Marvel animation has traditionally languished in the shadow of DC’s stridently high-end animated output – but most DC live-action movies are garbage, so this all seems to naturally balance out.
The exception, of course, seems to be Marvel’s fruitful relationship with Japanese anime giants Madhouse (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Ninja Scroll), which has produced a number of fan-pleasing collaborations, like this, one half of the Hulk Vs direct-to-DVD mini-movies cynically repackaged by itself in time for The Wolverine.
A composite of various Hulk vs Wolverine set-tos from the comics – focusing heavily on their very first encounter in The Incredible Hulk #180, there’s nonetheless visual nods to 1988’s Incredible Hulk #340 and even 2005’s Ultimate Wolverine Vs Hulk, this story slots neatly into most fans’ hazy grasp of continuity by taking place just before Logan enlists in the X-Men.
Still working for the Canadian government’s more benign Department H (the people behind Alpha Flight) and having escaped the clutches of the Canadian government’s sinister Department K (the people behind the Weapon X project), Wolverine (voiced by long-time Logan voice actor Steven Blum) dons his whiskered mask to slug it out with the big green smashing machine as he tears it across rural Alberta.
Wolverine’s old buddies from Team X ambush the two combatants, and Logan and a comatose Bruce Banner (Bryce Johnson as Banner, Fred Tatasciore as Hulk) are dragged back to the Weapon X compound where – following a suitably disturbing flashback, panel-perfectly lifted from Barry Windsor Smith’s Weapon X – Professor Thorton reveals his nefarious plan to created a whole new Weapon Hulk.
Snikt!ing and smashing ensues.
Comic-book commissars will cry foul at the sight of Russki vampire tentacle man Omega Red and Lady Deathstrike in Team X, perhaps assuming that if anyone really wants to see Wolverine and Hulk fight it out they should put up with Kestrel and Maverick too. Prolific Marvel animated scribe and New X-Men and X-Force writer Chris Yost has great fun characterising Logan, and unleashing Deadpool (Uncharted‘s Nolan North) in fully irreverent and hyper-violent flow, and there’s a few lovely silly moments with the character especially, but let’s not discount Deathstrike and Hulk’s bizarre screaming contest for sheer glee.
Although veterans of the original 90s chain-fence-slashing animated series will be delighted to know that Hulk Vs Wolverine is far more bloody and violent than is usually the case, it still feels a little restrained given the amount of slashing and stabbing on display, but it’s rather hard to complain about there not being enough gore without sounding like some sort of emotionally malnourished sociopath.