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She-Hulk #4
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Juan Bobillo

She-Hulk may be one of the best damn superhero books being made today.

Weren’t expecting that, were you? I know I sure as hell wasn’t.

Oh, there was never any point where I didn’t understand She-Hulk was more than a female version of the Big Green (a recent talk with a non-comic reading female friend brought to light that the name sorta connotes a musclebound man-hating lesbian), but the idea of a sassy, sexy, strong-girl superhero coping with life in a man’s world… Well, let’s just say it never hooked me.

I guess a fundamental problem I found with the character was the lack of an alter ego. It’s kind of a minor point, these days, when you have so many heroes who don’t lead dual lives and never use an alias, but here you had a character that started out as a normal woman, hulked-out, and never looked back. She got all the benefits of being like Hulk but (eventually) none of the baggage of being an id given form.

And, well, that’s kinda boring.

You’re super strong, eh? Living out all your fantasies without consequence? Really? No, that’s great. Good for you. No, really, that’s… that’s nice.

‘Cause, let’s face it, what is Hulk without Bruce Banner? What is Batman without Bruce Wayne? What is Superman without Clark Kent? What is Blue Beetle without Ted Kord?

Thankfully, Dan Slott must’ve been asking himself the same question when writing this re-launch, because we’ve seen more of Jen Walters (rather than She-Hulk) in these four issues than I remember seeing in everything I’ve read before.

The story this month is one that’s been a long time coming: Pug, Jen’s new buddy at the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtberg, & Holliway, has her hook him up with Spider-man so they can sue the pants off J. Jonah Jameson for libel. As it turns out, Pug also wants to ask her out on a date. Only problem is he wants to ask Jen, not She-Hulk.

Oh, and then there’s the other problem. You know; the one where publicly announcing the exact time and place Spidey and J. Jonah Jameson will be in the same room attracts the attention of a vengeful Scorpion and Alistair Smythe.

I don’t know whether it’s a purely stylistic choice or a constant fear of cancellation, but She-Hulk’s strongly episodic plotting makes it a book I look forward to reading every month. There’s always a bit of mystery and some running threads to keep you coming back for more, but it’s amazing how refreshing it is to read a superhero book that gives you a complete story.

No crossovers, no ‘to be continued’s, and no three month waits between cliffhangers (sadly, it looks like this may be coming to an end with a two issue arc starting up next month).

And, despite all the talk of how Emma Frost is supposed to be a Marvel comic for girls, I have to say this book is far better suited to that task. She-Hulk is what many women wish they could be: strong, independent, carefree, sexy, intelligent, famous, and desired by millions. It’s a power-fantasy on par with Captain Marvel (DC’s, not Marvel’s). One minute, you’re a boring average person who just happens to fit in the comic’s main audience demographic. The next, you’re everything you ever wanted to be but could never have.

Yet in She-Hulk, all the people who matter don’t want the voluptuous, green, amazon super-vixen. They want Jen Walters. They want the serious-minded, mature, dependable young woman; not the party girl. Honestly, who really wants the party girl when the party’s over?

Okay, maybe that’s not the best question to ask a bunch of fanboys…

Still, Dan Slott’s hit the nail on the head, here. His scripts are wordy as hell, but the pacing is smooth and easy. The feel of the book is like some amalgam of Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four and Brian Michael Bendis’ The Pulse. At times INSANELY steeped in the lore of the Marvel Universe but always entertaining and guaranteed to make you laugh.

Seeing Slott’s prior credits on Batman Adventures, JLA Adventures, and the Ren and Stimpy books gives a bit of insight as to where the man’s coming from, but when you see Arkham Asylum: Living Hell up there, as well, you know we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg.

Juan Bobillo’s artwork has been both praised and derided, but I can’t really say much good or bad about it. The European flavor of it takes some getting used to, but there are still times when the anatomy seems a bit off. Jen’s face sometimes looks disproportionate to her head, but that really just seems to happen when she’s hulked out.

Then there’s his decision to create the least form-fitting Spidey costume I’ve seen in quite a while. I can respect it for the way it harkens to the Ditko era and attempts to put a less “guy in tights” spin on things, but, admittedly, Spidey’s never looked more like a guy in pajamas than he does here.

But, starting next issue, for good or bad, we get to see a more conventional take from Paul Pelletier (Negation). Hopefully that decision will boost sales some because rumor has been floating around that Marvel’s considering canceling the book or possibily re-vamping it for a younger audience.

Yeah, I know; it sounds like yet another wonderful revelation from the House of Ideas. Let’s just latch on to the idea that it’s a crazy rumor for a while, though, ‘k?


Jason Schachat

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