The X-Men and the Hulk don’t really seem like a natural pairing, but somehow, “Hulk Team-Up” really manages to make it work — and it even does so without falling back on the beloved-but-worn Wolverine Vs. Hulk chestnut.
It’s certainly advantageous that the story is set quite definitively in recent Hulk/X-Men continuity (during “Hulk” issues #4-6) and that it uses the X-Men’s San Francisco setup to full effect, giving it a relevance that many team-up books otherwise lack. The story might be unable to specifically influence characters, but by placing it in a very specific point in continuity — recent enough to be contemporary — it feels more relevant to those involved. As a reader of superhero comics, that’s exactly the sort of thing you want to see out of peripheral spin-offs like this.
There are plenty of things to like besides that, though, particularly the use of the name “X-Men” to mean characters other than Wolverine, Emma Frost and Cyclops. The fact that the story loosely builds off a classic “Hulk” annual which also featured Angel and Iceman is an added bonus for those who remember it, and the thematic link drawn between the Hulk and Angel — who X-Men readers will know is currently struggling with his own inner-rage — makes definite sense and leads into a story for Warren that’s worth telling. It was never going to set the world on fire, but as a comic, it’s largely enjoyable and inoffensive.
And I say “largely” because there is one part of it that doesn’t work at all. The Dazzler-meets-Bruce Banner backup strip would be enjoyable and inoffensive, were it not for the artwork. The illustrator, Joyce Chin, draws a good Hulk and pays close attention to realizing the environments and locations in the story, but the overall level of achievement is massively lowered by her ridiculously-proportioned depiction of Dazzler. As drawn by Chin, Dazzler appears to have stepped straight out of a saucy 1970s Playboy comic strip rather than a mainstream superhero title. It’s both distracting and gratuitous, but that might be defensible if the character was at least recognizable. I challenge anyone to identify Dazzler from the artwork alone.
That sour note aside, the comic is as good as one could expect. Although the title suggests “Hulk Team-Up” #1 might be a new ongoing, the indicia describes this comic as a one-shot. So, off to an optimistic start, then, are we? The issue does make an effective proposal for a “Hulk Team-Up” series, and with the small problem that the Hulk himself doesn’t technically exist anymore, it would be nice to see more.