The portmanteau “Hulkverine” upsets me on a primal level, and I don’t truly understand why. The reaction I have to the word is the same one I have when I read celebrity couple monikers like “Bennifer” pop up in gossip rags. It makes my eyes roll and my larynx cough up an accompanying groan, probably in part because it lessens the power of either party in my mind. I preface this review with this information because I want you, dear reader, to know that there is an intrinsic bias in the conception of Hulkverines #1 I cannot fully escape (I cringed writing that, by the way).
So now that I've aired by grievances with the name, how is the actual comic? It's...fine. The biggest problem with this first issue is that the name and cover pretty much telegraph what happens on the page. There are no surprises or huge reveals. It feels rote and predictable the way only a comic called Hulkverines can, which is a shame. Greg Pak has written some of the best Hulk stories since Peter David's iconic run; Planet Hulk and World War Hulk were a one-two punch that really earned fan interest in the character, after years of many readers simply not caring about the life of Bruce Banner. His subsequent work on various Hulk-related titles has been hit or miss, but he's a writer with enough good grace that I'll give anything he pens a fair shot.
Which leads us to Weapon H, a character created by Pak and artist Mike Deodato, who is a dash of Wolverine and a whole heap of Hulk. To say I have mixed feeling about the character of Clayton Cortez is a gross understatement. His arc is something that I very much gravitate toward on paper. The idea of an average Joe being subjected to horrific experiments and then let lose into the world without a proper sense of humanity or direction has always been a story audiences love. It's why we revisit films like Robocop and comics like Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X do often. But the execution has been a bit lackluster. Perhaps it's the fact those aforementioned works resonate so deeply they make a lot of Weapon H's story feel pedestrian, or maybe it's because Clay is basically an amalgam of two characters we already love that gnaws at the back of the mind for some strange reason. I like Clay as a human level, but the notion of his hybrid superhero doesn't jibe with me enough to make me rush out and buy books featuring him.
With Bruce Banner and Logan both coming back from the dead, Clay Cortez's entire existence feels a touch unnecessary. There is no itch needing to be scratched for either character. Hulkverines #1 furthers this exposure by pitting Weapon H against Bruce and Logan, but it's a meeting that does beg the question: Is anyone asking for this? Clay Cortez is a strong enough character to deserve some sort of huge event or maybe closure to all the horrible things he's experienced over the last couple years, but is pushing Hulk and Wolverine into the narrative what readers want? He feels like a footnote in modern comics, to which fans see Clay gracing the cover of a comic and say, "Oh, yeah -- that's a thing."
You can't fault the creative team behind Hulkverines #1 too much for their endeavor. The writing is by no means bad (but it's not Pak's best) and Ario Anindito's artwork is mostly solid. In fact, my favorite thing about this issue is centered around the Leader and a roll of paper, a sequence that is executed so well by Anindito and colorists Morry Hollowell and Andrew Crossley that it made me snort with laughter. The visual pacing is also pretty great. Not much over-the-top action really unfolds on the page, but the little bit that does go down looks great.
If you're a fan of Clay Cortez or if you just can't get enough Hulk and Wolverine...or if you love obnoxious portmanteaus, then Hulkverines #1 is the book for you, I guess. Again, this is by no means a bad comic, but it does feel like it's a bit phoned in, which might be even more upsetting. If it was outright terrible, then at least it would have been more fun to read.