Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United brings us a CG animated adventure that hearkens back to the classic Marvel Team-Up comics — or hell, to the whole classic Marvel Universe, really — where our heroes meet up accidentally, beat each other up for a while before realizing that there's a larger threat, and then they team up to defeat the real Bad Guy. And since it’s a post-Avengers world, we get Iron Man (voiced by Adrian Pasdar) and the Hulk (played by Fred Tatasciore) going up against the monstrous energy creature, Zzzax (Dee Bradley Baker). Along the way we also get Hydra scientists, a pack of Wendigos, and an appearance by The Abomination (Robin Atkin Downes) as well!
There's a nice comfortable feel to the proceedings as Pasdar and Tatasciore have been voicing their respective characters for a number of years and through a number of projects. Pasdar first took on the role of Tony Stark in the 2010 Iron Man anime-style animated series and carried on through Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel's Avengers Assemble, and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Tatasciore has voiced the Green Goliath nearly every time he's been voiced going back to the 2005 video game, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
The script for this project is by Brandon Auman and Henry Gilroy, both of whom have had a hand in writing for Iron Man: Armored Adventures and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., while Auman has also contributed to The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Supervising Director Leo Riley and Supervising Creative Director Eric Radomski both also bring plenty of experience with animation with Radomski especially bringing super hero credentials to the table. In fact, it was Radomski whose design team invented what they call a "2-D wrap" animation technique for this project, where traditional animation is fed into the computer and wrapped around the characters.
It's a strange and unique style that I'm not quite sure I'm fond of.
There's a weird plastic-y look to the characters and while the designs aren't as stylized as say, your standard animated approach — or even previous Marvel animation approaches — the use of shadows and shading is more experimental, lending a more fluid look to some scenes than there would have been otherwise. Facial expressions are a surprisingly strong point in the animation but the typically easy to hit Iron Man armor sometimes feels less realistic and more like something from a side-scrolling video game.
In fact, I was a little surprised that this wasn't affiliated with a video game since an entire section of the closing credits are devoted to a video game director, character and environment artists, and video game consulting services. I'm not sure what's up with that.
When it comes to style, though, the main title design by Andy Suriano is the best part of the package, with its faux-Kirby flair. That should come as no surprise, given that he's been affiliated with The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Sym-Bionic Titan and wrote and directed those one minute Plastic Man shorts back in 2012 that everyone flipped over. Someone needs to stop messing around and give this guy a full-on directing gig.
Because, honestly, despite the solid pedigree, Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United is about as lifeless a piece of work as I've seen in ages. Clocking in at only 71 minutes, the film was still too long. Which makes no sense given the fact that we open with a knock-down, drag-out fight between Hulk and Abomination, follow that with a ton of action involving Iron Man, Hulk, and Zzzax, then throw in a blind Hulk/lame Iron Man fighting a pack of Wendigos in a creepy graveyard for good measure.
Where that graveyard fight comes from is beyond me, but it was probably the most enjoyable part of the actual film. Although it still comes in a distant second to the opening title sequence.
As far as special features go, those are kind of a bust, too — unless you're a fan of those horrendous Marvel Mash-Ups. You know, where they take clips from the horrible Iron Man and Hulk cartoons and redub them with "hilarious" results. There are three featured independently, and then I have no idea how many others are available as "Marvel Inter-Missions" — THEY PLAY WHENEVER YOU PAUSE THE DISC AND ARE A NIGHTMARE.
Luckily, they can be turned off because I honestly wanted to blow my brains out whenever I paused to take a break from the inanity or just wanted to grab a snack or take a leak.
The best feature on the disc is the "Marvel Team-up with Ryan Penagos and Joe Q" short piece. Basically, Marvel's Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada and the Executive Editorial Director at Marvel Digital, Ryan Penagos — or AgentM if you're on Twitter — sit and talk about Marvel's history of team-ups for around 12 minutes. It's a nice casual conversation that was very pleasant. Although if your favorite run of Avengers was before Bendis Disassembled them, you might find yourself biting your tongue or you may start yelling at the TV about the greatest Avengers from back in the day and whether Wolverine and Spider-Man have any place on the team.
I guess when all is said and done, I'm just not the audience for this disc. The writing is okay for younger kids, so there's that. It is family-friendly for sure, but I can't imagine that there's much here to make even the most innocent and inexperienced of young viewers want to come back to it once it's over.
With that said, Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United
goes on sale Tuesday December 3 and retails at $39.99 for the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and $29.99 for the DVD alone. The Blu-ray release includes online codes to unlock a free digital Avengers comic and a free Iron Man MiniMate action figure!
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.