Everyone loves a good hand-to-hand battle against superstrong, nigh-invulnerable characters. Two such characters from Marvel Comics are Luke Cage, aka Power Man, and Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk. Both have had some major feats throughout their comic book history, but if they squared off against each other, who would win, and why?
While Luke Cage is very strong and can go head-to-head with powerful enemies, the Hulk is simply on another level and would destroy Luke Cage. He is stronger, more durable, faster, and, if you consider Bruce Banner to be an integral part of the Hulk, he is far more intelligent.
That’s not slander against Luke, though – he’s smart. But Bruce Banner is one of the most intelligent people on the planet, widely considered a super-genius, so Cage doesn’t stand a chance in that regard either. Although it’s a straightforward fight, let’s break it down into categories to prove why it would be a one-sided affair.
Keep in mind; we’re comparing the comic book, Earth-616 versions of the Hulk and Luke Cage, although I’ll mention their MCU counterparts throughout as well.
Luke Cage was experimented on in a Super-Soldier experiment known as the Burstein Process. It was designed to increase his body’s cellular regeneration, but it also proved to have many other effects.
In the MCU, however, his DNA was modified in a prison experiment designed to create new artificial skin for burn victims. Instead, using the DNA of an abalone shell gave Luke superhuman strength and nearly impenetrable skin.
Anyways, Luke’s strength started at about a 5-ton lift, but over time, with exercise and superhero experience, that strength level climbed way up to over 25 tons. Still, in ‘Cage’ #18, we learn that in times of need and letting loose, Luke can easily break those feats. In ‘New Avengers Vol. 2’ #10, we learn that he can lift 50 tons – and probably much more.
His best strength feats include lifting a bulldozer overhead with ease, one-punch knocking out the Rhino, and, most impressively, in ‘Power Man and Iron Fist’ #112, Cage was able to grab onto a plane and drag it down, forcing the pilot to shut it down and stop.
That’s all impressive – but not Hulk impressive. When the Hulk says he’s ‘the strongest one there is,’ he isn’t lying. He is, in fact, one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. According to countless sources (‘Tales to Astonish’ #78, ‘Incredible Hulk’ #238, ‘Silver Surfer’ #4, etc.), the Hulk’s strength grows exponentially – towards infinity.
The Beyonder Had stated that the Hulk’s strength is ‘intrinsically limitless.’ The cosmic entity Stranger in ‘Tales to Astonish’ #89 concluded the same. In ‘Indestructible Hulk’ #1, the Mad Thinker couldn’t calculate the Hulk’s strength.
When becoming the Worldbreaker Hulk, his mere footsteps caused continent-shattering earthquakes.
Both Luke Cage and the Hulk have the ‘thunderclap ability.’ Cage’s is powerful enough to send a woman flying out of harm’s way. The Hulk’s can tear down buildings, and demolish other Hulks.
Both characters can also use their leg muscles to leap very high. Luke can jump on top of a few-stories building. The Hulk can essentially reach outer space.
For all intents and purposes, you will not – I repeat, will not – find a character that is as physically strong as the Hulk. There’s no 50-ton, 100-ton, or any measurable ratio of his strength. He is the strongest one there is.
Point: The Hulk (1:0) Luke Cage
After the experiments, Luke Cage was granted superhuman strength and durability, but it didn’t directly affect his speed. Still, having such dense muscular and bone structure made Luke incredibly fit – so much so that he could move faster than the fittest, peak-level human athlete, as we learned in ‘Mighty Avengers’ Vol. 2 #3 or ‘New Avengers’ Vol. 2 #10.
Still, it’s not fast enough to rival the Green Goliath. The Hulk perhaps isn’t known for his speed and does not belong to the upper echelons of Marvel Comics when it comes to speed – but he is no slouch.
He can leap fast enough to catch up with helicopters and even planes. He can travel 1000 miles with a single jump – his unfathomable strength actually propels the Hulk’s speed. Even reflexes-wise, the Hulk was able to tag many Marvel superfast characters, like Spider-Man.
Sure, Luke Cage beats the best human athlete in a race, but the Hulk is just a level above in this category as well.
Point: The Hulk (2:0) Luke Cage
One of the most well-known powers of Luke Cage is his bulletproof skin. After the experiment, the density of his tissue grew exponentially, making Luke Cage incredibly durable. He can withstand bullets from point-blank range, and in the ‘Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z’ #2, we learn that he can withstand being lit on fire and electrical shocks without harm.
Cage also has accelerated healing, meaning if he does take damage, it won’t take long for Power Man to heal up. The problem is – he can get hurt, and badly, that is, which causes another issue.
His skin and muscle tissue is so dense that normal surgical tools cannot penetrate it. So, should he need surgery to, for instance, get shrapnels out of his body, one has to use Adamantium tools, or an overpowered medical laser, as suggested in the same Handbook I mentioned a moment ago.
It also happened in the MCU – Hammer Industries developed this thing called the Judas bullets – a special type of bullet made out of Chitauri metal that made Luke Cage bleed. Not just bleed – but almost fatally injured. He had to be specially treated with heat. His life was saved, making Cage even more durable, but it didn’t change the fact that he almost died.
It’s all impressive – but yet again, not Hulk-impressive. The Green Goliath is literally invulnerable. Even if you can find a way to slow him down, make him dizzy, or even knock him out like Thanos in the MCU – he’ll always get up.
While Luke Cage can withstand bullets, the Hulk survived nuclear blasts in the face without as much as a scratch. Banner wanted to off himself numerous times – in both the MCU and the comics – and tried everything, from shooting himself in the mouth to drowning in the ocean. The Hulk just walks on the bottom of the ocean while spitting out the bullet.
If strength and durability are Cage’s best powers, he’ll have to do better to stand a chance because, anything he does, the Hulk does better.
Point: The Hulk (3:0) Luke Cage
Comparing the intelligence of these two characters yields little to no different results. Luke is not a slouch by any means. He is smart, eloquent, and knows how to speak. He is also self-educated in law and fluent in several languages. However, he isn’t really considered a genius.
On the other hand – Bruce Banner is a super-genius. In fact, he’s one of the smartest people on the planet. He’s a genius, even by cosmic-level standards. Comparing him to Luke Cage regarding intelligence is unfair, as Bruce is on that Tony Stark, Reed Richards level.
Comparing Luke Cage to the Hulk, however – is unfair to the Hulk. We all know he’s a big brute, and despite having Banner ‘inside,’ he can be a dummy sometimes. Still, there were instances when he showed that he is capable of rational, even intelligent comprehension and thinking – it’s just that his rage takes over before his brain.
I’ll give both characters points in this category because it’s still depending on how you put it. Luke Cage is more intelligent than the Hulk but less intelligent than Banner.
Point(s): The Hulk (4:1) Luke Cage
Finally, these two strongmen have squared off in the comics before – two times, as far as I could find. And, both times, it was clear that the Hulk was at an advantage.
The first time was when Iron Fist tried surprising the Hulk with an attack and went at him with all his might. The Hulk simply caught his arm, absorbed the shot, and kind of sent it back, making Iron Fist feel the full force of his own blast.
That’s when Luke Cage intervened in defense of his friend and went at the Hulk with everything he had. He barely moved the Green Goliath, who then returned the favor with a single punch, sending Cage flying through several buildings before tumbling down at least 30 or 40 stories down.
The second battle came later in the comics, when Luke Cage was, in fact, much stronger than before. The Hulk was going after Luke Cage to take him in, but Cage was having none of that.
A fight ensued, and Cage held his ground pretty well against our Green Behemoth. However, it was evident that the Hulk didn’t want to hurt the Power Man, and before the fight could get any more serious, Cage used some smart tactics to escape.
In any case, those two events were enough to prove that Luke simply can’t match the Hulk in a fight, especially one-on-one. They are just on different power tiers, and the Hulk would always win such a duel.
Point: The Hulk (5:1) Luke Cage
Luke Cage vs. Hulk: Who wins?
At the end of the day, it was evident from the start that Luke Cage didn’t stand a chance. The Hulk is stronger, faster, more durable, more intelligent, and had won the fights between the two when they fought in the comics.
The reason behind all of this is that they are simply on different levels. Luke Cage – both in the MCU and the comics – is a street-level hero fighting street-level supervillains. Don’t get me wrong, they are still ‘supervillains’ and need superhuman abilities to be defeated – but they are no Ultron, Loki, Thanos, or Thor, god forbid.
The Hulk is reasonably considered one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Sure, the MCU toned him down a bit, making him look as if he isn’t that imposing, but in the comics, the guy could literally hold mountains over his head. Yes – entire mountains.
Comparing the Hulk to Luke Cage is like comparing a car to a bike – sure, they have some similarities, and both will get you from point A to point B, but one has a clear advantage over the other.
I’d give the Hulk 9.9/10 fights against Luke, with that 0.1 being the situation where he doesn’t want to come out because Thanos kicked his butt.
Who do you think would win in this fight? Let us know in the comments!