“Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk” #4 is just about the dumbest comic I’ve read in 2009. It is so absurdly dumb that I’m torn between dismissing it as worthless excrement and proclaiming it a genius work that everyone must read. So, naturally, the truth lies somewhere in between.
Damon Lindelof’s writing here proves the oft-said comment that comics is a medium with far less restrictions than film or television. There is no sign of restraint here, Lindelof completely free to do what he pleases no matter how over-the-top or ridiculous, free of compromise or anyone saying “Um, maybe that’s not a good idea…” It’s a pure expression of Lindelof’s vision, which is both a positive and negative because, in some spots, Lindelof needs an editor to tell him that maybe what he’s got planned isn’t a good idea. Lindelof’s tone here builds on the more silly, ‘edgy’ parts of Mark Millar’s “The Ultimates,” but with none of the more somber, serious elements to balance things out. So, “Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk” matches what came before, but can’t quite live up to it.
Betty Ross is given the spotlight here as she butts heads with Dr. Jennifer Walters over reworking Bruce Banner’s failed super-soldier serum. After last issue’s introduction of Ultimate She-Hulk, meeting Jennifer Walters isn’t a big surprise, but her role as a rival scientist to Banner is a nice touch, a play on the idea of the characters as cousins. Ross is focused on saving Banner from Wolverine, going to the Ultimates to intervene in Fury’s plans. Lindelof builds nicely on Ross’ guilt over what happened to Banner — and her continuing affection for him.
Where things sometimes go awry is in the small details. The opening scene with Ross in bed with some random guy isn’t nearly as clever as it wants to be with the “no cuddling” bit. But, there’s also a funny and decadent scene like Stark and Rogers playing ping pong with Stark using a mechanical arm built by Forge, who sits in cuffs nearby. Lindelof’s callback to “Civil War” is nice and the positions taken actually match these Ultimate versions of the characters. Both can be read in CBR’s preview.
Leinil Francis Yu is the right artist for this series as he grounds the silly nature of the scenes in a bit of reality, which plays well. He’s not immune to the same excesses that Lindelof falls prey to, having Walters bust out of her top in one scene completely unnecessarily. The two make a good pair and Yu is at the top of his game.
“Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk” is a lot of stupid fun, always in danger of going too far, but never quite. Lindelof’s over-the-top writing is clearly the work of a man normally restrained but, here, free to do as he pleases for good or ill. It’s hard to take this book too seriously, because no one involved seems to — and that’s a good thing.