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A Doctor Strange Villain Used Loki’s Best Trick Against the Hulk

Hulk #13 proves unlucky for the Jade Giant, as a classic Doctor Strange villain uses Loki’s best trick against Bruce Banner’s alter ego – again. While Bruce Banner had hoped to escape all the terror and tragedy on Earth when he took to the cosmos, he instead ended up embroiled in them more than ever before. Even when sequestered in a world comprised only of other Gamma Mutates, Bruce has been pitted against the seemingly unstoppable Titan for control of the Hulk. Of course, there is far more to Titan’s emergence than merely unresolved trauma, though Bruce never expected to discover that his worst self was the product of a classic supernatural villain.

As the titular behemoth of Hulk #13 (by Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Marte Gracia, and VC’s Cory Petit) tears his way through countless Gamma Mutates after being overtaken by Titan, Bruce’s allies back on Earth are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of his transformation. When Doctor Strange enters the Hulk’s mind in an astral form, he finds it not only overrun by Titan’s influence, but also by an all too familiar breed of magic. In almost no time at all, he realizes that it wasn’t Bruce Banner who crafted the palace that is the Starship Hulk, but rather the Fear Lord D’Spayre, who just so happens to have no interest in explaining why.

Like all of his fellow Fear Lords, D’Spayre’s origins are largely shrouded in mystery. While it is known that he was created by the Dweller-in-Darkness, not much else is known about the thousands of years between his birth and his introduction in 1978’s Marvel Team-Up #68 (by Chris Claremont and John Byrne). Initially, D’Spare sought to use the power of the Nexus of All Realities to amass the beginnings of his own army. Thankfully, this plot was thwarted by the combined might of Spider-Man and Man-Thing, who were the first of many Marvel heroes to defeat the demonic villain.

In the years since D’Spayre has made an enemy of everyone from Doctor Strange to Cloak and Dagger, yet he has largely done so in subtle, almost unnoticeable ways. This makes his responsibility in the creation of Titan more surprising on the surface but less so upon closer inspection. By posing as Doctor Strange and offering to help Bruce take total control over his alter-ego, D’Spayre had every opportunity to plant the seeds of destruction deep within the hero’s psyche. And, in succeeding, he achieved what no other villain has in turning nearly the entire Marvel Universe against the Hulk.

The idea that someone could weaponize the Hulk against his fellow heroes is one of the oldest in Marvel history, with its roots stretching all the way back to 1963’s Avengers #1 (by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby). At the time, it was Loki who attempted to pit Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against the Hulk, only to instead bring them together as the Avengers for the very first time. This moment has stood as a pillar of the wider Marvel mythos, so much so that it has even driven one version of Loki to take up the mantle of Avenger Prime. Still, it wasn’t by any means a successful plot, nor was it the last time someone failed to turn the Hulk into their personal albeit unwitting army.

For how truly astounding D’Spayre’s feat is, the fact that he has neither gloated over his victory nor given any indication as to who else played a role in it speaks to how much more damage there is to be done. Though this certainly makes D’Spayre himself all the more threatening, it also calls into question whether there is something worse than both him and Titan just waiting to be uncovered. With any luck, that will prove to be anything but the case, especially when it already seems like there simply isn’t any hope left for the Hulk.


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