A Refresher Course on SHE-HULK’S The Abomination

After a surprise appearance after more than a decade in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the gamma-irradiated Abomination is returning soon in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. And he’ll be played by the actor who portrayed him way back in The Incredible Hulk, Tim Roth. In the SDCC trailer for She-Hulk, our titular hero refers to him as “the man who tried to kill my cousin Bruce.” But Abomination has changed a bit since we first met him back in 2008. Here’s the lowdown on the MCU’s other giant green bruiser.

Abomination’s Marvel Movie Origins

The monstrous Abomination, as he appeared in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk.
Marvel Studios/Universal

It’s been a hot minute since The Incredible Hulk came out. 2008 in fact, right after the first Iron Man film. So you may not remember the Abomination’s backstory. Played by Tim Roth, Captain Emil Blonsky was a government guinea pig for a knock-off version of the super-soldier serum. Yes, the same serum that gave Captain America his powers, and which caused so much strife in the recent The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series. The MCU Blonsky was a Russian-born British Royal Marine, on loan to the United States military. He volunteered to be a test subject in creating a soldier who can fight and capture the Hulk.

The Hulk fights the Abomination in New York in The Incredible Hulk film from 2008.
Marvel Studios/Universal

As the character of Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) explained in the film, the U.S. government had been trying to recreate the serum ever since losing Steve Rogers at the end of World War II. But almost all attempts to replicate it had come with horrible results. The serum Ross used had some unexpected side effects after Emil Blonsky combined it with some of Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood. The result was the monstrous creature dubbed the Abomination. Hulk beat Blonsky in the big last battle. And last we heard, the government took him into custody. In over twenty subsequent MCU films, he was not seen or heard from again. At least, not until Shang-Chi.

Marvel Comics’ Cold War Monster

The Abomination's early appearances in Marvel's Hulk comics.
Marvel Comics

In the pages of Marvel Comics, the Abomination had a pretty similar origin story. There, he was a Soviet Yugoslavian spy, who worked for the KGB, Many a Marvel villain of this era tied into the Cold War and the Soviet Union. And Blonsky first appeared in 1967, at the peak of U.S/Soviet tensions.  The Abomination gained his powers after receiving a dose of gamma radiation almost identical to that which transformed Bruce Banner into the Hulk. Only in the comics, there was no mention of the Super-Soldier serum’s involvement. Blonsky also had a wife named Nadia, another stark difference from the MCU version.

In the comics, the Abomination’s power set was almost exactly like the Hulk’s. He’s got incredible strength, durability, and near invulnerability. But unlike the Hulk, his strength levels didn’t really fluctuate. So while Blonsky was stronger than Banner in his “Professor Hulk” form, he couldn’t beat him in his savage incarnation. But Blonsky had a few other powers Banner doesn’t have. He could breathe for a time underwater, and he has a special “gamma tracking” sense. He could also enter into a period of suspended animation naturally if he was severely injured. It remains to be seen if MCU Blonsky has any of these other attributes.

The Abomination, as he appears in more recent Marvel comics.
Marvel Comics

But the biggest difference between comics Abomination and MCU Abomination was in appearance. The design for the comic book version were much more scaly and reptilian, with two big prominent ears. The MCU version was almost a complete redesign. They kept the big bulky frame, and that was pretty much it. But as we saw in Shang-Chi, the new MCU Abomination looked much more like his comic book counterpart. Which thrilled longtime Marvel fans. Because who doesn’t love a pair of big goofy ears?

Blonsky’s Unexpected Return in Shang-Chi

The Abomination in the ring in the trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Marvel Studios

Abomination returned in 2021 in a short scene in Shang-Chi, as a cage fighter in Xianling’s underground fight club, the Golden Daggers Club. He fought Wong for a brief match, and loses. We then saw Wong take Blonsky back to what looks like a cell of some kind after the cage fight. Now, based on the She-Hulk trailer, we know he’s still in government custody. Not only that, he seems to be able to change back-and-forth into his human form at will. That’s a new wrinkle to his power set.

Abomination as he appeares in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Marvel Studios

Emil Blonsky’s Abomination in She-Hulk

Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky returns in She-Hulk, and the Abomination keeps his new MCU comic-accurate look. There’s no real explanation offered for the change in the character’s appearance. But the show winks at the evolving Hulk design and other in-universe changes with one of its cheeky jokes. We can just chalk it up to continual mutation because of the gamma radiation.

In She-Hulk, we also get to understand more about the Abomination’s Shang-Chi appearance. Blonsky shares that Wong actually broke him out of jail since he needed a worthy opponent to battle. However, Blonsky chose to return to his cell and continue to serve his sentence.

She-Hulk also offers us a more human look at the character of Emil Blonsky. It turns out he has no interest, or at least, so it seems, in being a supervillain. He just wants to write haikus and be with his many soulmates. Emil Blonsky maintains that what happened in the past with the Hulk wasn’t his fault. He even wrote Bruce Banner a letter of apology.

Instead, Blonsky asks She-Hulk to consider that he was under orders from the government and under the influence of a faulty super-soldier serum when he went on his rampage as the Abomination. Blonsky even believed himself to be doing good. He wanted to protect others and be heroic, like Captain America before him. But in the end, he received no reward for the way his life was shattered. Instead, he was imprisoned. But thankfully, She-Hulk is on the case. And at the end of episode three, the MCU’s Abomination is granted parole… Just as long as he doesn’t transform into the Abomination again.

Abomination’s MCU Future

Wong opens a portal into Emil Blonksy's jail cell while Blonsky lies on the ground in She-Hulk's season one finale
Marvel Studios

She-Hulk and Emil Blonsky reunited in episode seven, where we saw Emil’s retreat where he conducts self-improvement courses for former supervillains. When his monitor went off suggesting he turned into his Abomination form, Jen went to the ranch to investigate. But Blonsky convinced her it was all a misunderstanding. By the episode’s end, he stayed in his human form, as per the conditions of his parole. And he and Jen were officially on friendly terms now. What could go wrong?

Well, in the season finale of She-Hulk, we saw Blonsky turn into the Abomination for paid speaking engagements, including one for the online hate group Intelligencia. Although it appears he was just doing the gig for money and wasn’t really a part of the anti-Jen crowd. Nevertheless, his turning into Abomination violated his parole, and Blonsky was returned to Supermax prison for 10 more years. But in a post-credits scene, we saw the one-and-only Wong return, and take Blonsky to Kamar-Taj. Does this mean we’ll see Abomination in Doctor Strange 3? Or Shang-Chi 2? One thing’s for sure: we’re going to see him again somewhere in the MCU, and probably soon.

Originally published June 28, 2021.

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