In Avengers #38, it’s been revealed that a sinister force has been pulling the strings for centuries, being the real reason Hulk left the Avengers.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for Avengers #38
In the latest issue of Jason Aaron’s Avengers, the secret workings of the Marvel Universe’s past, present, and future have come to light, and one sinister being above all others has been operating behind the scenes. One big reveal was the real reason why the Incredible Hulk left the very first iteration of the Avengers, as it wasn’t just Hulk’s anger and rage that drove him away from the other heroes. As it turns out, someone was whispering in his ear, playing upon his doubts and fears in service to a much large scheme in the works: Mephisto.
Way back in the original 1963 run of The Avengers from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the first team of heroes consisted of Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Wasp, and The Incredible Hulk. After coming together to defeat Loki, the Avengers were formed in Avengers #1, but Hulk literally left them by the next issue. A new foe known as the Space Phantom tricked the Avengers into fighting the Hulk, and their fear and concern towards his rage and power motivated Hulk to leave the team, believing that he wasn’t wanted and that the other Avengers hated him.
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However, decades later in Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness’ Avengers #38, it’s revealed that there was much more to it than that. As with countless other instances in the Marvel Universe’s timeline, the demon lord Mephisto was responsible for driving the Hulk away from the Avengers, whispering lies and manipulating him in order to shift events to better fit his plans for the Earth. Mephisto took the form of a snake and was present during the conflict with Hulk and the Avengers, telling Hulk that the Avengers would never accept him as one of their own.
If not for Mephisto’s dark words and deceit, the Incredible Hulk might have stayed with the Avengers longer, and more threats could have been stopped and the world made safer. However, that was not in the designs of Mephisto, and the formation of the Avengers no doubt prompted him to take action and mold events more to his liking, at the very least lessening their combined strength from what it could have been.
Mephisto’s other manipulations in the past and future seem to have been enacted in a similar fashion as well, seeing him taking an insignificant form and remaining anonymous, motivating others to shape events as he desires. The current Avengers are only now scratching the surface of Mephisto’s grand plans, learning that he has created a network of agents across time and space within the multiverse, including other Mephistos from different Earths. Naturally, the Avengers are quite concerned about this development. Tony Stark is especially worried that the battle might already have been won by the demon lord, seeing little hope in the insurmountable odds ahead, considering that all of these Mephistos are attempting to claim entire realities in hellfire. While Mephisto’s full plan has yet to be revealed, the fact that he’s the reason Hulk first left the Avengers all those years ago is one example of several that proves Mephisto may truly be the greatest threat Earth’s Mightiest has ever faced.
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