Ms. Marvel episode 1 follows Kamala Khan’s adventures at Avengercon, featuring plenty of Hulk merchandise that proves the Hulk’s MCU identity crisis.
The premiere episode of Ms. Marvel proves that Hulk’s identity problem has gotten much worse since Avengers: Endgame. Ms. Marvel is the MCU’s latest Disney+ show, featuring new hero Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City after the events of Avengers: Endgame. In the comics, Kamala gets her powers because she is an Inhuman who has gone through Terrigenesis, but the show has changed her superhero origin as a result of the lack of Inhumans in the MCU. Now, a cosmic bracelet gives her powers, something she will need to learn to grapple with after she inadvertently used them to smash up Avengercon during a Captain Marvel cosplay contest in the climax of the show’s first episode.
One reason Kamala is such a relatable character is she genuinely loves superheroes. She creates fan videos, listens to Ant-Man’s podcast, and the walls of her room are filled with Avengers posters and memorabilia. This fascination culminates in Kamala wanting to visit the inaugural Avengercon with her friend Bruno (Matt Lintz), with the event held at Camp Lehigh, otherwise known as the “Home of Captain America.” Despite having to sneak out of her house, Kamala arrives at the convention, where she and Bruno discover mountains of merchandise featuring all their favorite superheroes. Among the available goods are plenty of Hulk items, and while Hulk is not Kamala’s favorite — it’s Bruno who cosplays as Bruce Banner — the merchandise does provide an interesting look at how the general public views the Hulk, even after he reversed the Blip in Avengers: Endgame.
One of Endgame’s most notable character shifts was the reveal of Smart Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). In the aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War, during which Bruce Banner and the Hulk were at odds as a result of the latter being beaten by Thanos, Bruce proclaims he found a way to bring the two versions of himself together. There is a scene in Avengers: Endgame that sees Bruce, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) eating in a diner. Some kids come up to the table asking for a photo with “Mr. Hulk,” and Bruce graciously obliges them. This scene showed that the general public’s perception of the Hulk had changed. Instead of being afraid due to the Hulk’s previous violent rampages, kids had no qualms about approaching him simply because they are a fan. The first episode of Ms. Marvel seems to reverse that perception completely, as the merch at Avengercon focuses solely on the more savage version of the Hulk that permeated the early MCU.
Though Ms. Marvel episode 1 does make clear that the Hulk is quite popular, the way he’s represented does make Bruce’s current positioning in the MCU even more confusing. Despite the events of Avengers: Endgame, the post-credit sting for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings showed that Bruce had reverted to his human self, while the trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series She-Hulk shows that Smart Hulk is still in the mix. It’s interesting then that the merchandise present at Avengercon seems to lean towards the Hulk’s more savage time as a hero when he was particularly known for smashing buildings. Considering the general public seems to know quite a lot about the final battle against Thanos, wouldn’t they know about Smart Hulk’s vital role in the reversal of the Blip? And, if so, why commemorate that accomplishment by immortalizing the Hulk’s previous savage nature instead of the moment he saved half the universe?
The question now is whether the MCU will address this reversal of the public’s perception of the Hulk or not. Is there a reason that Bruce separated himself from the Hulk once again? Audiences will likely not receive the answer until Bruce’s next MCU appearance. In any case, Kamala’s and Bruno’s adventure at Avengercon in Ms. Marvel episode 1 certainly sheds some light on the way the public deals with superheroes being a part of everyday life, and it has only made the MCU feel much richer and more real.