The Incredible Hulk's entire life is kind of a mess. He's an angry kid who got beat up by his dad, grew up and exploded (literally), and after that his life somehow got worse. Whether he's fighting with the Avengers or er, against the Avengers, Hulk has remained a hero. Mostly. Sort of. Well, he's kind of goodish most of the time. But since Bruce Banner's alter ego is a being made of pure rage, sometimes his stories aren't as bright and colorful as his neon green skin.
Most times, when Banner breaks out into the big green meanie, he's not much more than a natural disaster, occasionally causing property damage and punching whatever superpowered goon steps up to him. But sometimes, his mere presence is a disaster. It makes sense, he's a radiation-ridden nightmare. The Red Hulk (who is the Hulk but ~edgy~) happens to burn everything around him. Why doesn't the Hulk irradiate everything? Funny you should ask -- sometimes he does!
In the past, Hulk's transformation have involved growing in size, sprouting gills, changing color and uh, wearing pinstripe suits. In one case, Hulk turned in to a walking nuclear meltdown. Listen, it happens to the best of us.
Why now? Well, this was just after the saga of Onslaught, a big bad Super Shredder-looking dude who happened to be an evil combination of Professor X and Magneto. In a desperate move, Jean Grey psychically supressed Bruce Banner in hopes that an unleashed Hulk would tear Onslaught apart. It went pretty great, all things considered -- Hulk kicked Onslaught's ass. But then Onslaught kind of exploded in a burst of psionic energy and split Banner and Hulk apart.
Flash forward to the events of Incredible Hulk #446, and we have an out-of-control tumor monster rampaging throughout downtown. Now, that would be pretty run-of-the-mill, but now this un-Bannered Hulk has a deadly aura of radiation. So when soldiers attempt to capture Hulk, his radiation begins to melt their flesh off like the Ark of the Covenant.
Eventually he gets it under control -- because this is comics and the only sure things here are that Jason Todd, Gwen Stacy, and Bucky are all dead and never coming back -- but not before he melts a containment unit around himself, turning the Hulk into a literal living statue, in Central Park, where people proceed to take pictures, because hey, it's New York.
Pretty messed up stuff, but you could argue that Hulk wasn't fully in control of his mental faculties. The same can't be said for a more recent run on the character.
You know those old timey comics that have spectres of death floating around, wreaking vengeance on whatever doomed soul has hurt others, doling out ironic and twisted justice? Or did you at least happen to see those hokey movies starring The Shadow and The Phantom in the 90s? Okay, imagine that, but now replace Alec Baldwin and Billy Zane with the Hulk.
Let's set the scene a little. During the last big superhuman spat, Bruce Banner was shot in the head and died. But then he woke up. Because, as it turns out, Bruce Banner cannot stay dead. He can die, that's for sure, but when night falls... the Hulk comes out. Nothing can ever kill the Hulk. That is, according to the comic, titled The Immortal Hulk.
Unfortunately, Banner's experience being "dead" has left him a little worse for wear. Instead of wanting to be left alone, or saving those he can, Hulk has gotten into the revenge business. Such was the case in the first issue of The Immortal Hulk, in which a petty conveinence store robbery turned into a shooting involving multiple fatalities -- one of which included Bruce Banner.
After Banner gets shot in the head, the Hulk takes over come sundown. Slowly and systematically, Hulk dismantles the thieves hideout, hiding in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to bust through a wall and crush his enemies. Think Batman combined with a really pissed off Kool-Aid Man and you're partway there.
It's not long before there's only one thief left to confront. Hulk takes his time with this one, the one that killed a preteen girl. This is an intelligent Hulk, but he isn't without sadism. With a smile on his face, the big green monster destroys the thief's life (and the body, mostly the body).
This isn't a hero Hulk, this isn't even an avenging Hulk. This is a boogeyman that shows up at night, to destroy you for the things you did wrong, to grind your bones into a fine powder and leave you alive to think about what you've done. And this boogeyman loves his job.
The Hulk is the strongest there is, but mercifully he spends most of his time as an ignorant child who wants nothing more than to chillax by himself. But, what if you had the Hulk, and you gave him all of Banner's intelligence, but also his human greed and cruelty, and let the Hulk free on a post apocalyptic world?
Then you'd get The Maestro. The now-classic storyline Future Imperfect imagines such a fiend. After a nuclear war ravages Earth, the Hulk absorbs all of the radiation and becomes even stronger, and as smart as the superscientist Bruce Banner. That's where the world domination comes in. Eventually the Hulk -- the "normal" one -- comes forward in time to try and stop the Maestro but "the strongest there is" gets his butt handed to him. Yeah, that's right. The Maestro is so strong that even the Hulk can't defeat him.
Though the Maestro breaks good-Hulk's neck, he holds off on finishing the job. With a captive audience bound in a wheelchair, Maestro is free to convince his younger, alternate self that the planet Earth is better under the gamma-irradiated fist of Bruce Banner.
An indignant Hulk sees no beauty in the hellish dystopia, but Maestro has his number. Giving Hulk a unique gun, Maestro challenges his younger self to end himself. Suicide, in this case, would prevent the Maestro from ever gaining power. Either Hulk doesn't have the guts to go through with it, or he knows that there are a few hundred more comics in his future.
Don't worry, the Maestro is eventually (sort of) defeated. He's tricked into warping away in a time machine that takes him back to the original gamma bomb explosion. And thus, the Maestro is never seen again. You know, until a couple issues later. And in several storylines after that. This is comics we're talking about, after all.
Someday, the Marvel Universe will end. Whether it's because the rights get sold, a big ole asteroid hits us, or alien robots take over humanity, the real ending of the Marvel Universe will -- like all real-life deaths -- be sad and disappointing. Perhaps knowing this, a ton of Marvel creators have decided to write their own final chapter for their characters, showing what the world will look like, when that character finally dies.
And, as you might think, the Hulk's End is a bit dangerous, and a bit dismal. In this reality, Banner never cures himself of the Hulk, and the Hulk doesn't redeem himself either. It ends with Hulk, alone, at last... just like he always wanted?
The comic takes place long after nuclear war has broken out (wow, Marvel just loves nuclear wars), and because the Hulk is, ya know, the strongest there is, he survives when everyone else on Earth dies. And then all that's left are Banner and Hulk, trading places intermittently as they wander an endless wasteland.
The Hulk, whose always had people bugging him, is pretty chill with the situation, but Banner keeps trying to put bullets in his own brain. He doesn't succeed, because even suicide would be too happy an ending to fit in this tale. Eventually, the human part of the Hulk dies -- of old age -- and the Hulk wakes up, alone, and realize he misses the world in which he was sometimes a villain, sometimes a hero, but in which he at least had others that, sometimes, he could call his friends. Hulk always wanted to be left alone, but now there's nothing, and no one, but him.
Wow. Old Man Banner is gonna sweep the Oscars.
It's normally posited that the Hulk is all of Banner's rage and monstrousness given form, and if Banner could at last free himself from the shackles of the gamma bomb monster he's bound to, he could achieve such wonderful and great things. Well, the Hulk himself decides to test that theory.
Sick of having Puny Banner in his head, The Hulk goes to Doctor Doom (always a wise move) to separate the two of them. It works, the Hulk taking off into the sunset, leaving puny Banner stranded in the desert. Bruce then goes back to his normal life, and everyone is happy and fulfilled.
Ha, JK. Of course that's not what happens. Instead Banner moves to an island in the middle of the nowhere and goes 100% Doctor Moreau. He creates monstrous abominations, mutating normal animals into sentient and brutal killing machines, and then sics them against the Hulk -- because if Banner can't have that power, no one can.
Faced with a lifetime being hounded by gamma-irradiated sharks and giant boar-men, Hulk takes the fight to Banner, confronting him on his island hideout. Banner might have the gadgets and the know-how, but he's not the strongest there is. Hulk defeats Banner easily, just before a huge bomb is set to wipe out the island.
Normally this is the part where Hulk would have a change of heart and decide that both he and Banner need each other, and are part of the same half. Not this time, though. This time, The Incredible Hulk holds Bruce Banner still as he watches him distinegrate from a nuclear blast.
This isn't where the story ends, of course. One way or another, Banner and Hulk are inexorably linked, and will always find themselves back in the same place.
This whole time we thought that Hulk was the poison, but when it comes down to it, both man and beast are just supervillains waiting to happen. The only thing that keeps them from falling off the cliff into mad scientist/monster, is their hatred of the other one. Truly, the most relatable relationship.