Judge Clark Douglas thinks this story fails to live up to its potential, bub.
"HULK NOT IMPOTENT!!!!"
The initial incarnation of the Ultimate Marvel line—designed to draw in new readers and create a fun, accessible world free of the complicated continuity that had consumed the regular Marvel universe—was an ambitious mix of good, bad and ugly. The biggest success was undoubtedly Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man, which offered a fresh, entertaining new take on one of the company's most iconic characters. Elsewhere, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's The Ultimates offered decent blockbuster-style fun, while Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four (both of which regularly changed writers and artists) never really managed to reach their potential. Alongside these main titles, a number of miniseries were published. The most high-profile of these was arguably Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, written by Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof and drawn by the gifted Leinil Francis Yu. The series offered precisely what the title promised: an epic smackdown between two of Marvel's roughest, toughest characters.
Unfortunately, Lindelof's duties on Lost kept him so busy that he wasn't able to complete his scripts in a timely manner. After the first two issues of the six-issue miniseries had been released, Marvel announced that the third installment would be delayed by a month…and then another month…and another…and finally, the series was postponed indefinitely until Lindelof turned in all of his completed scripts. More than three years later, the final four issues of the series were released. That's a fairly ridiculous delay for a six-issue miniseries, but hey, these things happen. After all, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely took roughly four years to finish up the twelve-issue All-Star Superman, which is now justly regarded as one of the greatest Superman stories ever written.
Lindelof's tale, it must be noted, isn't nearly so lofty. It begins as a story about two aggressive superpowered meatheads beating each other up. You may argue that Wolverine and Hulk aren't necessarily meatheads—after all, Wolverine has shown a sensitive side on many occasions and the Bruce Banner side of Hulk is generally depicted as a quiet intellectual. In this tale, however, they're both painfully simplistic. Wolverine is clearly supposed to be a mutant variation on Clint Eastwood, but his frequently immature dialogue undercuts that notion regularly. Meanwhile, Bruce Banner is portrayed as a man who gets childishly angry about the smallest of things, from a good-old-boy rancher making fun of the fact that Banner is a vegan to a psychiatrist's suggestion that the scientist may be struggling with impotence. As a general rule, I like both of these characters, but it's awfully difficult to root for either of them in this clunky tale.
The motion comic version of this story only serves to highlight its flaws. The voice actors hired to play the characters tend to take the over-the-top lines even further over-the-top, making slightly embarrassing dialogue incredibly embarrassing. Additionally, seeing Yu's panels blown up to enormous size on your TV screen doesn't do the fine artwork any favors, making the illustrations—which look impressively fluid on the page—seems jagged and clunky. It also feels even more insubstantial in this format. The tale is divided into six 10-13 minute episodes, each one of which is saddled with about two minutes of opening and closing credits. Condense those (since the credits are essentially the same each time around), and the running time would be less than an hour. That's a pretty huge contrast to the 25-30 minutes required for each episode of Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. I'm still not a particularly big fan of the format, as the animation and voice work in most of the releases we've seen thus far just isn't strong enough to provide a good reason for why someone should watch the story rather than read it.
The DVD transfer is fine, offering strong detail and bright, vibrant colors. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track gets the job done well enough, too, though it's not exactly the sort of epic, room-rattling experience the story might suggest. Supplements are limited to a featurette detailing the complicated history of the miniseries.
Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk is a pretty frustrating mishandling of a basic seemingly can't-miss idea. The characters are depicted as nothing more than shallow and unlikable brutes, and the convoluted story (the back half of which is devoted to introducing a bland new character) never delivers a genuinely satisfying or interesting conclusion. Too bad.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
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