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She-Hulk: Single Green Female

There are characters in comic books that everyone loves and everyone knows. They are our favorites. They are the characters that become archetypal and are so well known that future characters in comic books are based on them. These are your Batmans, Supermans, Spider-Mans, etc.

And then you have your B-List.

The B-List superhero is one that may have always been around in one form or another: he or she may have appeared in a more famous superhero’s comic book, or perhaps was once a villain in a story. They also might have been on the roster of a superhero team. Whatever their origins, they are characters that, while possibly interesting, are not interesting enough carry their own title.

Recently, there has been a trend that has sprung up in comics of taking a B-List character and giving them their own title. This has had mixed results: in cases like The Question from DC and Emma Frost from Marvel, results have been somewhat favorable as decent writing and interesting artwork (in The Question’s case) follow the characters. For books like Richard Dragon, well, who really cares?

She-Hulk is yet another example of a B-List character finally getting her shot (or rather, her fourth, I think) at being the titular character in a comic book, and is done with certain comedic sensibility.

There is Jen Walters, UCLA law school graduate and impressive litigator. Then there is the She-Hulk, a green skinned, super-strong, slightly invulnerable Avenger with the beauty of a Greek goddess. Surprisingly enough, they are one and the same. She-Hulk rarely reverts to her Jen-self voluntarily, preferring to stay the vision in green that she is, until her superheroing costs her a job at a prestigious law firm, and her abuse of Avenger privileges annoys Jarvis too much and gets her booted out of the mansion.

All seems hopelessly melancholy for poor She-Hulk, until a job offer from a unique firm catches her interest. The catch is, they want Jen Walters, not She-Hulk. Now a balance must be struck between her desire to be She-Hulk and her life as Jen, all while some of the strangest cases in the Marvel universe cross her desk: from a man seeking damages for accidentally being made into a superhero, to a libel suit against J. Jonah Jameson. Grab your briefcases, true believers, because it’s the Marvel Universe on trial.

I was surprised that I actually liked this title, because I was expecting little in way entertainment, but the story that Dan (Arkham Asylum: Living Hell ) Slott has put together is quite amusing. I’ve heard the book referred to as the Marvel Universe answer to Ally McBeal, but I found that show vapid and horribly insulting to all genders, so I will stay away from that comparison. I will instead say that Slott brings law into the Marvel universe extremely well, with a twist involving “legal documents” concerning superheroes that is both logical and funny for any avid comic collector. Slott also has good hand with dialogue, as every character has some distinctive lexical characteristics. It was also rather fun to see Slott write for Spider-Man, who makes a brief appearance, as he manages to hit the webslinger’s quip-tastic discourse right on the nose.

Also of note is the way Slott manages to coat some larger issues with his comedy, especially themes concerning the nature of celebrity and of empowerment. She-Hulk is a party girl that enjoys being the center of attention, so it is chore for her to change back into Jen Walters, and at times it seems to border on an addiction: her need to be She-Hulk. Slott plays with the idea throughout the book, never making any judgments about the dilemma of being She-Hulk or Jen, but allowing it play itself out within the narrative. It’s not too subtle, but it’s not blatant, and it mixes with the comedy stylings nicely. Also, the question of whether empowerment is something that is given to you by being dipped in vat of chemicals, or something one takes by itself is brought to the forefront. The extra dimensions that Slott brings to a book that could have been nothing but courtroom comedy gives that narrative a sharp intelligence to go with its acute humor.

The artwork has me split, because halfway through the collection the artwork changes, which has me annoyed at the way that a modern comic book can’t seem to keep the same art team for more than four issues, unless you’re Green Arrow. The initial artwork from Juan Bobillo (Mekanix, Zachary Holmes) is unique and interesting. He has great character design that is clearly his own: detailed and with stylistic touches that mark the art as his, which is hard to do in a book featuring characters that are already established and famous, like Captain America. His body proportions for She-Hulk shift slightly each time he draws her, looking stronger when more muscle is required and less so when it’s party or court time. I could chalk it up to a bad artistic eye, but everyone else stays in correct form, so it’s intentional and it works. He has a great touch with emotion, body langue, and facial expression, but he doesn’t make the book look like an over exaggerated cartoon. Bobillo uses small touches to denote emotional change and it’s subtle nature matches the book, as it contrasts the more obvious comedy.

Speaking of comedy, Bobillo also has great framing techniques, because I’ve rarely seen a comic that visually set-up for every joke it made. Perspective shots, background wipes, and kinetic panels all work so well in his art. It’s great stuff. Which makes it such a disappointment when the artwork shifts into the very predictable art of Paul Pelletier, because his work on the second half of the collection holds nothing even resembling a candle to Bobillo. His work is serviceable at best, but uninteresting. Scenes that could be helped by better pacing or kinetic expression are just bland. It’s artwork similar to Alan Davis in style, but not in content.

It’s a good collection, and if Bobillo had stayed on (he returned in a later arc - Derek), I would call it great. Either way, it is worth the $14.99 Marvel is asking. It gives us hope that someday all of our favorite B-List heroes and villains will be interesting enough to have their own title. Some sweet day, I will hold a copy of The Sensational Stilt-Man in my hands. Some sweet day.

She-Hulk: Single Green Female (Book 1)

Robert Sparling

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