MCU Phase 4: How Hulk’s Solo Movie Could Lead the Way Forward

Avengers: Endgame might have left him severely injured. But fans are convinced the MCU has plenty of story in store for the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). The character’s path forward is completely unknown. Yet, Phase 4 of the MCU could get plenty of juice from the hero’s one and only solo film. Here’s why 2008’s The Incredible Hulk has such an integral role left to play.

The Hulk at MCM London Comic Con
The Hulk at MCM London Comic Con | Ollie Millington/Getty Images

‘She-Hulk’ kicks off a whole new era of Hulk mythos in the MCU

Let’s pause a moment before we get to all the plot threads still dangling from The Incredible Hulk. After all, the first step for the Hulk is to figure out where the green guy himself could pop up next. Thankfully, the MCU is already building the perfect destination for the character.

Marvel Studios is actively developing a She-Hulk Disney+ series. Details about the show itself are non-existent at this point. But Ruffalo has indicated he could show up there. If the MCU goes that route, She-Hulk could set up a lot of runway for the franchise to explore the Hulk mythos.

Rumors are already swirling about how the show could serve the same function that a Ruffalo standalone film would have. In addition to She-Hulk, the show could introduce the villainous Red Hulk. Yet, that character — one of Hulk’s most famous enemies — shouldn’t be the next Big Bad.

RELATED: Why ‘She-Hulk’ Needs Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner to Play a Role

The Leader is still waiting to unleash his master plan

Before The Incredible Hulk hit theaters to a mediocre reception, Marvel Studios clearly had a bigger plan in mind. Or should we say a bigger mind in its plan. Even though the movie’s focus is on Tim Roth’s Abomination, it also sets the stage for Tim Blake Nelson to play The Leader.

In The Incredible Hulk, Nelson plays Dr. Samuel Sterns, a scientist hoping to help Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) find a cure for his condition. But in the course of the film, Sterns gets some of Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood in his own body. As the scene ends, he begins to mutate and smiles cryptically.

That’s where the MCU left him. The comics’ Sterns develops into The Leader, a super-intelligent villain who becomes one of Hulk’s fiercest foes. And his absence in the movies since The Incredible Hulk is one of Marvel’s most egregious oversights. Could he return with some genius master plan?

RELATED: Why Mark Ruffalo Told Robert Downey Jr. He Shouldn’t Be Cast as the MCU’s Hulk

The villainous Thunderbolts team could wreak havoc in the MCU

Eight years passed between The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: Civil War. That’s when Marvel finally brought William Hurt’s Thaddeus Ross back into the MCU. And in doing so, it reignited fans’ interest in everything Ross could bring to the movies.

The Incredible Hulk sees Ross conducting a manhunt to catch Banner/Hulk. But in the comics, he goes much further. In fact, he ends up becoming Red Hulk and battling Banner himself. This is certainly one way the MCU could go. But a more ambitious game plan could take it one step further.

After Ross is Red Hulk, he later becomes a member of the Thunderbolts. The morally complex team consists of, at various points, heroes and villains. Seeing how MCU characters love to switch alliances, Ross might evolve into a larger threat and then an ally to the Avengers.