Warning! This post contains spoilers for What If season 2, episode 3, “What If… Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?”


Thor: Ragnarok established that Hulk’s ability to talk was a matter of time and growth, allowing him to hold conversations with Thor. The events of What If…? Season 2 suggest that Hulk’s inability to talk coherently is due to his unbridled rage overpowering his mind. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law further supports the idea that controlling rage allows Hulk and others with his blood to communicate articulately.

With the release of What If…? Season 2 has come a confirmation of why Hulk didn’t talk coherently throughout his MCU tenure, and in doing so retconned the explanation offered in Thor: Ragnarok. Following his debut in The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner’s famous alter ego has since only appeared in movies as a secondary character or as part of the Avengers in their eponymous outings. Because of this, there have been few chances for the MCU to develop Hulk as a character beyond his interactions with his compatriots, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps that the MCU has left in Hulk’s identity.

One of these gaps surrounds Hulk’s mental capacity beyond being perpetually furious. As was established in The Incredible Hulk, while it took several years for Bruce Banner to maintain a level of control over when Hulk emerges, the “other guy” is still prone to constant rage, which exponentially increases Hulk’s strength levels as it intensifies. It was also apparent, however, that Hulk is not capable of stringing together more than one or two words at a time, which is something that changed in Thor: Ragnarok.


How To Watch the Marvel Movies In Order (By Release Date & In Order Of MCU Timeline Events)

Want to catch up before the next release, or just revisit the universe for a refresher? Here’s the order to watch the entire MCU timeline.

Thor: Ragnarok Explained Hulk’s Language Problem

Thor: Ragnarok is arguably the MCU movie that delved into Hulk’s character more than any other outside his solo outing as it adapted part of the Planet Hulk run of comics. It was here that Hulk, after years on Sakaar, is at his most eloquent, being able to hold entire conversations with Thor while in his quarters. It was one of many humorous moments, but it was also touching to watch the two heroes bond as Hulk, who previously had precious little to say, held a conversation with semi-complete sentences. As far as character growth, this was one of his most significant moments.

The implication of this progression in Thor: Ragnarok is that Hulk’s ability to talk was a matter of time. His childlike persona in The Incredible Hulk was followed by intermittent appearances comprising minutes or hours for each transformation. In Thor: Ragnarok, however, Hulk has been “in control” for much longer, affording him more time to get a basic grasp of language. This suggests that all Hulk needed to do was learn and grow, similar to how a toddler learns to talk before becoming eloquent in later years.

What If Retcons Hulk’s Problem With Talking

What If…? Season 2 elaborated even further on Hulk’s nature, and in doing so, retconned what was learned in Thor: Ragnarok. In “What If…Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?” It is revealed that Tony Stark owns a sample of Hulk’s blood as he was working on a way to have Hulk retain his powers but without requiring extreme levels of anger. In his attempt to protect it, however, Happy Hogan was accidentally injected with the blood, thus granting him Hulk’s abilities instead. Yet as the blood took effect over his entire body, Happy was still able to communicate articulately as he tussled with Justin Hammer wearing the Hulkbuster armor.

This implies that Hulk’s inability to talk coherently is due to his unbridled rage getting the better of his mind, something which Stark’s unfinished experiments on his blood were able to assuage immediately in Happy. While Happy was still subject to bouts of rage in his fight, he was able to communicate and control himself. This suggests that Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok has managed to quell his anger to a significant degree, possibly because he lives lavishly and is celebrated as Sakaar’s foremost champion. Now that it has been revealed that Hulk has a son in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, it also seems that he may have had a relationship.

How The MCU Set Up What If’s Ragnarok Retcon

The arrival of Hulk’s son, Skaar, in She-Hulk wasn’t the only clue in that series that Hulk’s communication issues stemmed from his rage. She-Hulk is also compos mentis enough in the show that she can capably practice law while “hulking out,” which is one job in particular that requires more skilled articulation than most. If it was the case that the alter ego emerges as if brand-new to the world with the mental capacity of a toddler, then She-Hulk would hardly be able to continue being a lawyer from day one. Instead, it shows that Jennifer Walters is so used to controlling her emotions that quelling rage is second nature.

The same can be seen in Emile Blonsky, whose quest for inner peace has allowed him to turn into Abomination and articulate himself as easily as breathing. In all, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law went to great lengths to show how Smart Hulk and others in possession of his blood are able to talk thanks to the lack of rage. Conversely, however, HulkKing was able to talk despite injecting himself with Jennifer Walters’ blood out of anger towards her. Thankfully, this was part of a retconned plot (rewritten by Walters herself), meaning the events of What If…? Season 2 do seem to confirm the root cause of Hulk’s communication struggles.

Key Release Dates

Deadpool 3

Captain America: Brave New World

Marvel’s Fantastic Four

Marvel’s Thunderbolts

Blade (2025)

Avengers: The Kang Dynasty

Avengers: Secret Wars

 Hulk’s communication ability has been confirmed.  Read More