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Comic Book / Hulk: The End

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"My name is Bruce Banner. I am over two hundred years old, I think. I feel... cold. And I should be dying very soon... I want to. God in heaven, I want to. But he won't let me."
Bruce Banner

Hulk: The End is a 2002 Marvel comic book written by Peter David and illustrated by Dale Keown.

An old Bruce Banner is the last surviving human on an Earth devastated by nuclear war, his only companion being a "Vidbot" left by alien races to document the demise of humanity. Although Banner wants nothing more than to die, the Hulk refuses to allow this, emerging whenever Banner is in danger. To make things worse, the pair are constantly pursued by swarms of giant evolved cockroaches which feed on the Hulk's constantly regenerating body...

Hulk: The End was the first in a series of titles in which creators imagined the "last story" of certain Marvel characters.

Hulk: The End provides examples of:

  • After the End: The Hulk is the last man on Earth, having survived for more than two centuries after nuclear war wiped out mankind.
  • Age Without Youth: Bruce Banner may not be allowed to die but his body definitely kept on aging regardless. His remaining hair is white and brittle, his skin has blistered and chapped, he has a permanent limp from a broken leg that never healed properly, and he’s skeletally thin. It finally catches up to him at the end, as his heart starts to fail. Hulk permanently sends Banner away to keep them from dying, ignoring Banner's begging to just let it happen.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 4. Humans nuked themselves off the planet. There's still other life though, including the predatory cockroaches.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Hulk finally getting what he always wished for: to be left alone. Completely alone, not even Banner nagging in the back of his mind. He almost immediately begins to regret it, discovering an even more miserable existence.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: One of the last animals on this dying planet is a type of giant cockroach that attacks its prey (mainly Banner/Hulk) in swarms, devouring the victim alive.
  • Body Horror: Banner watches a playback on the Vidbot of a bug attack on the Hulk, and we get to see what's left of the Hulk after the bugs have eaten most of his flesh and internal organs. It's really not pretty.
  • Book Ends: The page quote is the first line spoken in the comic, and Banner goes on to state that the Hulk doesn't feel the cold. Check out Hulk's line under I'm Cold... So Cold..., which is the final line of the comic, to see how that went for him.
  • Call-Back: A few to Peter David's 12-year run on The Incredible Hulk. At one point Banner wanders through the ruins of Las Vegas, where the Grey Hulk worked as a legbreaker at a casino under the name "Joe Fixit". He also mentions the reason he still bothers with shaving is so he doesn't see the Maestro's face looking back at him out of any reflections.
  • Cockroaches Will Rule the Earth: Since humanity wiped itself out, the dominant life-forms on Earth are giant mutated/evolved cockroaches... with an appetite for Hulk-flesh.
  • Death Seeker: All Banner wants is to end his tormented existence, but the Hulk won't allow it.
  • Devoured by the Horde: What happens to the Hulk whenever he runs into the bugs. Since he can't die and regenerates whatever parts are eaten, this happens regularly, which leads Banner to the conclusion that the Hulk is the spiritual heir to Prometheus.
  • Downer Ending: Hulk frees himself from Banner, only to realize that he's doomed to a lonely fate.
  • Driven to Suicide: Banner throws himself off a cliff... only for the Hulk to emerge before he's even halfway down.
  • Eaten Alive: Hulk regularly has this happen to him thanks to the giant cockroaches.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The story follows Bruce Banner a couple hundred years after a nuclear war has wiped out humanity and America is now a barren radioactive wasteland only populated by Bruce/Hulk and cockroaches.
  • Hated by All: All of humanity, apparently, at least according to the Recorder. Some other members of the galaxy were even preparing a celebration when the last human (Banner/Hulk) died. Then again, the aliens mentioned were largely villainous races...
  • Honor Before Reason: The reason Hulk doesn't let Banner die is because if he allowed them to die, that would mean Hulk's enemies would "win". Note that everyone else on Earth has been dead for well over a century.
  • Hover Bot: After the End, Banner only has the floating head of a Rigellian Recorder as a companion.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: After everything Earth's mightiest heroes have done to protect humanity, in the end it's all undone by humanity itself in nuclear fire.
  • Ignored Epiphany: The Hulk wasn't bothered by the nuclear holocaust which wiped out human civilization, but he was bothered by the noises of those gradually dying in the fallout afterwards. But rather than trying do do something about it, he sealed himself into a cave until the sounds stopped.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: A variation. Hulk notes how cold he feels after "Banner" is symbolically killed.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Hulk will not let Banner die, be it through suicide or outside causes or even a heart attack.
  • Last of His Kind: Bruce is the last human on earth.
  • Magic Pants: By the time the comic takes place, Bruce/Hulk's pants have degraded into being more akin to a loincloth or skirt, due to being so worn down.
  • Old Superhero: Bruce/Hulk is now several centuries old and is the last living human being on a post-apocalyptic Earth.
  • Painting the Medium: The Hulk speaks entirely in bold and full-caps... until the very end.
    "HULK FEELS... ...cold."
  • Perma-Shave: Banner mentions that he bothers with shaving just so that with his greyed hair he wouldn't have Maestro staring back at him from every reflection as Hulk.
  • Primal Fear: Even though Banner is a Death Seeker who wants nothing more to end it all, he still flees in terror from the swarms of predatory roaches, because that doesn't mean he wants to be Eaten Alive by Big Creepy-Crawlies.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Banner thinks he might be over 200 years old (and he looks every day of it).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: While walking through Las Vegas Banner is chased by a huge swarm of cockroaches. When the Hulk refuses to come out Banner is forced to run — although he wants to die, he notes he can't completely ignore his survival instinct when faced with an army of bugs that want to eat him alive. Also, given how old and frail he is, he doesn't get far before a minor muscle spasm causes him to fall and break bones on impact with the ground.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: The story concludes with the Banner part of the Hulk dead and the savage personality trapped alone on a nuclear-ravaged Earth with nothing to look forward to except wandering aimlessly and being daily devoured by gigantic mutant cockroaches from which he always heals. Hulk could have died with Banner or die at any time by reverting to Banner. But the Hulk's own stubbornness at admitting weakness ever, viewing dying as a form of defeat or weakness, the idea he needs someone else, or being anything less than the "strongest one there is" would in his mind mean his old, dead enemies triumphant over him means he’s trapped in a hell he could escape at any time.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Hulk eventually permanently takes over Banner's body, knowing that if he ever transformed back, that he would die.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: Most of the major superheroes died in something referred to as the "Hell on Earth War", and then, for unknown reasons, humans ended up nuking themselves into extinction some time after that.
  • Walking the Earth: Partly out of morbid curiosity and a means to keep himself sane, Banner is revealed to have spent the past generations traveling around to see what's left.
  • Zerg Rush: The cockroach swarms are functionally endless. Even Hulk isn't able to fend them off for long, because, as Banner compares, it's like being submerged and trying to punch away the ocean.