Phase 4 of the MCU suggests that Hulk has accomplished what Thanos was unable to do. The Hulk, one of the three remaining active Avengers, has not had a standalone movie since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. However, there are grumblings of an MCU World War Hulk film in the works, as well as the forthcoming Disney+ series She-Hulk, which will feature the character.
In regardless of the absence of solo films, the Hulk’s arc was well-developed in all four Avengers films and Thor: Ragnarok. The Hulk, in comparison to other original founders of the Avengers, has undergone the most transformations. First, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was based on the familiar Jekyll-Hyde dynamic that audiences have come to know and love for so many years now. In Avengers: Endgame, Hulk, on the other hand, evolved into Smart Hulk, a perfect synthesis of the original Hulk and Bruce Banner’s alter ego.
When it came time for the snap in Endgame, the Smart Hulk volunteered to take the blame. After using all six Infinity Stones without dying, Hulk suffered a serious arm injury that resembled that of Thanos, who also used the power of the stones. As evidenced by the She-Hulk trailer, Hulk was able to recover from his wounds sometime later—something that Thanos was never able to do.
Thanos’ injuries from the two snaps he performed in the course of Avengers: Infinity War was not fully healed by the time the surviving Avengers arrived at his retirement farm in Endgame. In the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings post-credits scene, Banner was wearing a sling even when he was in his human form. She-Hulk now claims that this isn’t an issue anymore.
On the other hand, Marvel could be using a timeline trick and have She-Hulk take place before the events of Endgame rather than during Phase 4. She-Hulk is never noted in Endgame nor does she participate in the final battle against Thanos. In any case, if the MCU plans to have Hulk as an engaged Avenger in Phase 4, it must resolve the Hulk’s injury at some point.
It would also be interesting to see the Hulk recover from the snap injury in a way that Thanos never did, following on from previous instances in which the Hulk’s skills were brushed aside – such as in the fights against Iron Man in Avengers: Age of Ultron and against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Despite the fact that Thanos might have retrieved from his own injury if he had had more time, the Hulk’s feat is still impressive.
It’s not clear what the future holds for the Hulk in the MCU’s Phase 4 and beyond, but recovering from his Endgame injury could be a significant step toward presenting the warrior side of the Hulk back. The Hulk, if he ever appears in a film adaptation of the World War Hulk story, must be at least battle-ready. Although the Hulk was defeated by Thanos, the giant emerald emerged victorious.