The Hulk’s former mentor, Doctor Noreen Nolan, reveals she gained powers similar to DC’s Green Lantern during the clean-up of Banner’s gamma accident.
Warning: this article contains spoilers for Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1!
Ever since the accident that turned respected scientist Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk, he’s not only sought to control his destructive anger but also the depression and loneliness that come with it. Over time, both Bruce and the Hulk have met others who’ve gained abilities thanks to gamma radiation – some became friends and allies, while others dangerous and unpredictable enemies. In Immortal Hulk: Flatline, the elusive fugitive meets with an old friend who also gained powers following that fateful day; abilities which mimic those of DC’s Green Lantern.
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The current Immortal Hulk series by writer Al Ewing and a roster of talented artists has redefined the character’s mythology with particular focus on gamma radiation. Gamma has been expanded to be an impressive yet horrifying power that connects Hulk to other gamma mutates, both heroes and villains, and is responsible, in part, for their constant cycle of death and resurrection. Marvel’s Immortal Hulk one-shots have continued to explore individual stories within the series timeline, addressing the abuse of gamma radiation and the people or creatures left behind as a result.
In Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1 by Declan Shalvey, readers are introduced to Doctor Noreen Nolan, an old friend and former mentor of Bruce Banner. Dr. Nolan is a recognized expert in gamma radiation and was originally involved in the same program that put Banner on the test site that fateful day. Having tracked Bruce down after following his exploits for some time, Nolan reveals that she was hired to oversee the clean-up following his accident and, as a result, she was transformed by the same gamma radiation. Assuring him that the exposure had some side effects, their reunion is interrupted by an incident that provokes the Hulk to appear. Having met Bruce’s infamous other, she chastises both of them for how each has strained their inescapable relationship and is subsequently challenged by the Green Goliath.
The Hulk should know better than to judge a book by its cover as Dr. Nolan’s “side effects” from gamma exposure appear to have given her powerful telekinetic abilities. Bathed in a creepy green glow, writer/artist Declan Shalvey keeps in line with the Immortal Hulk‘s horror theme as the Hulk is pummeled with girders and hit with trains that can fly through the air with little to no effort. Dr. Nolan’s powers bring to mind DC’s Green Lantern because along with the gamma-green glow, it would appear that her powers are only limited by what her mind desires. Hulk retaliates with his usual show of strength but Nolan assures him that this isn’t the kind of problem he can smash his way out of, seemingly unfazed by giant boulders or shattered glass that would have injured or killed other lesser human beings.
Unlike other Hulk villains, Noreen Nolan’s visit is not malicious or about seeking revenge. She seeks to remind both Bruce and the Hulk that they are not alone, and need to care about and support each other. They show that same solidarity for Dr. Nolan as she dies in a hospital, succumbing to cancer due to gamma poisoning – the other “side effect” of the radiation. While this is yet another tragedy in their lives, the one-shot poses a bigger question. Noreen Nolan wasn’t acting alone during her clean-up, so how many others were also exposed to gamma and potentially gained powers as a result? Shalvey’s story makes a case for gamma mutates as victims of fate whose shared misfortune should bond them together into a community of mutual care. But that community may be far larger than Bruce Banner or the Hulk realize.
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