Thursday, February 19, 2009

Screening Room: "Hulk Vs."

Switching gears, I’ll get into a bit of animation. For those who don’t know, I’ve taken on a new gig as the online editor at Animation Magazine, and have been plunging into my DVD collection to revisit various animated features and bits such as the original "X-Men" series and the 2-D edition of "Star Wars: Clone Wars." And then arrives "Hulk Vs.," the most recent Marvel Animation feature DVD. This 2-disc set includes two features, each about 40 minutes long: "Hulk vs. Wolverine" and "Hulk vs. Thor."

I had seen "Hulk vs. Wolverine" in its entirety at Comic-Con last summer (and wrote about it for Newsarama.) Watching it again, I still like it for its alternately violent and slightly goofy revisiting of Wolverine’s origin and first battle with the Hulk. There’s lots of Weapon X in here and some good slicing and dicing with Wolverine facing off against Sabretooth, Deathstrike, Omega Red and Deadpool.

But I liked "Hulk vs. Thor" a lot more. For one, the story was better – you could almost believe that Hulk deserved top billing in this feature. Plus, it did a nice job of bringing in a whole bunch of Asgardian characters who I don’t think have been seen before in animation: The Warriors 3, Enchantress, Sif, Hela, Odin, Baldar and, of course, Loki. The plot and the action are a nice updating of the kind of classic Marvel storytelling you’d get from an issue by Kirby or, more recently, Walt Simonson.

The animation also is quite nice — elegant in its look and feel, but still fast and forceful in its motion. There’s a sneak peek on the disc of the upcoming Thor feature, which promises to explore the origins of Thor’s relationship with Loki and looks pretty good.

I really find myself enjoying these direct to DVD features. On the Marvel side, "Doctor Strange" in particular was a really cool way to spend 75 minutes, while "Justice League: The New Frontier" is my favorite of the DC ones. (I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m looking forward to Wonder Woman.)

It's came up in the Comic-Con panel (and again in reports from Marvel Animation's New York Comic-Con panel) that fans need to buy these if they want them to continue — suggesting that the entire program is on the bubble. These are interesting and fun, so I hope they sell well enough for these to continue for a good, long while.

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