Thor vs. Hulk: Champions of The Universe #1

 Jeremy Whitley
 Simone Buonfantino
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Cover: Dan Mora & Rachelle Rosenberg

Publisher: Marvel Comics

A review by Nico Sprezzatura

With their upcoming team-up in Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel is obviously looking to promote The Mighty Thor and The Incredible Hulk through every possible medium. This week’s Thor vs. Hulk: Champions of The Universe #1 isn’t an official tie-in to the film, but it may as well be.

Following the July debut of Immortal Iron Fists (which I reviewed here!), Thor vs. Hulk #1 is the latest fruit of Marvel’s new arrangement to produce original, digital-first content for Comixology. If you’re subscribed to their unlimited service, you can read this issue –and subsequent ones– as part of your membership. Is it worth a read, though?

Perhaps accounting for the people who are most likely to check it out because of the aforementioned film, Thor vs. Hulk #1 is exceedingly new reader-friendly. It doesn’t seem to be set in any specific era of the Marvel Universe timeline, and the only other established character who appears (aside from our titular duo) is Black Widow. If you’ve only got a passing familiarity of Marvel lore, but would like to read an adventure featuring the boisterous duo it’s named for, then this series is tailored for you. It’s not quite the “let’s you and him fight” plot you may expect from the title, but heroes fighting heroes is an oversaturated trope these days, so that’s probably for the best.

Rather, Thor vs. Hulk #1 involves them meeting The Promoter, an Elder of the Universe (e.g. The Collector from Guardians of The Galaxy) whose entire being is dependent on a singular activity they must cultivate for the rest of their lives, or else they wither and die. In this case, The Promoter lives to matchmake fights between powerful beings. It’s up to one of our heroes to fight her latest champion and, by extension, save Earth. But which one of them will earn that privilege? (I believe The Promoter is a new character created for this series – which is odd, since Thor: Ragnarok specifically features The Grandmaster in a functionally similar role. Maybe he shows up later down the line…?)

Written by Jeremy Whitley, who recently completed his run on The Unstoppable Wasp for Marvel, Thor vs. Hulk #1 is fairly characteristic of his voice. He excels in light-hearted fantasy adventures (see also: his creator-owned Princeless), and there’s definitely that sense of fun and whimsy here. I will say that, though entertaining, this first issue of Thor vs. Hulk #1 feels a bit slight for my taste.

The plot is established early, and we get a sense of what to expect, but I don’t get the vibe that this series will be an essential read for longtime followers of the Marvel Universe, or fans of either character. Like I mentioned, it plays like an introductory story for casual Marvel fans, so your mileage may vary as to whether or not it’s a must-read. That said, I think Thor vs. Hulk #1 could prove to be a great little comic for younger readers, since it’s fairly straightforward and doesn’t require an encyclopedic knowledge of the MU.

The art for Thor vs. Hulk#1 by Simone Buonfantino pairs very well with Whitley’s script. I really think kids would enjoy this series not just for the story, but also for the artwork. It’s dynamic and expressive, not unlike a Saturday morning cartoon; Irma Kniivila’s bright coloring bolsters that effect. I especially love the introduction of The Promoter, emerging from smoke in silhouette; it perfectly befits a dramatic personality like herself. Buonfantino’s illustrations also err closely to the original designs of both heroes, which support the timeless nature of this story.

Jimmy Betancourt’s lettering is generally good, and Whitley gives him ample opportunity to deliver some classic comic book onomatopoeia in action scenes. My only real criticism of his lettering comes through Thor’s dialogue; it’s rendered in the arcane-ish font usually attributed to Asgardians in the Marvel Universe, which can be hard to read on some devices.  But that’s a tiny quibble.

The Verdict
Check it out.
Delivering a classic –if somewhat innocuous– superhero story featuring two of Marvel’s founding Avengers, Thor vs. Hulk: Champions of The Universe #1 is a great entry point for casual readers.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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