Sunday, April 4, 2010

She-Hulk: Sensational #1 Review

She-Hulk, a.k.a. Jennifer Walters, is one of Marvel's most popular female super heroes, but that currently finds herself without a title. As part of the Women of Marvel celebrations, and because 2010 is also She-Hulk's 30th anniversary, Marvel released this one-shot to celebrate the past, the present and the future of She-Hulk. So what does this sensational special hold within it's covers, and what did I think of it? Hit the jump to see more.

She-Hulk: Sensational #1

She-Hulk: Sensational came out on the very last day of March, so while  I am technically posting this in April, I still consider it part of our Women's Month celebration. This one-shot is divided into three different parts, two new tales and a reprint. I'll be breaking down this review in three parts, focusing in each respective section.

I did want to quickly mention the cover by Gary Frank, though, which shows She-Hulk accidentally ripping off the door off a taxi, while wearing a "business" suit. I guess the joke here is Jennifer Walters accidentally turned into She-Hulk, leaving her with a door into her hand and the "shrunken" clothes. She-Hulk does not look angry, so I don't understand why she would suddenly turn without reason, other than to show off some skin. Gray Frank is a pretty good artist, so the artwork is not bad per se, but I would have preferred a different concept for the cover.

The She-Hulk Story that's a Riff on Christmas Carol
Written by Peter David
Art by Jonboy Meyers

Yes, that is the actual title of this story, and that should be a hint of what to expect. She-Hulk is feeling pretty bummed because of her anniversary, so she ends up getting a visit from three ghosts, from the past, the present and the future. If this sounds played out, then you are right, and the comic knows it too. There is no fourth wall here, with She-Hulk commenting all along the title that it is a stupid idea. The story is a tour through her past, when she was a savage monster as written by Stan Lee (who makes an appearance), to a most recent time, when she was a lawyer during Dan Slott's run (he also makes a cameo appearance) and to a possible future, where she becomes the female version of the Maestro (The Misstro!). The whole issue is full of jokes, both at the expense of She-Hulk as well as the readers, the industry, and the creators. In any other book, it would be too much, but it is perfectly in the spirit of She-Hulk, and it works.

In many ways, this is what people expected of Peter David when he took over the She-Hulk title: fun, character driven stories and a joke/per panel pace. I'm a pretty big fan of David's work, so I might be biased here, but this alone would have been enough to celebrate the anniversary of She-Hulk. The art by Jonboy Meyers shows a great deal of potential, he showcases a very dynamic and clear storytelling, with angular lines and a good eye for expressions. Ironically, the place for most improvement is in the depiction of She-Hulk, who doesn't quite look like herself. Meyers draws her a bit too skinny compared to previous portrayals, but her breasts are (roughly) the size of two large cantaloupes that magically stay up in her spandex. Still, he does a very good job with the art (especially on the likeness of Stan Lee and Dan Slott) and David's script gives him plenty to draw, from the whole Hulk family, to Iron Man, Spider-Man and the aforementioned Misstro.

Ladies' Night
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Iban Coello

A set on circumstances lead to Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and Spider-Woman to work together to bust up an HYDRA operation. This being a team-up story, first we get the obligatory "heroes fight each other" scene, not once but twice, and without any of the tongue in cheek tone from the previous story. Eventually they all realize they are on the same side, and infiltrate in their civilian clothes into a dance club that is just a front for HYDRA. They fight the guy that was behind it all, and they go each to their houses. All in all, it is a very forgettable tale that despite being featured in a celebration for She-Hulk, does not feature a whole lot of the Jade Giantess. Seven pages fly off before She-Hulk even appears on the page, and it feels like her appearance was added in as an after-thought, as Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman get most of the spotlight.

As you probably now, Brian Reed was the main and only writer of the recently canceled Ms. Marvel series, and this feels like a story he never got to tell in that title. Like I mentioned above, She-Hulk's involvement is tenuous at best, and the story would have worked perfectly fine if she hadn't been in there. The story in itself is not bad, and it would have certainly worked as the seeds for the friendship between Carol Danvers and Jessica Drew, but it feels out of place in a She-Hulk title. The art by Iban Coello is very uneven, some panels look amazing and very sharp (like Spider-Woman's first appearance) while others lack details. The most notable aspect is the lack of background in certain scenes and inconsistent facial features when there is not a close-up involved. He does depict the action and fight scenes pretty clearly, and there's a real sense of destruction in it. All in all, it's not a bad effort, but it feels somewhat rushed.

Reprint of Sensational She-Hulk #40
Written by John Byrne
Art by John Byrne

To round out this issue, Marvel chose to reprint an issue from John Byrne's run on The Sensational She-Hulk. Why this particular issue, you ask? This one features a very famous scene, where She-Hulk is jumping rope seemingly in the nude for FIVE pages, only to be revealed that she was wearing a bikini all along. It's a funny scene overall, making fun of the readers for thinking that she was really naked. Sadly, the issue that follows is completely forgettable, featuring many of the staples of She-Hulk titles (bad villains, obscure characters, and car problems) and only the first part of the storyline so we don't really know how the story ends (you can't even buy the trade, as I don't think this series is collected).

I do have to mention that John Byrne, for all the (rightful) crap he gets, draws the most accurate and my favorite version of She-Hulk. She looks like a (green) muscular and athletic woman, but her proportions are still within the normal boundaries (well, if you ignore the fact that she is like seven feet tall). The clothes she wears look, for the most part, like cloth as opposed to a second skin, and while the hair may be a bit crazy at least it doesn't look completely static. Much like in the first story in this book, there is not a fourth wall in sight, as She-Hulk talks to her editor, offers recaps of older stories, and is aware that she is a comic book character. The script is funny but not as much as the first one.

Verdict - Check It. It has everything that a She-Hulk comic needs: jokes, action, 4th wall breaking, and a bit of playful sexiness but the issue is weighed down by some unneeded baggage. Had it just been the first story and a lower price, the rating would have been higher, as the second one was pretty forgettable and the reprint could have been better chosen. As a whole package, it might overload casual readers. Overall, this book is far from perfect, and at at $4.99, I would only recommend it to die hard She-Hulk fans.

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Lucho said...

Well, I think Gary Frank´s is one of the most original cover I´ve seen in years.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

The idea of a She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, Spider-Woman story sounds so good, what it shame it wasn't executed as well.

I'm just not a big enough Shulkie fan to pick this one up.

Klep said...

I should note that when Jen hulks out involuntarily, it's not because of anger but because of fear, so her worried expression on the cover is entirely appropriate. Jen has a lot of insecurities and sees She-Hulk as someone who is pretty much better than her in every way (I'm being glib for brevity's sake here) and uses She-Hulk when she needs to hide.

Nathan Aaron said...

So she's not She-Hulk all the time anymore, eh? She has to "Hulk out." I just remember the Byrne run, and she was always She-Hulk. That is one of my favorite runs of his (and it WAS all about obscure, lame villains. LOL But that made it all the better. In fact, until about a year ago I had NO idea he had returned to the book and did eighteen or so more issues! I'm working to fill in my collection now!)

Klep said...

@Nathan Barring a few instances here and there, she's basically always had control over whether or not she's She-Hulk. The reason she spends so much time as She-Hulk is because she feels more comfortable and secure in that form. Like I said, as just Jen she is very insecure about herself.

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