Who is Titan the deadliest Hulk and what the heck is “Starship Hulk”?

Hulk’s “deadliest” incarnation Titan makes his highly-anticipated debut in April 20’s Hulk #6 (opens in new tab) from writer Donny Cates and artist Ryan Ottley, breaking forth and setting up the upcoming Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War

But who or what is Titan, and how does he arrive in the Hulk’s story? And perhaps most importantly, how does Titan’s emergence relate to the current ‘Starship Hulk’ storyline? 

Spoilers ahead for Hulk #6

Hulk #6 page

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We’ll explain what Titan actually is and how he emerges from the Hulk momentarily, but first, we need to explain what ‘Starship Hulk’ actually is and how the current relationship between Bruce Banner and the Hulk actually works.

As established at the start of the current volume of Hulk, Bruce Banner has managed to splinter and separate his own consciousness and personality from that of the Hulk, with both Banner and Hulk co-existing inside Hulk’s body. 

Using an unrevealed combination of magic, science, and psychic abilities – including surgically implanted cybernetic components – Banner has turned Hulk’s body into a mere vessel which he literally pilots from a psychically constructed cockpit that exists in Banner and Hulk’s combined psyche, and which allows Bruce Banner’s mind to be in control over the power contained in Hulk’s body – kinda Pacific Rim mech-suit style, but with the good old fashioned green Hulk body in place of a mech.

Unlike past eras in which Hulk and Banner co-existed or in which Banner’s intelligence was maintained into his Hulk transformations, Banner’s mind exists wholly separately from Hulk’s mind, with Hulk’s essence trapped in what Banner calls the “Engine Room,” a kind of psychic version of the X-Men’s Danger Room that fuels the Hulk body’s strength by constantly forcing the Hulk’s consciousness to battle psychic manifestations of some of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, constantly increasing his rage like a throttle.

Hulk #6 page

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Sound complicated? It kind of is, especially since Bruce and Hulk’s personalities both exist in one body – and there’s a third, still unidentified consciousness that is masquerading as Bruce Banner’s ex-wife Betty Ross.

This is where Titan comes in.

Bruce took ‘Starship Hulk’ on a journey through an experimental wormhole designed by Tony Stark to get away from Earth and all the people who stand to be hurt by Hulk’s presence. But rather than somewhere in the core Marvel Universe, Starship Hulk ends up in an entirely different reality where Bruce Banner never became the Hulk, but where Hulk’s old enemy General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross used Gamma tech invented by Banner to conquer the world as a violent dictator.

With Starship Hulk on the loose in this dystopian reality, Ross attempts to destroy him by sending waves of Gamma-powered ‘Abomination’ monsters at him, as Banner and the entity masquerading as Betty Ross vie for control of the cockpit which pilots Hulk’s body. Taking control, the Betty-entity pushes the Hulk’s ‘Engine Room’ throttle to its limit, forcing the Hulk to reach power levels unlike anything ever seen.

Hulk #6 page

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The nonstop volcano of rage that results from Hulk in the ‘Engine Room’ causes his outward physical body to transform, bursting with out of control Gamma power and transforming into the 30-foot-tall Titan, who the Betty-entity refers to as “the Hulk’s Hulk” – meaning the being Hulk becomes when he reaches the limits of his own rage.

In other words, if the ‘Hulk Smash’ Hulk was what happened when Bruce Banner was pushed to his limits and transformed, then Titan is what the Hulk transforms into when pushed to his.

Got it?

Through the sheer, brutal power of becoming Titan, Starship Hulk manages to fully overpower Thunderbolt Ross’s forces – but Banner is still locked out of the cockpit and out of control by the Betty-entity. Exercising a failsafe, Banner allows Hulk’s consciousness into the cockpit where he tears the Betty-entity apart, allowing Banner to regain control.

Shaken by the emergence of Titan, Banner retakes control of ‘Starship Hulk’ and throttles him back down to his normal Hulk form, allowing him to escape into another wormhole, seemingly back to the core Marvel-616 universe – where he immediately encounters Thor, setting up the imminent Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War crossover event.

There are a lot of questions left by Titan’s debut. For one thing, will he come back? It seems unlikely we’ve seen the last of “Hulk’s Hulk,” but so far, he’s only gotten one small moment. Which brings us to the next question.

Hulk #6 page

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What the heck was/is the entity masquerading as Betty Ross?

It calls Banner’s consciousness “son” in Hulk #5 (opens in new tab), potentially implying it’s connected to Bruce’s father, who appeared as a strange, mystical villain in Immortal Hulk, the Hulk title immediately preceding the current series.

But there may be other clues about who ‘Betty’ really is lurking earlier in the series. In Hulk #1 (opens in new tab), Doctor Strange puzzles over where Bruce Banner could have found someone with enough magical ability to help create Starship Hulk, as they exceed even Strange’s own powers. Then in Hulk #2 (opens in new tab), ‘Betty’ tells Bruce “This is what happens when you make a deal with the devil.”

Could Bruce have turned to Mephisto or another of Marvel’s demonic, deal-making entities for help in creating ‘Starship Hulk’? And if so, is that demonic force now pushing Hulk to become Titan?

We’ll likely learn more during Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War, which kicks off in May 11’s Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War – Alpha #1 (opens in new tab), which is followed by Thor #25 (opens in new tab) on May 18, and Hulk #7 (opens in new tab) on May 25, with the final installments of the crossover taking place in June.

Will Titan stick around to find a place among the Hulk’s most iconic personas?

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