For reasons well-stated elsewhere, it’s hard to want to give too much credit to Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk. You have the sneaking suspicion it really should have been aborted upon the initial failure to release the third issue, instead of being allowed to suddenly reappear and accelerate to its conclusion some three years or so later. But here’s the thing… it’s bloody good. It’s probably the last remaining throwback to the days when the Ultimate universe was something cool and exciting, and it makes me miss the characters (particularly Fury) in a post-Loebized world. And like the TV series that both made Lindelof’s name and kept him from actually finishing this damned thing sooner, it’s well-constructed, and it’s funny, and it throws cracking twists here and there.
The introduction of Betty Ross as She-Hulk, for example, was a curve ball of the sort that the Ultimate books used to throw all the time – and indeed almost feels like the last hurrah for the line’s original sense of divergence from the regular MU – and worked as a genuinely interesting development, even though it shifted the book’s dynamic and subject matter away from that which the title would suggest. This issue does similar, by focusing almost entirely on Wolverine, but it works well as a “solo” book – Lindelof’s version of the character is well-defined, and as with his Fury, rather Bendis-ish. And in much the same way as Betty shifted the character balance last time, here we get an appearance from the barely-ever-used Ult version of Forge, who despite being the most ludicrously plot-devicey character in the history of comics, interacts amusingly with Wolverine.
You suspect that Lindelof’s taking the piss a bit with the way he’s been constructing the issues around flashbacks, framing devices and even dream sequences (a particularly funny one of these opens the issue) in such an arch, knowing way – but it suits the tone he’s established, with wisecracks littered throughout and even some gentle mocking of his lead. And it’s hard to deny that a book’s enjoyable to read when it looks as good as this does – moving away from the slightly exploitative nature of some of his She-Hulk art last issue, Yu is on better form than he’s been since Superman : Birthright. It’s an elaborate, considered piece of visual work (despite one slightly sloppy instance of storytelling, when only narrative caption tells us that Banner is throwing Betty through the air, given that the image looks like he’s ripping her in half), so streets ahead of the cluttered jumble of Secret Invasion that you’d struggle to identify them as the same artist. In particular, two instances of panel construction, cutting the borders around full-page Logan shots, are superbly conceived and realised.
If there’s a criticism of the book’s content, it’s that the story doesn’t feel desperately significant – we know its ending can’t really change anything, as it represents a fixed point in the long-since-past of the universe in which it lives, and as such you suspect it’s all going to turn out to be a load of fuss and bluster over nothing. Nevertheless, and despite feeling inherently uncomfortable about recommending a book whose publishing schedule feels like a direct insult to those bothered to read it, this is a classy and entertaining, if ultimately rather lightweight, piece of work.