The very first live-action screen appearance of Iron Man’s fan-favorite Hulkbuster armor proved to be one of the most anticipated moments of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. With it, Tony Stark just barely manages to incapacitate the Hulk after Wanda Maximoff’s psychic powers send him on a rampage. What’s so ironic about this suit’s continued popularity–and the very fact that Stark continues to use the thing–is that in terms of actual “Hulkbusting,” it’s proven to be completely useless.
In spite of multiple chances and fan-favorite status, in the comics Iron Man has never managed to defeat the Hulk while wearing his Hulkbuster armor.
As far as the prime Marvel Comics Hulk and Iron Man are concerned, Stark has fought the Hulk while wearing his Hulkbuster armor five times, and he’s never managed to defeat the green goliath while wearing the suit designed to defeat the green goliath. Hulk wins three of the tussles decisively and there are two draws (and I’m being overly generous in calling one of those a draw).
Fight 1: Draw
Stark first reveals the suit at the end of 1994’s Iron Man #304, and he and the Hulk lock horns in the following issue, only for the battle to end–like the vast majority of comic book hero vs. hero fights–without a clear victor, and with the pair working together.
Fight 2: Hulk Wins
While he and his alien allies end up fighting a whole lot of other heroes, Hulk’s quest for vengeance in World War Hulk is chiefly against four heroes: Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and Mister Fantastic. He opens the first issue by defeating Black Bolt on the Moon, and upon his arrival on Earth, Iron Man dusts off the Hulkbuster armor and tries to solo his old Avengers colleague.
The Hulk not only defeats Iron Man in a one-side battle, but he brings Avengers Tower crashing down around the armored hero’s head in the process.
Fight 3: Hulk Wins
During the line-wide event Original Sin, Bruce Banner believes Tony Stark may actually have been responsible for his becoming the Hulk. The conflict that follows between them reveals Banner’s suspicions aren’t completely accurate, but in the meantime in 2014’s Original Sin #3.4, the Hulk takes out Tony in his new Hulkbuster suit with a single punch.
Fight 4: Draw (But Only Sort Of)
Let me be clear: by the end of their encounter in 2018’s Immortal Hulk #7, Tony’s Hulkbuster suit is absolutely shredded. However, it isn’t just Iron Man that the green goliath is dealing with here, but a line-up of Avengers. So while Tony’s suit is just scrap metal by the end of it, the team does manage to take the Hulk out thanks to an orbital weapon Tony and Black Panther prepared beforehand.
This version of the Hulk proves so powerful that he not only turns Tony’s Hulkbuster suit into just a whole lot of paperweights, but he uses one of the arms to smack around Black Panther, takes Thor out of the fight with one punch, and likewise trounces She-Hulk and Ghost Rider.
Fight #5: Hulk Wins
The exceptionally bizarre Starship Hulk (don’t ask) era of the green goliath opens with as definitive a victory over Iron Man’s Hulkbuster suit as you can get. In 2021’s Hulk #1, the eponymous man-monster fights his way into the Avengers HQ to use a portal to send himself into space and Tony blocks his path. The results are as predictable as they are gorgeously rendered by artists Ryan Ottley and Cliff Rathburn.
By the way, while I’m not counting this as part of the tally, Black Panther gets in on the action and makes his own Hulkbuster suit to use against Amadeus Cho in 2016’s Totally Awesome Hulk #11. The result? Not much different from all the others.
Here’s the funniest part: Iron Man has actually claimed wins over the Hulk on two occasions–1980’s Iron Man #131 and 2009’s Mighty Avengers #22. He’s just never managed to do it while wearing the Hulkbuster armor.
The moral? If you have to fight the Hulk, don’t bring something you designed to fight the Hulk.