Very few comic books have pushed me to the point of tears. It seems dorky and is a little bit weird to admit that Civil War II: The Fallen #1 has made me feel the feels, but I’m not even sorry, nor do I resent how I reacted to the story.
Anyone who has followed the Hulk, or since his first appearance in 1962 read up on him, knows that he is one of the most iconic characters when it comes to superheroes. We recognize him. We know him. We love him. And now he’s gone.
This issue focuses on how Bruce Banner’s death affects the people who were closest to him. It’s bad enough that Clint Barton (Hawkeye) is the one who killed him, but on top of this, tons of people are damning the Hulk to Hell because of the destruction he caused. Meanwhile, a large group of superheroes is trying to mourn him.
The group splits up to look for the other Hulks and deter them from the destructive path that Banner knew all too well. After touching base with everyone, it turns out that the Hulk left some gifts for all his friends, specific to each one. However, there is also one gift that everyone gets the same of: a kitchen timer. He asks his friends to, please, wait three minutes before they make any irrational and possibly dangerous decisions. It works for some of the characters who become angry and violent, but one Hulk decides to leave Banner’s gift behind and ignore his warning.
The most defining and tragic moment in Civil War II was undoubtedly Bruce Banner’s death. In that moment, however, things weren’t as hectic as you would have thought. This is the difference between The Accused and The Fallen. In one we see Hawkeye on trial but we don’t see all too many reactions, other than “He should go to prison” or “He should walk free.” In the other, we see the aftermath of the death of an icon. Banner’s death is the preface to what will follow in The Fallen, which as of now, is not looking too bright.
This issue takes Banner’s death and brings it to light. As he lay surrounded by his friends and family, we see the impact he had on everyone around him, good and bad. Unlike the ethics and legalities of the event shown in other Civil War II books, The Fallen #1 dares to focus on raw emotion and the legacy of both hate and love that the Hulk has left for the ones around him.
Pak adds on to the Hulk’s characterization in this issue with several different sentiments, even though Banner isn’t with us anymore. The heroes at Banner’s funeral speak so highly of him for his courageousness, talent, and strength. On the other hand, protestors outside the gates of the cemetery bring up the death, damage, destruction, and chaos he left in his path while dealing with his anger issues. We are reminded of the fact that the Hulk isn’t like most superheroes. He doesn’t have to deal with the same problems as them. Compared to the rest, he was a much more complex and burdened hero.
The funeral, however, isn’t what brings the emotion to the storyline. How his friends and family react to his Last Will and Testament really sets the dramatic tone of the issue. Everything he leaves behind helps his peers in some way, whether it be with work or hobbies, but his final gift—and the rest of the issue—all has to do with anger and different aspects of it. How do we handle it? How do we react to it? What does it make us do? Does it make us bad people? How can we control it? These are questions and ideas that Banner dealt with on a day-to-day basis and, finally, those closest to him get to experience firsthand what he went through. When everyone pulls out the kitchen timers and remembers Bruce, Pak lets us feel the emotion that they do, most prominently when even a comatose She-Hulk begins to cry at the mere mentioning of Banner’s name.
As I mentioned above, though, one Hulk family member is just too outraged by such an injustice to control his anger. Despite a few overlooked characters and minor inconsistencies, Pak is able to show us how large an impact Banner has made on the world he lived, thrived, and suffered in. The sentiment is strong in this storyline, and will tug at your heartstrings so hard that you’ll feel the loss of a loved one. That sense of a pitting chest, when your stomach feels like it’s in your throat will take over. As much as we all know the Hulk is a fictional character, he was like family to all of us readers, too.
Artist Mark Bagley and the rest of the creative team bring out every emotion that Pak creates in the script. Every furrowed brow, every tear, every hanging head, frowning mouth, clenched fist, ode to Banner is shown with perfect precision and realistic qualities that make these characters seem truly upset, no, distraught over the death of their friend and brother. With clean lines and heavy shadowing, we can feel the dark tone of this book come alive with anger and sadness. It’s actually a rather humbling read.
Regardless of whether you’re a Hulk fan or not, this issue is one that can’t be passed up. The death of Bruce Banner is one of the biggest events in Marvel comics nowadays, and will not be forgotten any time soon. With that, I’ll warn you to be ready for some intense emotions, relatable reactions, and a damn good read.
Written by: Greg Pak
Illustrated by: Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna & Marc Deering