Movie theaters filled with cheers at the end of Shang-Chi’s first big-screen adventure when the post-credits sequence served up two Avengers: Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner.
It’s a sure sign that Shang-Chi is heading to the superteam, particularly under the direction of mystical master Wong. But it’s been some time since we last caught up with either established Avenger, and their first appearances in the MCU’s Phase 4 have to mean something. While Captain Marvel has taken the time to grow her hair, if not pass on her contact details, Banner has changed his appearance utterly.
Surprisingly, the scientist has reverted to his human form in the scene, abandoning the hybrid Professor Hulk of Avengers: Endgame. We know Shang-Chi takes place after the events of that epic because the Blip is mentioned repeatedly in the film. It’s also apparent from the sling Banner carries his arm in, an injury he picked up when he wielded the Nano Gauntlet to reverse Thanos’s Snap.
But where’s the Hulk? Endgame established that Banner and his alter-ego had reached a deal to share brawn and brain in one Smart Hulk body, so something must have happened to change that. The most popular idea is linked to the MCU’s next step for the Hulk and his expanded family.
Who is She-Hulk?
She-Hulk is a 10-part series scheduled to stream on Disney Plus as part of the MCU’s Phase 4 in 2022.
Tatiana Maslany will star as Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s cousin and the She-Hulk of the title. Mark Ruffalo is set to appear as Banner.
An adaptation of the comics character who first appeared in 1980, lawyer Jennifer Walters suffers a horrific injury which only an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin can fix. Her resulting transformation into She-Hulk is more predictable than her cousin’s and as it turns out, she has more in common with Professor Hulk. We won’t know if a blood transfusion is part of the series for a while, but theories hinge on a blood transfer of some kind. The most popular ideas suggest that Banner’s appearance in Shang-Chi proves that he’s far closer to the events of She-Hulk than we might have thought.
The comics have repeatedly shown the issues of trying to pierce the Gamma-irradiated body of the Hulk. The recent fifth episode of What If…? conclusively demonstrated his green-skinned impregnability, especially versus zombie bites. Professor Hulk would probably have reverted to Banner to provide any blood transfusions.
If Banner’s post-credits appearance is a nod to the film’s timing and the upcoming series, then it also prepares us for a somewhat more convenient non-motion-captured Hulk in the series.
Other theories include a sadder fate for the big green guy, especially for two characters who’d finally learned to live in harmony⏤something that doesn’t happen very often between Hulk and Banner. While Banner carries the wound, the effect of the injury on the Hulk⏤who absorbed the bulk of the radiation⏤is unclear, as is whether or not he’s even still alive. Answering those questions could also form part of the She-Hulk series.
But with She-Hulk around the corner and the expected re-emergence of Emil Blonsky’s Abomination⏤also seen in Shang-Chi⏤it’s unlikely that the Hulk is gone for good.