When New York Daily News posted a tweet last night teasing the death of a major Marvel superhero in the unfolding chaos of Civil War II, we all got pretty worried. Civil War II has already brought us one major character death and another whose fate was left uncertain, so how could it get any worse?
It should go without saying that this post contains massive spoilers for Civil War II, — for a spoiler-lite guide to the new series you can click on over here. So don't keep scrolling if you don't want to know the answer to this burning question: Which of these Avengers just kicked the bucket in Civil War II Issue 3?
The Road So Far
Quick recap for those of you who haven't been keeping up: Civil War II kicks off with the discovery of a new Inhuman — Ulysses — who has the power to predict the future.
His visions allow the Avengers, the Inhumans, the Ultimates and the rest of the Marvel superheroes to come together to prevent the Celestial Destructor destroying the world. But contention arises between Tony Stark/Iron Man and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel over whether or not they should continue to utilize Ulysses's powers to prevent catastrophes before they happen.
Tony points out that because it is possible for them to alter the future, they prove that Ulysses's visions show just one of many "possible futures," not one set in stone. His concern is regarding the morality of punishing someone for their actions before they have actually committed them, as if the vision seen is only a possible future it doesn't determine that the person will definitely perform that action. Especially if the person in question is one of their own.
As he tells Carol in Civil War II Issue 1:
"Yesterday was yesterday, easy call... The big cosmic monster doesn't invade? No harm, no foul. But what if the next one isn't so easy? What is the next one is... one of us? What if Ulysses tells us you are a danger to our future? Do we stop you before you do your voodoo that you're going to do, even though maybe you didn't even know you were going to do it?"
Of course this question was quickly raised when, at the end of Issue 2, Ulysses has a terrible vision that he projects upon the Avengers. A vision of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Thor, Hawkeye, Captain America and the rest of the superheroes all lying dead at the feet of Hulk — a.k.a. Bruce Banner.
So when Civil War II Issue 2 left us with Carol Danvers angrily confronting Bruce Banner in his not-so-secret laboratory, we expected all hell was about to break loose. But no one expected quite what happened next.
And The Winner Is...
Both Carol and an armor-less Tony arrive at Bruce's laboratory, but with different approaches on the situation. Carol confronts Bruce and tells him of the vision they all saw, to which Bruce responds that he hasn't "hulked out" in more than a year.
Tony tries to keep his friend calm, but then Henry "Hank" McCoy/Beast hacks into Bruce's computers and reveals that he has been secretly experimenting on himself using gamma cells without the knowledge of the Avengers. The situation escalates. Maria Hill steps in to arrest Bruce and he shouts at her, eyes flashing with a hint of green. Faster than anyone can react, an arrow flies through the air.
The arrow catches Bruce right in the head, and he is killed instantly. A shocking end for the Hulk, one of Marvel's most conflicted superheroes and a founding member of the Avengers.
But it's not his death that's the only surprise of this issue. Who fired the arrow? Surely it couldn't have been...
Clint Barton — a.k.a. Hawkeye — another prolific member of the Avengers, and long-time friend to Bruce Banner.
Why Did Hawkeye Kill Hulk?
The proceedings unfold in a court of law, explaining how the situation got so out of hand. According to Clint, Bruce had called a meeting with him a few months prior and had made a specific request of him.
The scientist gave Clint a custom arrow tip, designed by Bruce himself to take down the Hulk. The request he made of the archer was that he would promise to kill him should he ever turn into the Hulk again.
But — as both Tony and prosecutor Matt Murdock/Daredevil point out — Clint killed Bruce whilst he was still Bruce Banner, not the Hulk. He may have been about to hulk out, but there's no way of knowing which way it would have gone. Clint maintains that he carried out the wishes of his friend, and prevented the future foreseen by Ulysses.
Although of course, these are comic books and superheroes "die" all the time in comic books. The fact that it was an arrow tip designed by Bruce himself that was used to kill him means that there could be big potential for this death only being temporary. Say for example there was a specific kind of gamma chemical or the like used in the design, and such a thing could be used as a plot device to justify Hulk's later return from the dead, or his death being faked.
But for now, both Bruce Banner and Hulk are very dead in the Marvel comics. And this action by Hawkeye will have massive repercussions for the rest of the series as it unfolds.
The Future Of Civil War II
The death of Banner has further widened the divide between Tony and Carol, which was first cracked open when Carol went against Tony's wishes to use Ulysses's visions to combat Thanos. In the ensuing battle, James "Rhodey" Rhodes/War Machine — Tony's best friend — was killed, and Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk gravely injured.
Tony accuses her as he stands over Bruce's dead body:
"You made this happen Danvers. You chased this. You couldn't leave this alone and now another one of us is gone. Who's next on your hit list, Danvers?!"
And it seems like Tony and Carol are going to be drawn further into conflict as the situation continues to escalate. Civil War II Issue 3 ends with FRIDAY — Tony's A.I. — running calculations on a brain scan Tony had taken from Ulysses in Issue 2. What this scan reveals is the source of the young Inhuman's powers, and judging by the look on Tony's face, it's far from good news.
As for this big reveal, we'll have to wait until Civil War II Issue 4 releases on July 27, 2016 to find out.