Warning! Major spoilers for The Avengers #48 ahead!
A classic Marvel Comics superhero who has longest-lasting relationship with immortality seems to have been forgotten in recent years of comic book history. Now that a surprising new threat for the Avengers looms on the horizon, one of Marvel’s oldest immortals Ken Hale a.k.a. Gorilla-Man finds himself in the spotlight once again.
Once an aging explorer, Hale feared the general prospect of death and sought a solution to his imminent passing. While researching methods for extending his lifespan, Ken came across the legend of Africa’s infamous Gorilla-Man creature. Any brave soul lucky enough to take the Gorilla-Man’s life would be rewarded with immortality. Though Ken ultimately conquered the great Gorilla-Man in the African jungles, he found himself not only becoming immortal but taking the form of a gorilla himself. Though he once valued immortality, Gorilla-Man now seems to long for a way out of his increasingly miserable life. As time has on, the world—including the Avengers—seems to have forgotten Hale, similar to how the character has been forgotten by Marvel Comics and its readers. Finding that nobody wants to hunt him anymore, Hale must now resort to picking bar fights in the hopes of provoking an attack on his life.
Jason Aaron (Immortal Hulk) and Javier Garron (Miles Morales: Spider-Man)’s Avengers #48 finds a lamenting Gorilla-Man in the supervillain nation of Bagalia, following his monumental betrayal of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Jennifer Walters a.k.a. Hulk has been transformed into a momentous foe, after being kidnapped by Russia’s sinister Red Room program with the help of both Dracula‘s vampire nation and specific coordinations given by Gorilla-Man. Dubbed the “Winter Hulk,” Jennifer’s new form completely contorts and discolors the raging monster buried deep within the hero. Though a former member of Jimmy Woo’s international superhero organization Agents of Atlas, Gorilla-Man’s recent actions are anything but heroic in their villainous intent. As the Gorilla-Man has faded into obscurity, the hero incites a confrontation with other less savory bar patrons in an effort to put his eternal life in danger.
Arriving on cue to seemingly fulfill Ken’s wish is the result of his greatest mistake yet… the Winter Hulk. Though fitted with terrifying strength and abilities, the Winter Hulk refrains from eliminating Gorilla-Man, instead departing with him as her prisoner. Fending for himself against a fleet of Atlantean warriors, Gorilla-Man suffers a surprising degree of damage to his body, which may ultimately prove fatal. Before Gorilla-Man’s body begins to drift toward the bottom of the sea, the selfish nature of Ken’s decision to turn Jennifer and the accompanying Avengers over to the Red Room causes Hale to reminisce on his life and his original transformation into the Gorilla-Man.
The issue ends with a dying Gorilla-Man diving into the ocean to save Jennifer in an effort to remind himself of who he is and the hero he once was. With the dark undertones of Aaron’s Thor series and his Avengers run, it would be fitting that a dark ending may be awaiting Mr. Hale. Gorilla-Man may be knocking on death’s door now but the next issue could just as easily begin with a brand new status quo positioning the former explorer to live out the rest of his days as a gorilla until the next lucky (or poor) soul takes their prize. It would be right up Aaron’s alley to dish out a bit of poetic justice for Ken’s instrumental part in the madness currently afflicting the Avengers. After all, Marvel Comics‘ Gorilla-Man has reached the point where he’s now lived long to see himself become the villain that he once fought against.