John Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk were some of the first comics I got into as a burgeoning fan-girl. I actually made a Jennifer Walters costume when I was in 8th grade (complete with lawyer-riffic suit and gobs of green make-up). She’s been a constant source of Marvel-licious fun for me as a heroine who can do whatever she wants in life and chooses to do good in the most adventurous sense as well as the most mundane of senses as well. I mean, Daredevil’s a super-hero lawyer, but it’s a secret identity, it’s his chance to work the law both in front of and behind the scenes. She-Hulk just seemed to cut all that and get to the nitty-gritty. As Bruce Banner was wracked with guilt and torture over his transformations, Jennifer Walters embraced them and made the best of everything. Even Geoff Johns took a moment to explain her ‘gamma expression’, to coin a term; that while Bruce’s affliction worked off of anger, Jennifer’s worked off of self-image.
Dan Slott, despite a shaky middle story arc with Starfox, found the heart of the character, the humor and the humanity, so to speak and wrote a fantastic run of books that I was proud to give out to customers looking for a strong, self-confident and honestly fun super-heroine. Let’s face it, none of us could be Wonder Woman but, like a lot of Marvel characters, She-Hulk’s power really does come from within (plus a heapin’ helping of circumstance). Would any of us rise to the challenge after being shot at and receiving a blood transfusion from one of the most dangerous men on the planet? Let’s read She-Hulk and find out.
So, what’s the gamma gal up to now?
With the change of artist and writer, Dan Slott’s era on the book has come and officially gone. Before he moved on to the Dream Team on Brand New Day (which we’ll get to read, some day, we swear…), I think Mr. Slott wrapped up his tenure on the book quite well and left things open and ready for a new writer to take up the character. And what a choice! Peter David, a man who brought us some serious moments of pathos and other laugh out loud and startle your friends gags, not to mention THE run on the Incredible Hulk… why he just seems like the logical choice.
Now, thanks to an old interview with the mothership, we know that Mr. David got the book ‘sight unseen’, that is to say that he had no idea about the final outcome of both World War Hulk and Mr. Slott’s final issues.
PAD: I know some very basic aspects of what her status quo will be, but none of the details or story elements. Indeed, that made it slightly problematic for my first issue. I couldn’t just flow organically out of the previous issue because at the point at which I wrote it, there were no scripts for the issues right before it (or if there were, I sure didn’t have them.)
We also know that he wrote his first issue She-Hulk right after ending Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, a book that left the main character in a very dark place, setting things up for the dark and drastic actions of One More Day. Mr. David also said in this interview that he didn’t want to continue the themes and tone that Dan Slott had done rather well with.
PAD: I look at it this way: Dan did such a fantastic job with stories involving Jen as a lawyer that if I try to imitate what he did, it’s going to come across as watered down Dan Slott stories. I simply can’t do it better than he did.
A modest statement if ever there was one, and probably true. Every writer is going to bring something different to the table, no matter how the readers might interpret similarities to their style, because anything else wouldn’t be writing. It’d be copying.
PAD: Let me put it this way: Considering my track record, everyone is assuming that I’m going to play up the humor aspects. Maybe even go back to the Fourth wall breaking stuff that John did. So if everyone is going on that assumption, then naturally my impulse is to go in the opposite direction. Not grim and gritty per se, but not the laugh riot that people are expecting.
And now, after seeing the first two issues of Mr. David’s run (which honestly should be enough time for a writer of Mr. David’s character to hook a reader and set the tone of what’s to come), I think the man delivered. It’s not a laugh riot in the slightest and every single page keeps you guess as to what just happened in the pages before it. It’s a complete departure from the tone we’ve been used to and really… is that such a good thing?
Marvel these days does a lot ot shake things up, shock and surprise you and change everything you know about the characters you’ve picked up issue after issue. On one hand, it’s great for new readers, fresh outlooks and challenges the readers to guess what in the world could possibly happen next. And She-Hulk’s prime change material; sort of a fringe character in the Marvel Universe, she’s been guest-starring in a few books, but we’re not exactly talking about a movie deal or any major publicity.
But at the same time, I have to wonder if it isn’t broken, why are we fixing it? The Slott stories had a sold core of faithful readers and was just as accessible to new readers without a new take on the book. Her cocky self-assuredness got her in trouble a lot of the time, but it actually separated her from a lot of her super-ilk; Ms. Marvel spends issues doubting herself and her place in the heroic world, Spider-Woman’s a mess of insecurity and poor, poor Peter Parker, but here’s She-Hulk, ready to take on what comes, leaving the angst for later and heaven forbid, enjoying herself most of the time! Not so much now, thanks to the influence of event books and a new direction, a direction I’m not sure should have been taken. Where we should have an idea of where the book is going, two issues leave us completely turned around; we know she’s a bounty hunter, she’s got a Skrull gal-pal and she seems entirely disenfranchised from the The Whole Hero Thing (soon to be a story arc in and of itself) and the whys and hows will be sorted out when the time comes. And so we add it to the list of books to understand better when the story is complete or the trade comes out and find ourselves barely able to criticize the the story so far because we really haven’t seen anything yet.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I thought I knew this character. That Marvel comics in general have that level of the common man sewn into them with loving care and really, it what made them stand out for years from the Distinguished Competition. Characters who aren’t considered ‘core characters’ or ‘A-Listers’ (debate that as you will) actually need this more than ever; empathizing with the little guy (or in this case, the green gal) is what draws us in and lures us to the tune of the story. With something this surprising every page let alone issue, it’s a lot harder to get that sense of what we knew before. From the interview:
PAD: She-Hulk has the potential to be our Wonder Woman. A powerful female with a strong moral center and a determination to do what’s right. She’s also a unique combination of brains and brawn. The ideal She-Hulk story is one that plays on both aspects of her make-up, the intelligence combined with her strength.
I just hope he remembers to bring that confidence to the fore again, that love for what she does that came out in Byrne’s run, Slott’s run, her Fantastic Four issues and her Avengers issues and honestly made She-Hulk the woman she is today.