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Captain America and Iron Man are longer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the landscape continues to transform rapidly. In Endgame, Captain America returned to the present timeline as an elderly man — to hand his shield over to Falcon. Tony Stark sacrificed himself to save humankind. And, other Avengers seem to be prepping for their MCU exits as well. 

Thor: Love and Thunder will likely be Chris Hemsworth’s final bow as the God of Thunder (presumably before he hands the hammer over to Natalie Portman’s Mighty Thor). Hawkeye will feature Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, with the latter destined to fill Clint’s archery shoes moving forward. And, Falcon and the Winter Soldier may set up a closing arc for two characters who failed to receive a spotlight during the Infinity Saga. 

Mark Ruffalo MCU actor
Actor Mark Ruffalo | Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In short, all evidence suggests that the MCU will be going in a new direction — bidding the old saviors farewell to make room for the newbies. She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel are on the way. Mighty Thor is coming. Vampire slayer Blade is soon to take audiences by storm, and so on.

Most Infinity Saga saviors who have yet to receive a final bow will receive just that — in some sort of singular, moment-of-glory fashion. However, given the legal issues with Universal surrounding Hulk, he may receive the short end of the stick. When will he get his moment to shine? He deserves such, considering Feige and Co. have minimized his value, turning him into a punching bag and a source of comedic relief throughout time. 

Why Bruce Banner / The Hulk deserves redemption

While Avengers: Endgame was a glorious denoument for certain saviors, it left much to be desired surrounding the Hulk. Banner — behind-the-scenes — learned to unite the Jade Giant with his professorial self, yet the two did no coexist as the comic book suggests. Bruce seemingly learned to control Hulk, not coexist alongside his alternate being. Banner seemed abashed and ashamed at the Hulk’s tendency toward destruction. Furthermore, fans did not even see the character development first-hand and had to settle for implication, likely due to run-time reasons.

Coexistence implies mutual respect and understanding. Was that what fans received? And, Endgame also turned Hulk into a source of comedic relief. He could dab and take a photo with the fans, but he couldn’t, when push came to shove, challenge the most formidable foes, only further augmenting the character’s reputation as the franchise’s Worf.

The Worf Effect refers to a narrative trope, in which a character known to be all-mighty and indestructible is obliterated in combat. The effect is used to stress a villain’s strength. The effect is named after a tough Star Trek character who was always beaten in combat. Yet, when overused, the character’s strength becomes a thing of the past — a quality that only exists when it serves the other characters and supports the narrative. Let’s count the number of times Hulk suffers at the hands of this trope: Iron Man defeats Hulk via a big suit, Thor defeats Hulk, and Thanos throws him across the room like a ragdoll. And this is just the shortlist. So, when it comes to a list of characters deserving of redemption, Hulk tops it. However, will he ever receive it? 

When could Hulk receive redemption in the MCU? 

Hulk will likely serve to introduce She-Hulk to fellow Avengers, and appear in the character’s Disney+ show; he is responsible for giving his cousin powers in the comics. Yet, unless he serves a major role in the plot, such an appearance will probably be a recurring role at best. A recurring role, or a brief cameo, doesn’t seem like history-rewriting magic.

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For the MCU to redeem Hulk, he must feature in a major mash-up as a leader — as a source of wisdom and guidance to younger avengers, like Spider-Man, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and more. While Rogers and Stark previously the spotlight in the mentor department, they are now gone. And, Hulk can bring his brains and brawn to the soiree in unison, imploring newer saviors to follow in his footsteps. However, if Hulk’s last appearance is in Phase 4, he’s likely to go down in history with an upsetting end.