Which Incredible Hulk Movie Characters Have Returned to the MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a carefully constructed and intricately and connected series, with characters from one film or television series commonly making the jump to another. This connectivity is one of the key ingredients of the MCU’s success, which is why fans were confused when it seemed that Marvel was ignoring 2008’s The Incredible Hulk altogether. For years, the film seemed to be the MCU’s black sheep, with other films rarely acknowledging its events or its characters (apart from Bruce Banner himself).

In recent years, however, things have changed pertaining to the MCU’s second installment, as several characters from the film have made surprising reappearances in various Marvel Studios films and television projects. Let’s break down every character from The Incredible Hulk who has returned to the MCU, and explain why their reappearances matter.

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The Incredible Hulk‘s most obvious returnee is the titular character himself. Bruce Banner (along with his giant green alter ego) has appeared in every Avengers film as a core member of the superhero team. In addition, he has a major role in Thor: Ragnarok and has also appeared in Iron Man 3Captain MarvelWhat If…? and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In one of the MCU’s most notorious re-castings, Edward Norton only played the Hulk in his introductory film, with Mark Ruffalo taking over the role for every following appearance.

The Hulk’s frequent reappearances in the MCU don’t necessarily rely on the audience having seen The Incredible Hulk. However, the film adds much more character to Bruce Banner, providing him with a tragic backstory and a doomed relationship that help to explain why he finds it so hard to trust himself and others. In short, the Hulk’s solo film introduced audiences to a misunderstood and terrifying monster, allowing them to chart his evolution into one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

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Betty Ross is Bruce Banner’s love interest in The Incredible Hulk and provides solace in a world where he is hated and feared. While Betty accompanies Bruce throughout the film, he is ultimately forced to leave her after fighting the Abomination. Betty hasn’t appeared in any MCU films since The Incredible Hulk, but she did recently make a surprising return in the first season of What If…?. This return appearance gives Betty more to do and further helps to ground Bruce as a tragic character kept apart from his loved ones by something out of his control.

The main antagonist of The Incredible Hulk is Emil Blonsky, a soldier who is transformed into a monstrous being referred to as the Abomination. Blonsky is notable for being one of the few MCU characters to pose a legitimate physical threat against the Hulk, even making him bleed at one point. However, he ends up being brutally defeated by the Hulk and imprisoned.

After the film’s release, Blonsky disappeared from the MCU for a number of years, only to make a surprising return in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He has also been confirmed to return in the She-Hulk Disney+ series. The prideful Blonsky’s incredibly public defeat is sure to leave a chip on his shoulder, which puts him in a prime position to potentially join Valentina Allegra de Fontaine’s team and finally prove that he is stronger than the Hulk.

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Apart from Bruce Banner himself, Thaddeus Ross is the character introduced in The Incredible Hulk who has made the most appearances since its release. After an eight-year absence, Ross returned in Captain America: Civil War, having now been promoted to the Secretary of State. Secretary Ross then made subsequent appearances in Avengers: Infinity WarAvengers: Endgame and Black Widow, each time serving as more of a hindrance than a help to the Avengers.

Ross is established in his debut film as a stern, no-nonsense leader, so his promotion to Secretary of State makes perfect sense. His previous confrontations with the Hulk allow him to confidently stand in the way of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes without backing down. Ross’ introduction of the Sokovia Accords in Civil War splits the Avengers down the middle, setting the stage for Thanos to take advantage of the team’s lack of cohesion and gather the Infinity Stones in Infinity War. As such, Ross could be seen as being at fault for the Snap and Tony Stark’s death.

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A student of Culver University played by Martin Starr briefly appears in The Incredible Hulk. And while the film’s novelization identified the student as Amadeus Cho, Kevin Feige confirmed years later that this is a younger version of Roger Harrington, a teacher in the MCU’s Spider-Man trilogy who is also played by Starr. This connection is fairly loose and doesn’t ultimately mean much in the grand scheme of things, other than once again confirming that The Incredible Hulk does, in fact, connect to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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