Ever since Wolverine made his debut challenging the Hulk to a fight on the final page of "Incredible Hulk" #180, the two characters have been closely linked to one another. One of the main reasons is that they represent uniquely well-designed characters when it comes to fights with each other. Clearly, Wolverine can not exactly go around stabbing most characters in the Marvel Universe without killing them, and yet that's precisely what he can do with the Hulk. Similarly, the Hulk can't deliver the same sort of brutal beatdowns he does to Wolverine.
Because of those specific qualifications, Wolverine and the Hulk have combined for some epic battles over the years. We'll count down their most brutal fights of all-time (not counting "What If...?" stories, but we will count the Ultimate Universe).
15 ADVENTURES OF THE X-MEN #1
"Adventures of the X-Men" was a strange comic book. It was part of a push Marvel had in the mid-1990s of publicizing a line of comic books that cost just a dollar (the most famous comic from this line was "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" by Kurt Busiek, Pat Olliffe and Al Vey), with the theory being that younger readers would be more willing to take a chance on a comic for a dollar. It did not work out, but it was a noble experiment by Marvel.
What made "Adventures of the X-Men" particularly weird is that it was unclear what continuity the comic was supposed to be in. It initially presented itself as part of the "X-Men Adventures" continuity (which was based on the "X-Men" animated series stories), but the very first issue contradicted that continuity. In the first issue (by Ralph Macchio, Ben Herrera and Mike Christian), Wolverine and the Hulk have a fairly tame fight, considering that this was meant for younger readers. The fight was broken up by X-Factor before things could even progress that far.
14 WOLVERINE #8
In the late 1980s, Wolverine and Hulk were each in strange positions in their respective lives, with both of them trying to pass themselves off as different people, to varying degrees of success. In the case of Wolverine, he put on an eye patch and re-invented himself in Madipoor as "Patch," while the Hulk ended up in Las Vegas after seemingly dying in a nuclear explosion (courtesy of the Leader) and working for a mob boss under the name "Joe Fixit." In a two-part storyline in "Wolverine" #7-8 (by Chris Claremont and John Buscema), Joe Fixit ends up in Madripoor as part of a deal with the Las Vegas mob.
Wolverine realizes that Joe Fixit is the Hulk, who he also knows is being manipulated by the corrupt Madipoor government. So, Wolverine decides to manipulate him as part of his own agenda. As a result, the "fight" between the two is mostly an intellectual battle, with double-crosses and triple-crosses galore. In the end, though, after the Hulk realizes that "Patch" has tricked him into doing what he would have wanted to do on his own had he known the truth, they have an uneasy truce. However, the Hulk lets him know that he doesn't appreciate being manipulated by punching "Patch" into the ground, which in turn suggests to Wolverine that the Hulk likely knew who he was, as a normal person couldn't survive such a beating.
13 WOLVERINE/HULK #1
In 2002, Sam Kieth did an interesting miniseries for Marvel's Marvel Knights line of comics. Dubbed "Wolverine/Hulk," it involved the Hulk and Wolverine both being called to the desert by a powerful and impish young girl who is looking for the two heroes to help save her father, whose plane crash-landed in the area. Over time, they realize that their true mission is finding a way for Po to deal with the fact that the plane crash that killed her father also killed her.
In other words, their goal to "save" her was really to get her to let go of Earth and move on to the next plane of existence. Therefore, most of the series is Wolverine and Hulk working together, but Kieth makes sure to give fans what they were looking for with a quick fight that showed off Kieth's uniquely stylized Wolverine getting his face caved in by the Hulk.
12 HULK/WOLVERINE: SIX HOURS #4
In the early 2000s, Marvel had a pair of strange Hulk/Wolverine team-up miniseries, likely to coincide with the then-new "Hulk" film and the second "X-Men" film. In 2003, Bruce Jones and Scott Kolins collaborated on "Hulk/Wolverine: Six Hours." This came out during Jones' run, which highlighted Bruce Banner a lot more than it did the Hulk, with Jones doing a sort of updated version of the TV version of the Hulk, where the fugitive Bruce Banner was really the star of the story.
In this story, Banner is on a small plane carrying a young boy who is dying from a deadly snake bite, and only has six hours to live before he can be given an anti-venom. Unbeknownst to Banner or the pilot (the boy's mother), the other passengers are drug dealers who insist that she not stop the plane. Banner Hulks out and the plane crashes in the wilderness. The drug dealers call in an operative known as the Shredder, who Wolverine shows up to defeat. In the end, the boy is so sick that they need to give him a transfusion of Hulk's blood to save him. Thus, Wolverine has to force Banner to Hulk out and then cut him. The whole series teases the Hulk/Wolverine fight, but when it comes in the final issue, it's a doozy.
11 INCREDIBLE HULK #181
Wolverine made his first full appearance in "Incredible Hulk"# 181 (by Len Wein, Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel), and it came in the midst of a fight between the Hulk and the monstrous beast known as the Wendigo. For a moment, there was a three-way fight before the Hulk and Wolverine temporarily put their differences aside and teamed-up to take on the Wendigo. Once that was finished, Wolverine went back to his original mission, which was to take down the Hulk at the behest of the Canadian government. Hulk was none too pleased that the guy he was just fighting alongside was now turning on him.
Their fight was interrupted when they were knocked out by a magic spell intended to protect the Wendigo (you see, the Wendigo is a curse, from which a woman was trying to save her brother). When they woke up, they continued their fight, with Wolverine ultimately being knocked out by the Hulk.
10 MARVEL FANFARE #2
Another one of the comics in Marvel's line of dollar comics in the mid-1990s was "Marvel Fanfare," which featured different Marvel heroes in each issue. In "Marvel Fanfare" #2 (by Joe Kelly, Pop Mhan, Mike Witherby), Wolverine is lending a hand in a search for the Wendigo (who was a different Wendigo than the first time that Wolverine showed up). The Wendigo, though, runs into the Hulk, who was newly "savage" at the time.
Wolverine stepped in to try to get the Hulk to control himself, so that the fight did not get out of hand. The Hulk punches him into a car, which then explodes. The explosion makes Wolverine snap and go into berserker mode. Mhan got to cut loose on a few pages of all-out carnage as berserker Wolverine, Wendigo and savage Hulk all go to town on each other. In the end, it is surprisingly enough the "Savage" Hulk that gets Wolverine to calm down.
9 INCREDIBLE HULK #454
In 1994, Wolverine famously got the adamantium pulled out of his body in a brutal fight with Magneto. Everyone was then shocked to learn that Wolverine actually had bone claws as part of his skeleton! In "Incredible Hulk" #454 (by Peter David, Adam Kubert and Mark Farmer), the now adamantium-less Wolverine fought against the Hulk for the first time. Wolverine was enlisted by Ka-Zar to help against the Hulk, who had shown up in the Savage Land and had set up shop with one of a pair of warring tribes.
Wolverine tried to take Hulk out quickly with an incredibly vicious slice to the throat. But the problem is that the Hulk's claws were bone, so it did not have the desired effect. There's an excellent sequence when the Hulk grabs his neck due to the attack but then pauses as he realizes it did not actually hurt, as the bone claws didn't do anything! He eventually punches Wolverine into the mouth of a dinosaur!
8 HULK #8
In 1999, John Byrne, Ron Garney and Sal Bucema re-launched the "Hulk" ongoing series, only now the Hulk was rampaging across the country once again, more vicious than ever before. Byrne left the book early, but not before establishing the twist -- it wasn't really the Hulk, but rather the Hulk being controlled by the evil Tyrannus. In "Hulk" #9 (by Erik Larsen, Ron Garney and Sal Buscema), Wolverine was called in to help stop the Hulk, who was on another Tyrannus-fueled rampage (every time Banner turned into the Hulk, Tyrannus tried to take control).
During their battle, the Hulk showed what he thought of Wolverine's new bone claws by breaking them apart!! In the end, Wolverine is able to lure Hulk into a cave and then trap him with gas until he passed out and turned back into Banner. This Wolverine would turn out to be a Skrull, but the fight was so cool that we're still counting it.
7 WOLVERINE #145
Right after that "Hulk" issue, when Wolverine was revealed to be a Skrull, the actual Wolverine turned out to be Apocalypse's latest Horseman, Death. Apocalypse gave Wolverine back his adamantium and then, as Death, set him upon the Hulk in a test of his skills. In "Wolverine" #145 (by Erik Larsen, Leinil Francis Yu and Dexter Vines), the two old foes tangled once more, but with Wolverine under Apocalypse's control, the fight was a good deal more vicious than normal (once the Hulk dislodged Death's mask and saw that it was Wolverine, he was confused as to who, exactly, he was fighting).
In the end, Death's viciousness gives him the upper hand and he was about to kill the Hulk when something deep inside of Wolverine held him back, and the Hulk responded by crushing him and then leaping away. Apocalypse told Wolverine to leave him, as his plans for the world meant that the Hulk would be dealt with eventually anyway.
6 INCREDIBLE HULK #340
The rivalry between the Hulk and Wolverine was one of the most emotional moments in "Incredible Hulk" #340 (by Peter David and Todd McFarlane), where the two heroes encountered each other while on the road; Hulk and his friends were on the run from the government while Wolverine and the X-Men were headed to Dallas for the "Fall of the Mutants." This was a weaker Hulk than normal, so Wolverine quickly gutted him.
However, the Hulk was driven by a lot of rage, and thus he was able to push past the pain (his healing factor helped, of course) and use his anger to push the fight at Wolverine, who was slowly falling into berserker territory. The Hulk used this time to mock Wolverine, telling him how he always acted so superior to the Hulk, but now here he was, just as down in the mud as the Hulk was. The Hulk was going to enjoy making this fight last a long time. However, they were soon interrupted by the Hulk's friends, who cut the fight short and both men went their separate ways.
5 PUNISHER #37
The final storyline in Garth Ennis' first attempt at a "Punisher" ongoing (a comedic approach that mirrored his year-long "Welcome Back, Frank" story that took place in a maxiseries before the ongoing one) saw Ennis do one of he things that he does best, make superheroes look stupid. As the series had progressed, Punisher had run afoul of Spider-Man and Wolverine, on top of his previous problems with Daredevil. So, in "The Confederacy of Dunces," the three heroes teamed up to take the Punisher down once and for all.
At the end of "Punisher" #36, the Punisher unleashed his secret weapon -- he had captured the Hulk! He now let the savage beast loose on the other heroes, releasing him like a sort of bomb. In "Punisher" #37 (by Garth Ennis and John McCrea), the Hulk literally punches Wolverine from New York to Boston! While Wolverine is trying to get back to New York (he accidentally boards a train for Philadelphia instead), the Punisher makes quick work of Daredevil and Spidey (while also using a bomb he fed the Hulk to take him out once everything was done).
4 SAVAGE WOLVERINE #5
In the opening arc on "Savage Wolverine," an anthology series where different creators would take a crack at the ol' Canucklehead, writer/artist Frank Cho had Wolverine travel to the Savage Land, where he teamed up with Amadeus Cho and Shanna the She-Devil to try to prevent a machine there from being destroyed. This machine is the only thing keeping a giant monster trapped on Earth. The monster, though, has been using its powers to draw others to the Savage Land to destroy the machine. It initially brought Wolverine, but Logan was able to fight through the monster's control.
Not so lucky was the Hulk, who showed up ready to cause destruction. Wolverine desperately had to do whatever he could to stop the Hulk from destroying the machine, while Cho and Shanna tried to solidify the machine. One of the ways was to basically give the Hulk an adamantium claw lobotomy. In the end, it was too late; the machine broke and the monster was unleashed.
3 WORLD WAR HULK: X-MEN #3
The Illuminati, a secretive group of superheroes, had decided that they could no longer put up with the Hulk's rampages on Earth, so they sent him into outer space where he was supposed to land on a peaceful planet, but instead landed on a gladiatorial one. The Hulk ended up conquering the planet, but the ship that brought him there exploded, killing most of its inhabitants. The Hulk thought it was a final "F U" by the Illuminati, so he decided to head to Earth to get revenge on them in; an endeavor that came to be called "World War Hulk."
One of the members of the Illuminati was Professor X, so in the tie-in miniseries "World War Hulk: X-Men," Hulk took on all of the X-Men to get to him. During the onslaught, Wolverine tried to stop the Hulk, but this was Hulk at his strongest and most diabolical. He figured that maybe he couldn't destroy Wolverine, but could pummel him in the head repeatedly to give him a series of concussions, which quickly took him out of the fight. It's a darkly brutal sequence.
2 OLD MAN LOGAN
In the future world of "Old Man Logan" (by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines), the world is ruled by super-villains, including the "Hulk Gang," a team of inbred Hulks who were sired by the Bruce Banner and She-Hulk after an incestuous relationship. Wolverine owed money to the Hulk Gang, which is what sent him on the dangerous mission with Hawkeye that makes up the bulk of the narrative. When he returned, though, the Hulk Gang had already killed his family. Logan went nuts, of course, and decided to take on the entire Hulk Gang, including their patriarch, the super-mutated (and thus stronger than ever) Bruce Banner.
At one point, the Hulk actually eats Logan, but then he cuts himself out of the Hulk's stomach, tearing him apart in the process. Logan then kills the rest of the Hulk Gang and avenges his family's death. It also inspired Logan to try to give being a superhero another chance (along with a baby Hulk, who he decided not to kill).
1 ULTIMATE HULK VS. WOLVERINE
The king of Wolverine/Hulk brutal fights took place in the Ultimate Marvel Universe in a very odd miniseries called "Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk." The series is strange because, despite being just six issues long, it took almost four years to finish. Written by "Lost" writer Damon Lindelof and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu, the story revolved around Wolverine being ordered by Nick Fury to eliminate Bruce Banner.
Wolverine finds Hulk in the Himalayas, and in their brief battle, the Hulk literally tears Wolverine in half and throws the upper half of his body into the mountains. Wolverine slowly crawls his way back and ultimately (after a three and a half year delay between #3 and #4) finds a way to defeat the Hulk that does not require hand-to-hand combat. The image of the Hulk tearing Wolverine in half remains one of the most iconic Marvel comic book images in the 21st century.
What is your favorite Wolverine/Hulk fight? Let us know in the comments section!