Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk
R1 - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (22nd July 2014).
The Film

Superhero films are currently all the rage at the box office – still, as they’ve been dominating for a number of years now – and the unquestionable king is Marvel Studios. While DC may have a roster of talent just as respectable as the heroes under Marvel’s belt, it’s their ability to weave together a seamless cinematic universe that has handily beaten every other imitator. Even now, as this review is being typed, Warner Bros. are desperately trying to assemble their own interwoven slate of superhero films, and judging by how quickly they’re moving it’s likely the results won’t be nearly as successful in the long run. What makes Marvel’s unwavering dominance all the more impressive is that they’re doing it without some of their own top tier talent. X-Men, Spider-Man and, to a lesser degree, The Fantastic Four all reside with rival studios… for now. Because of this, the likelihood of seeing, say, one of the X-Men pop in to assist The Avengers is incredibly unlikely.

But what can’t happen in the movies (yet) can still transpire in the comic book world. Marvel has complete authoritative control over their properties in that realm (as far as I know), meaning crossovers aplenty. Kudos go to any comic book fans who have stuck with Marvel’s properties throughout the years and have a dense breadth of knowledge regarding the many retconned and reimagined storylines and origins that have spring forth since the company’s inception. It seems nearly impossible to keep up with all of them, but Marvel seems to have made things a bit easier when the Ultimate Universe was launched in 2000. The massive multiverse features players from all teams, all series (or, at least, a hefty majority of them), allowing for maximum interaction and retelling of any story they please. And one of the better ideas they came up with was pitting Wolverine against Hulk.

The Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk series debuted in 2005 and featured only six issues, yet it took more than three-and-a-half years to finally be completed. The scuttlebutt seems to be that writer Damon Lindelof was cause for the hold up, as the studio wanted him to finish the scripting for all seven issues before they proceeded. I’m no expert here, but isn’t that part – you know, the writing, the stuff that everyone else’s work is based upon – supposed to be done at the onset? Lindelof’s writing has been a serious bone of contention for many a film fanatic in recent years, and it’s kind of telling (?) to see that complaints stretch back even before his profile expanded to where it is today. Sometimes he’s a pretty good writer, most of the time he’s not. I only offer up that tidbit of personal taste because despite not liking most of his work, this was pretty good. It isn’t great by any means, but to see two titans of the comic world go at it is a fun ride.

The story is told non-linearly, opening with Wolverine (Brian Drummond) ripped into two pieces, missing his legs, and regaining consciousness, trying to piece together the events that led to this moment. As the story unfolds in each of the subsequent seven episodes – each is anywhere from seven to fourteen minutes long – we see a different piece of the backstory puzzle that gets us to Logan and Hulk’s (Michael Dobson) eventual showdown. This involves seeing Wolverine become a begrudging ally of Nick Fury (Dean Redman), the incredible extent to which Logan’s healing factor works, Bruce Banner (Sebastian Spence) take a direct hit from a nuke and survive, thanks to Hulk (Michael Dobson), as well as how weird and stalker-y Bruce is regarding Betty Ross (Heather Doerksen). The guy calls her all the time and then just sits there, breathing, before hanging up. Creepo. Betty eventually is transformed into She-Hulk, who is drawn like every typical male fantasy out there, and she drops in to take part in Hulk and Wolverine’s brawl. But everyone has a common enemy: Nick Fury; and they would be just as happy to see him go instead of one of them.

Waiting for all the comic book issues must have been a drag. This motion comic isn’t one, luckily. Marvel Studios has this kind of thing down to a science by now, so things move just enough to add little flourishes of life, yet it still feels very much like you’re interacting with a comic book. The artwork is fittingly shady and grim, almost like a contemporary noir, which it is, in some ways. Logan is a tough guy, hired to find a man and take him out because he did something wrong. The wrong in this case happens to be that Hulk killed 815 people, but still, someone has to take him out. Although, if they show that Bruce Banner/Hulk could survive being at ground zero for a nuke what kind of effect would even Wolverine have? His charming candor, of course. The story only drags a tiny bit in some spots, maintaining a moderate pace and slowly piecing together the story. This approach works fantastically, becoming more intriguing than simply watching Logan track Hulk and then engage in a massive fight. This is smarter. This is done pretty well.

Video

Presented in an anamorphic ratio of 1.78:1, the image here appears to replicate the comic book panels, right down to the last detail. The style is very gritty and noir-ish, with lots of shadows and heavy shading. Some of the line work is intentionally a bit sloppy and rushed looking, but for the most part everything looks sharp. The color palette hews toward the darker end of the spectrum, favoring earthy tones, and everything looks very well saturated. Black levels vary according to the scene, though they never appear deficient in any way. The animation here is minimal but effective, with mouths and subtle facial actions lending a true sense of life to the images. While an HD image might tighten things up a bit here, there’s no denying this is a perfectly satisfactory picture.

Audio

In a word: impressive. For lossy audio, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track sure is an active beast. The soundfield is positively booming with thunderous, powerful action. Sound effects pan deftly between speakers, such as when Hulk is rising from the ocean and the crashing of waves can be heard all around. Or when Captain America and Tony Stark are playing ping pong, the patter of the ball being hit across the net bounces from corner to corner. The score is very cinematic in nature, almost as good as anything heard in a feature film, resonating with tremendous range. The LFE is frequently engaged, pulsing and booming with each massive hit the two titans deliver. Honestly, some lossless Blu-ray audio tracks don’t sound this good. Total homerun.

Extras

There is one extra here, a featurette, that is fairly standard stuff.

“A Look Back at Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk” (16x9) is a featurette that runs for 7 minutes and 26 seconds. The creative team behind the series talks about the story elements, how they were incorporated into the animated realm, the drawing style, and coloring the series. Short, but informative and interesting.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed just as all the Marvel Studios animated films do: in a thin cardboard package that opens like a book, with the disc housed on a clear tray inside.

Overall

This is something that should appeal to comic readers and non-comic readers alike, thanks to strong animation, an engaging story, and the chance to see two of the biggest names in the comic world go toe-to-toe in the only way we’ll get it (for now). Each episode goes by quickly, never dragging, and it maintains a good pace.

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: A+ Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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