of their house. Robert is angered by Beatrice’s affair with his brother, Samuel. Beatrice pleads with Robert, to no avail, before calling him a monster. Robert’s only response is to slowly shut the door in Beatrice’s face, saying he is strengthened against her “histrionics.” Evidently, the lord has made Robert “the strongest there is.” This response seriously warps a previously triumphant battle cry, one which the Hulk used for decades.

Related: Marvel Revealed the Very First Hulk – and He’s the Strangest One There Is

Instead of a strong, heroic figure, Robert Sterns is depicted as a cold, vicious monster. Since Robert was willing to kill his own brother and abandon his pregnant wife over this affair, he’s clearly unforgiving and without mercy. Robert’s strength seems to be a horrifying capacity to dole out punishment to those who have wronged him. This is a stark contrast to the past few decades, where the Hulk used this battle cry to simply declare his physical strength.

This scene relates heavily to the themes of forgiveness and vengeance explored throughout the comic. Just before this scene, the One-Above-All is revealing the true purpose of the Hulk to both Joe Fixit and the Savage Hulk. The first possibility, according to the One-Above-All, is for the Hulk to use the left hand of strength and inflict punishment on those who have hurt him.

Immediately after this explanation, Robert is shown mercilessly evicting Beatrice from their home. Much like the Hulk, Robert Sterns has endured pain and suffering at the hands of others. As a result, Robert closes himself off from those around him and punishes those who have hurt him.

Of course, after this scene, the vicious cycle of vengeance is broken. The Savage Hulk takes a different path than Robert. The Hulk reasons that, if he left the Leader in the Below-Place, it would hurt him much worse than it would hurt his foe.

Related: Marvel Just Revealed the Key to Stopping Sakaar, the Son of Hulk

The Savage Hulk forgives the Leader in Immortal Hulk #50

This is reflective of Robert Sterns’ choice, since Robert became a monster in order to strike back at those who hurt him. Rather than take the same destructive path as Robert, however, the Hulk forgives Sterns, helping him out of the Below-Place.

After this act of forgiveness, the One-Above-All reveals that the right hand, which the Hulk chose, is mercy. The duality of strength and mercy also reflects on the duality in the One-Above-All. This seemingly benevolent entity spent so much time testing the Hulk, hurting the Hulk, disguised as the One-Below-All.

As revealed in this issue, the One-Above-All can also use his power to build or to break. Just like the Hulk, the One-Above-All can be a necessary evil, destroying for a purpose. Ultimately, the One-Above-All was testing the Hulk for a purpose, giving the Jade Giant a chance to end a cycle of pain and misery which began long ago.

By end this cycle, it appears that Bruce Banner, Joe Fixit and the Savage Hulk have found themselves at the most peaceful resolution they’ve had in a long time. Banner has much more confidence and self-assuredness than ever, and he’s certainly better off than Robert Sterns. By reaching out to others, the Hulk has opened himself up to a better life. Although the Hulk is the strongest one there is, sometimes strength isn’t nearly as effective as mercy and forgiveness.

KEEP READING: Marvel Has Resurrected Its Strangest Hulk – And His Power Is Much Grosser Than Rage

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