Written by Greg Pak
Art by Ario Anindito, Morry Hollowell, and Andrew Crossley
Lettering by Joe Carmagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Despite having adamantium claws and gamma-irradiated muscles, there’s something refreshingly disarming about Hulkverines #1 - in part because writer Greg Pak and artist Ario Anindito’s surprisingly solid crossover between the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant, the Ol’ Canucklehead, and their weird test tube baby is devoid of pretension or airs, instead delivering some strong action and some engaging character work. While this series certainly won’t change the Hulk’s universe as we know it, it’s impressive to see what these creators do with a character that on the surface would seem lesser than the sum of his parts.
Pak wastes little time in getting his chess pieces on the board, as he breezily reintroduces Clayton Cortez - a former military contractor experimented on to become the titular “Hulkverine” - as well as the series’ big bad, the Leader. For characters that aren’t as iconic as Logan or Bruce Banner, Pak is really effective in making both these figures accessible and even endearing -unlike most emotionally closed-off superheroes, Clay and his wife Sonia feel like a genuine team, with their supportiveness of one another making each of them immediately likable, even if Clay is a little bit of a cipher otherwise. Meanwhile, the Leader is also a villain you can tell that Pak is enjoying sinking his teeth into - this is a character who really just revels in who he is, but at the same time, it’s fun twist later when Pak immediately shows what an abject coward the man is (although to be fair, wouldn’t you freak out if a man was chasing after you with adamantium claws?).
With the character work briskly in place, Pak then is able to treat readers to the meat and potatoes of a book like this - the action. Injecting a little bit of a twist to keep things interesting, Pak is able to make the Hulk and the Hulkverine somehow feel distinct from one another, even though their power sets are so clearly derivative of one another. You can’t help but feel a little bit of a thrill watching Clay slash the Hulk across the face, or watching the Hulk drain the gamma energy out of his clawed counterpart. By the time that Pak actually goes about introducing the real Wolverine into the scenario, the issue is already over, but you’ll definitely feel like you got your money’s worth of fisticuffs just from these gamma-powered gladiators.
Of special note should be the book’s art team, who I wasn’t familiar with before this issue, but who definitely prove themselves more than equal to the task ahead of them. Artist Ario Anindito is really compelling, with a wonderful ink style that reminds me a bit of a scratchier David Marquez or a Mahmud Asrar - Anindito’s take on the Leader is wonderfully malevolent, and it’s his work on Clay that makes the character seem actually kind of badass rather than a laughable carbon copy. While it’s not quite his strong suit as much as the action, I also really appreciated Anindito stretching himself with the facial expressions - you can really feel the affection Clay and his wife have for one another, and he deserves points for delivering on a plot that relies a lot on sneezing without making his characters look unnecessarily goofy. Colorists Morry Hollowell and Andrew Crossley also deserve a ton of credit for upping the quality of the artwork - they add a lot of wonderful depth to the characters, and in particular make the nighttime setting of the book look truly beautiful.
Which, if you didn’t expect me to say the word “beautiful” when it comes to a book like Hulkverines, well, you’re not alone here. This is a simple book of simple tastes - you throw a Hulk at a Hulkverine, and you get to just enjoy the fireworks. But honestly, there’s something to be said for something simple being done well - that Pak and Anindito don’t eschew the fundamentals for something world-shaking or continuity-laden, but instead focus on delivering a solid piece of entertainment that avoids the sometimes over-lofty aspirations of its spandex-covered kin.