Even though the Hulk is one of the MCU’s longest mainstays, the fact remains that many Hulk stories are now extremely unlikely to happen, especially his rivalries with at least two other heroes. Early on, the MCU decided to somewhat comedically play on the Hulk’s rivalry with Thor in The Avengers, carrying over from their relationship in the comics. This was later made an integral part of Thor: Ragnarok, where the Hulk was a headlining feature of the film. Hulk was also given the chance to battle Iron Man, but it wasn’t quite the same as the Hulk had no mistrust of the armored Avenger.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Jade Giant’s other two biggest rivalries with the X-Men’s Wolverine and the Thing of The Fantastic Four are ill-fated in the MCU. Thor also had a long-standing competitive streak with Hulk, so it made perfect sense to use that in the Avengers movies. However, with the X-Men and Fantastic Four entering the MCU so much later, and the creative decisions made with the Hulk changing the status quo so radically, these other rivalries don’t have quite the same oxygen to get going. Though the MCU does have options in Phase 5.
Hulk Won’t Be Fighting Wolverine Or The Thing Anytime Soon
It’s extremely unlikely that audiences will get to see Bruce Banner throw down with either Wolverine or the Thing on-screen. Where it concerns Wolverine, the rivalry with the Hulk was never about strength. It was more about anger. Wolverine is infamous for his berserker rage, combined with the Hulk’s ability to go on basically forever, it made for some long, brutal battles. However, thanks to the direction taken with Hulk in Avengers: Endgame, and reinforced in She-Hulk, that anger simply isn’t there. Setting aside that they’d have almost no reason to fight, the lack of shared fury between them would make such a battle far less exciting.
On the other end of things is the Hulk’s rivalry with the Thing of The Fantastic Four, which is all about might. At this point, it’s been settled that the Hulk is stronger. Granted, some iterations lead to the takeaway that, at least technically, the Thing is sturdier than the Hulk. Of course, the Thing also has more control over himself than the Hulk typically does. However, there’s no longer much of a reason to bother with these comparisons as the Hulk’s self-control point after Avengers: Endgame is now moot and the strength question has been raised multiple times, between Abomination, Thor, Thanos, and She-Hulk.
The Thing’s Hulk Rivalry Could Be Carried By She-Hulk
All isn’t necessarily lost for the Thing and Hulk’s rivalry. That could simply be transferred over to a different Hulk. While Ben Grimm may not get much out of a potential rivalry with Bruce Banner anymore, there’s plenty of chance for a rivalry with the Sensational She-Hulk. On paper, a rivalry of this nature may seem odd, but the MCU already has the tools it needs to make it work. In the comics, She-Hulk actually did a brief stint on The Fantastic Four, replacing the Thing due to circumstances with the character at the time. This is something the MCU could do after the Fantastic Four makes their MCU debut.
With She-Hulk stepping in to replace the Thing, albeit for reasons likely entirely invented by the MCU itself, the foundation for a rivalry between orange and green could be laid. This would actually be less of a rivalry over the physicalities of the characters, that wouldn’t be remotely the most interesting thing about that story. This rivalry would be much more personal and could factor into She-Hulk’s identity as a superhero. If it’s based upon Thing’s traditional woes about his humanity, that could play into She-Hulk’s ability to almost perfectly control her state. And in the end, it could make the two characters close friends.
Secret Wars Could Show A Savage Hulk Variant
The upcoming Avengers: Secret Wars offers a multitude of possibilities for Bruce Banner, including the return of the Savage Hulk. It may not be that the Bruce Banner audiences have become familiar with is the source of this particular rampaging Green Goliath. However, considering the very premise of Secret Wars, it may happen that a multiverse variant of the Hulk winds up vexing the newest generation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. In such a case, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for all of the Hulk’s old rivalries to rear their heads again, from Thor to the Thing, and even Wolverine as they try to calm him down.
MCU probably won’t be giving audiences any on-screen representations of the Hulk’s longstanding rivalries with Wolverine or the Thing. However, hope isn’t necessarily lost as Marvel will soon be introducing most, if not all the necessary pieces to let those rivalries play out in one form or another, even if not in the way audiences expect. The MCU’s multiverse is far from perfect, but it comes with a number of possibilities that could easily allow for She-Hulk, or some variation of the Hulk, himself, to clash with Wolverine or the Thing in the future, adding to the list of Hulk’s rivals.
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