Ultimates 2 #3

Issue Date: 
April 2005
Story Title: 
The Trial of the Hulk

Mark Millar (writer), Bryan Hitch (pencils), Paul Neary (inks), Laura Martin (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Jacob Chabot (production), Nick Lowe (assistant editor), Ralph Macchio (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (creators of Captain America)

Brief Description: 

Bruce Banner stands on trial for the murders he committed as the Hulk. With only blind lawyer Matt Murdock standing at his defense, it looks like the trial is a foregone case, with the public at large demanding an immediate execution of the doctor. Even all of the Ultimates believe Banner should pay for what he did, despite their friendship with Betty. Betty herself later has a final, emotional conversation with Bruce and can’t even get close to him, because the guards refuse to open the doors to his cell for her. As the trial progresses and things become even grimmer for poor Bruce, Nick Fury lies to him that he has won his freedom back. Believing Fury, Bruce drinks a bottle of champagne without realizing it has been tranquilized. He collapses, and Fury and the Ultimates leave Banner behind on a departed ship flight deck. As they all leave, Bruce suddenly opens his eyes again, right before the deck detonates! Captain America and the others grant Bruce a funeral and later go to a bar together. When Hank gets home again, he receives a mysterious phone call from someone who just wanted to thank him. Elsewhere, on an unknown location, Bruce Banner merges into a large crowd and disappears in it.

Full Summary: 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse

The Hulk Trial, Day One…

An angry mob has gathered in front of the courthouse.

Inside the courtroom, the trial of Bruce Banner is taking place. Not able to be there in person, Banner can only see everything through a television screen. His defender is Matt Murdock.

The prosecutor addresses the judge, jury and other people in the room. He states its clear that guilt isn’t the issue here. He believes the question is whether Doctor Banner is actually culpable for those horrific acts he committed in his drug-inducted Hulk state. Matt objects against that. He defends that his client has never been diagnosed as chemically dependent, either now or in the past, and that prosecution is misleading the jury.

The judge overrules that statement. Holding some papers in her hand, in which she has read that the super-soldier serum Doctor Banner was trying to replicate was unquestionably a drug and that the terminology used sounds accurate to her. The prosecutor thanks the judge and continues. Now, he suggests what if this super-soldier serum had actually been crack-cocaine and Doctor Banner had murdered these people in a more conventional drug-fuelled rage. He wonders if this would culpability even be called into question.

Matt objects again. He doesn’t like this persistent inference that his client has somehow taken an illegal substance. Holding a top-secret SHIELD file in his hand, Matt states that the super-soldier serum was a state-sanctioned military performance enhancer and its derivative was tested for five years before Doctor Banner conducted trials on his person. The judge duly notes that revelation.

The other lawyer holds a liquor bottle in his hand. He wants to use alcohol as an example. He knows that Doctor Banner is using the defense that he has no memory of what he does in his altered state, but the lawyer wonders if a homicide is not a homicide if a person is under the influence? Is a pregnancy declared null and void if two teenagers have no recollection of falling into bed? He states that everyone shouldn’t pay no heed to the fact that Doctor Banner looks different on the screen than from the one they saw tearing a path through downtown Manhattan. These were the acts of a single individual and that individual must now pay the ultimate price.

Watching the trial on TV at Tony Stark’s mansion, Janet tells Steve to turn it off, as the lawyer is giving her a headache. Tony believes that, even so, the lawyer has got a point. He agrees that Banner is never going to get away with this, and that this blind lawyer Banner found himself makes great TV, but the execution’s really just a formality at this stage. Sitting next to him, Natasha smiles at Tony not to be such a Mister doom-and-gloom.

Steve also agrees that Banner is going down and doesn’t think that’s more than natural. People need a scapegoat, don’t they? Only thing he doesn’t understand is how that old girlfriend of Banner can orchestrate this whole charade. He remembers that Fury offered Betty compassionate leave, but she turned him down and says she doesn’t want anyone else running “her damn department.” Janet recalls that Betty was exactly the same back in college. She just likes to prove she’s as tough as her old man. She asks everyone else if they know Betty hasn’t even been down there to see Banner yet?

Natasha angrily calls Betty a cold-hearted witch and thinks that’s unbelievable. Tony disagrees, defending it’s perfectly understandable. Everyone has their own way of dealing with crisis situations and Betty’s just a typical Type A personality. Steve changes the channels and sees Thor on Sixty Minutes.

Jarvis, standing behind the heroes, dusting things, looks up, surprised. On the interview, Thor says that he’s actually becoming irritated by the way everyone just assumes he leaked Banner’s name to the press. He doesn’t see why he would do that when it was obvious they’d hang the poor man out to dry. Jarvis smiles at Thor’s marvelous physique. He doesn’t think he has ever seen someone’s abdominals through their raincoat before. Tony tells Jarvis to be quiet and, between sips of his Martini, asks Steve turn the TV up a second.

Steve does, and they all continue to listen to what Thor has to say. Thor further adds that this is all smoke and mirrors. He points out that Banner’s trial being televised 24/7 is just to distract the citizens from the real atrocity in the cards and that’s superhuman troops in the so-called rogue states. He suggests everyone to forget this little street theater they’re numbing brains with. He defends that the primary concern should be the rumors of The Ultimates being deployed in Syria and Iran. Because, Thor says to reporter Bob, that’s what’s coming up if they don’t get their act together. He knows this team wasn’t put together to stop burglars and bank robbers.

Natasha calls Thor a moron and can’t believe she actually planned to seduce him when she first joined the team. Tony looks surprised at her.

The Triskelion. The Hulk Trial, Day Seven. Night…

Betty visits Bruce in his cell, and says hello to him. He does the same, but without looking at her. Betty asks Bruce to listen to him. She brought him some milk and stuff for his coffee and a couple of magazines that just came out today. She asks if he has the new Premiere yet. She doesn’t thinks so, because she hadn’t seen the cover before. Still not looking at her, Bruce replies that he hasn’t got it and thanks her for it. He thinks it’s really going to be entertaining reading previews of movies they’re releasing the month after he’s dead. He sarcastically thanks Betty for the nice thought.

Betty doesn’t know what to say. Bruce wipes his mouth clean, claiming that what he just said was a joke. And a funny one at that. He thinks nobody can tell when he’s trying to lighten the atmosphere anymore. Betty apologizes. God knows she should have come down to see him before now, but she just couldn’t handle it. She has just been sitting in her office crying all day with the phone off the hook. Bruce thinks that’s because she’s feeling a little guilty. Betty is speechless again.

Bruce angrily smashes some experiment tubes and papers out of his way, shouting that he hopes Betty feels guilty, because if it weren’t for her he wouldn’t even be in this mess. It if weren’t for her, he’d never have injected himself with the drug in the first place. Feeling ashamed, Bruce tells Betty that maybe somebody else would have just accepted the way he was. Maybe a nicer person wouldn’t have made him feel this pathetic. Betty can’t tell Bruce how sorry she is. Bruce thinks Betty should be sorry.

Looking at her, he starts to cry. He corrects himself that he should be sorry. He knows this isn’t Betty’s fault. It’s his. This is nobody’s fault but his own and it all goes back to way before Betty came on the scene. She can believe him in that. Betty knows. Bruce thinks they’re some couple. She knows. She quietly thinks for a while, and asks the sergeant if he could open the doors for her. The sergeant apologizes but he can’t do that. Starting to cry, Betty asks what the sergeant means by that, as he has opened the doors for the cleaners.

Bruce doesn’t think this is such a good idea. Betty reminds Bruce he hasn’t changed into the Hulk in months, believing he has this thing completely under control now. He said so himself! Bruce doesn’t want Betty to do this, as it doesn’t solve anything. All she’s doing is making things worse. Betty cries and tells Bruce she loves him. She loves him so much and is so sorry she’s playing all those stupid games with his head. She begs him to forgive her, and to tell her he loves her back. Hesitant, Bruce claims that he… can’t. Betty wants to know why. Staring at all the cameras filming him, Bruce admits it’s because he’s too embarrassed in front of all these people.

The Hulk Trial, Day Nine. The courthouse…

Once again an angry mob has gathered in front of the building. Inside the courtroom, Matt Murdock speaks for Bruce Banner once again. Matt suggests they consider the facts. Doctor Bruce Banner has worked for the United States government since graduating from university two years early. During this time, he has devoted himself entirely to the creation of a second U.S. super-soldier, the result of which, as everyone knows, was responsible for the deaths of more than eight hundred civilians. However, what he’s there to stress was that these people died in what can only be described as a military accident. With the exception of the bereaved here in the courtroom, Matt thinks that no one feels their loss more than Banner himself and he has sworn to spend the rest of his life atoning for his one terrible mistake.

Matt adds that the offices of Nelson and Murdock did not defend Doctor Banner free of charge for the media publicity. As attorneys practicing in this great city of New York, it does them no favors to argue the case for someone who has become, perhaps, her most reviled and hated son. They defend Banner because, where others saw murder, they saw manslaughter. Where others saw a monster, they saw a healer who plans to devote himself to cancer and AIDS research. Banner isn’t asking for freedom, just the chance to stay alive and use his God-given genius for the benefit of all mankind.

The judge sarcastically thanks Murdock for a most impassioned performance. She tells the ladies and gentleman of the jury they have two duties to perform: first, they must determine the facts from the evidence received in the trial and not from any other source. Second, they must apply the law to the facts and in this way, arrive at their verdict.

Later, at the Triskelion…

Nick Fury, being followed by several SHIELD soldiers, enters Banner’s cell. Bruce admits he’s feeling nervous. It’s like he’s back in high school waiting for exams results, except much scarier because he always used to score full marks in those things so that might not be the best analogy. Fury asks Bruce if he ever thought it would all end up like this. Of course he didn’t! Becoming Public Enemy Number One isn’t how he pictured his life. He wanted to become Captain America! He jokes that skinny Steve Rogers enrolls in the super-soldier program and suddenly he’s transformed into The Living Legend of World War Two. That’s what he wanted. He just wanted people to like him. That’s why he spent all those hours working in the lab.

Fury asks Bruce if he’s prepared for what’s coming next. On a practical level, Bruce is. He’s got his will sorted out: all that salary that’s been building up in his account the whole time he has been here is settled. Then, of course, there’s the letters he has been writing to the families of all those people the Hulk killed. Or Bruce Banner killed. Or however you want to look at it. Emotionally, he doesn’t know if he’s prepared.

Nick asks Bruce if he wants the good news or the bad. Hesitant, Bruce doesn’t know. Both, he guesses. Taking out a champagne glass and pouring some glasses, Fury explains that the good news is that the judge threw the whole case out of court and the bad news is he just got charged a hundred-and-fifty bucks for this big bottle of Dom Perignon here. Bruce doesn’t know what to say to that. Fury smiles to Bruce that he’s off the hook.

The guards happily open Bruce’s cell and congratulate him. Bruce, taking a glass of champagne, asks Fury if he’s a hundred percent certain about this. Fury is. Bruce happily smiles, thinking this is huge. He wants to know how they end up throwing this out of court. He thought this case was a foregone conclusion! Fury smiles it was until Banner’s buddies on the team marched into court and pointed out how the Hulk almost single-handedly saved the world from an alien invasion. If it wasn’t for him, the entire world would be pushing up the daisies right now and executing the boy who saved their necks back their and that might be a little ungrateful.

Bruce honestly doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He doesn’t even drink. This is crazy. He can’t believe the guys came through for him like this. Fury promises Banner he can believe it. Now he wants to raise a toast to getting him out of this stupid cell altogether. They both know Bruce got that Hulk problem under control again, but he figures it’s time to show it to the rest of the world as well. Bruce wants to drink to that.

He takes the wine bottle and drinks from it. Fury’s smile fades, and gets a serious, grim look on his face instead. The wine bottle falls out of Bruce’s hands, smashing into pieces on the floor. Banner collapses and faints. Fury tells Bruce he’s sorry about this. The guards hold their guns ready, and Fury orders them to proceed as planned.

The Pacific Ocean, Exact Location Classified. U.S.S. Constellation…

Leaving an unconscious Bruce behind on a ship flight deck, Fury orders his helicopter to fly up again. Betty takes a final look at Bruce again and cries, calling Fury and his partners monsters. She wants to know why Fury did that to him. Why did Fury have to lie to Bruce like that?

Fury tells Betty to be reasonable. She has seen what happens when Banner gets mad. They tell Bruce he just got the death penalty, and who knows what’s going to happen next. If they hadn’t tranquilized Banner, there’s a forty-percent chance he could have torn a hole in that cell. This was all for the best, and Betty knows that. Hank, sitting next to Fury, agrees. He’s hardly going to screw up his last assignment.

Fury asks Tony if he has connected with the battleship yet, as this thing is going off in T-minus four minutes. Iron Man asks Fury for a second. Fury asks if Banner is still out cold. Walking over the ship deck, Tony checks up on Banner and reports he’s sleeping like a baby. It’s hard to believe this is even happening. Banner’s like a little bag of bones lying there. It just feels obscene to him. Fury reminds Tony they’ve been over this a million times. Banner murdered over eight-hundred innocent people. Tony knows. He gets up, and jokes Fury wonders why he drinks.

T-minus three minutes are left. Soldiers warn Stark to better get off the deck, as the safe-zone is 15 miles with a one-megaton bomb. As the Ultimates and Betty say one final goodbye to Bruce, they take off in their helicopters. Once they’re gone, Bruce suddenly opens his eyes! On that very moment, a bright light appears, and the deck gets destroyed into pieces…

Some time later, at Banner’s funeral…

Captain America, wearing his Army uniform, speaks in honor of Bruce for an almost completely empty church, with the exception of the Ultimate members.

Steve reads: “My dear friends. I know that serious scientists aren’t supposed to believe in the concept of an afterlife. There’s no proof, after all. No empirical data to suggest that there’s anything beyond the here-and-now and yet here I am talking to you all from beyond the grave itself. What does that suggest? What does that teach you? To me, it’s a perfect illustration that the world is a far more complex place than even the brightest among us would dare to imagine.”

“My own, private faith dates back to my seventh summer and our annual vacation with my cousins on Chesapeake Bay. My uncle was a wildlife photographer and patiently nurtured my earliest interests in both plants and animals. I remember a little caterpillar we’d grown fond of during that long, hot July. A tiny Geometridae we played with and stroked and made up some child-like name for. How heartbroken we were when he seemed to have died. When he curled up tight in a silken cocoon and didn’t make a move for days.”

“We cried and cried and cried, but my uncle explained that nothing truly dies. Change was merely taking place as ice becomes water and water becomes gas and he was right, you know. In a matter of days, a butterfly hatched from that hard, little chrysalis and took off in search of something far more interesting than Bruce Banner and his high-pitched cousin.”

Quoting from Bruce’s will: “So don’t weep for me, my friends, because science insists that I have not died. Energy just always changes state and I refuse to believe that human consciousness is the sole exception to this universal law. Remember me fondly as I’ll remember you. In all my years, I never had friends so dear. In all my years, I never had a group of people whom I truly felt such an integral part of. For this and everything else you have given me these last eighteen months you have Bruce Banner’s eternal and everlasting gratitude.”

After the ceremony, it starts to leave and everyone heads home. Janet thinks this was awful. She can’t believe they were Banner’s best friends. She doesn’t think she even spoke to the guy for more than ten minutes. Betty asks Janet not to think about it, as it’s too horrible. She doesn’t even want to think about someone being that lonely. Fury suggests that he and Betty go hit the bars and see Bruce off in style. Joining Fury with Cap, Janet takes a final look at Hank, who goes home all alone himself.

Arriving at his apartment, Hank’s answering machine reminds him he missed two calls when he was attending Banner’s memorial service. One was from Evergreen Real Estate with details of an apartment in the price-range he was looking for. The second was from Dr. Brankin regarding those missing Ultron designs the department requires before he officially leaves. The machine asks Hank if it has to call him back. Hank strongly denies it as those designs are his, and he wants to see Brankin sweat for a while. The machine received the message and understands. As Hank prepares a drink, the machine gets another call from an unknown location and the number has been purposely withheld.

A voice just thanks Hank, telling him he just called to say thanks. Hank quickly rushes over to the phone, answering it. Saying hello to the caller, he doesn’t receive an answer. Hank is startled.

Elsewhere, at an unknown location…

Bruce hangs up the phone. Picking up his backpack, he puts on a cap and merges into the crowd, and disappears…

Characters Involved: 

Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, Wasp (all Ultimates)

Hank Pym (former Ultimate)

Edwin Jarvis (butler to Tony Stark)

Bruce Banner

Betty Ross

Nick Fury

Matt Murdock (lawyer to Bruce Banner)

angry mob protesting against the Hulk (all unnamed)

courtroom jury, judge and various lawyers (all unnamed)

various press reporters (all unnamed)

several SHIELD agents (all unnamed)

on television:


Story Notes: 

The adventures of Bruce Banner continue in the Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk miniseries. By the looks of a man’s newspaper, it can be presumed Bruce is somewhere in Spain on the final page of this issue. The Hulk helped save the world from an alien invasion in Ultimates (1st series) #13.

Matt Murdock is also the super-hero known as Daredevil, and has appeared in several issues before this story, including the Ultimate Spider-Man Super Special and his own miniseries alongside Elektra.

The real person responsible for leaking Banner’s name to the public gets revealed in later issues of the series.

Again, there’s a reference to a possible existence of Ultron in the Ultimate universe. This statement will be further explored in later issues of this series.

Issue Information: 
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