This week saw the improbable release of Issue #3 of Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof’s much-delayed Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk series. While the fact that this comic is being released at all is enough of an event, after resolutely failing to appear for almost 3 solid years, it’s also notable for featuring the latest example of a classic match-up, doomed to be repeated again and again. Just as comic fans didn’t get bored waiting for Lindelof to write the rest of his series, they never get bored by these two characters meeting…
Incredible Hulk #181 (1974) The first time the characters met was Wolverine’s first appearance in a comic (bar a brief cameo in Incredible Hulk #180). This is the one that started it all – not just Marvel’s most licensable non-Spider-based property, but the never-ending Hulk Vs. Wolverine grudge match. It’s a classic fight, a little bogged down by the inclusion of Hulk-villain Wendigo, and featuring an early design for ol’ canuckle-head (with whiskers on his mask), but what it lacks in quality it more than makes up for in importance. Arguably one of the most important comics Marvel has ever published.
Incredible Hulk #340 (1988) Some years later, under the pen of the new Hulk writer Peter David and Spawn-creator Todd MacFarlane, the two met again. It’s this comic that really kicked off the trend for having the characters meet up so regularly – because of this, every generation of comics reader wants their definitive Hulk Vs. Wolverine fight. It was the 80s, so the Brown-suited Wolverine fought the Grey Hulk in as grim and gritty a way as two Marvel characters can, with both submitting to their animal rages. An oft-copied but never surpassed cover makes this one a desirable match-up in its own right.
Incredible Hulk #454 (1997) Coming at the tail-end of an 11-year run on the title, Peter David once again matched up the Hulk and Wolverine. The artist was an up-and-coming talent known as Andy Kubert, recently seen working with Neil Gaiman, and the issue features the Hulk fighting a T-Rex as the army and Wolverine track Hulk to the Savage Land. It’s uses the 90s set-up to hilarious effect when the “smart savage” (Banner-less) Hulk realises that Logan’s claws are currently bone rather than Adamantium, and thus can’t cut his skin. Peter David was on fantastic form and wrote the match-up with his trademark sarcastic brilliance, continuing the run of quality matches for the pair.
Hulk #8 (2000) An abortive reboot of the Hulk by John Byrne saw Wolverine guest starring – though the character was actually a Skrull who believed he was Wolverine. The real Logan was instead under the thrall of Apocalypse. It’s all very complicated. Even so, the fight went ahead, and like the issues surrounding it, it wasn’t very good. Byrne failed to come up with any new spin, and Skrull-impersonating aside, it was written as dull a rematch as could exist, with the childlike savage Hulk fighting a traditional Wolverine. Worth avoiding. The real Wolverine eventually had a brief fight with the Hulk shortly after in Wolverine #145, but by that point he had other problems and the fight was an unremarkable inclusion in a crammed issue.
Hulk/Wolverine: 6 Hours (2003) Perhaps even worse than their last meeting was this, a 6-issue mini series that, taking inspiration from the show 24, ostensibly occurred ‘in real time’. Quite how 6 issues appearing over 11 weeks encompassing 6 hours in a static medium can be said to occur in real time is anyone’s guess. The series was not particularly well-received critically and failed make a convincing case for the two characters to actually meet at all. Not a good start when your series is predicated on that idea.
Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk (2006-present) Which brings us to today. Lindelof gets the actually-quite-enviable task of writing the first meeting between the Ultimate Hulk and Ultimate Wolverine. And so far, he’s doing very well at it, 3-year gap aside. Lindelof clearly knows the characters and is doing his best to knit together the various parallels that exist between the characters (even their “Ultimate” versions) and provide the definitive “first meeting” between the two. Assuming the series wraps up before 2010 (and it should) it’ll be the proper match-up that, until now, the decade was sorely lacking!
James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.