Or – “Hotwings, Hot Women, Anna Punch Inna Face!

reviewbubble.jpgshe9.jpgWhen Dan Slott relaunched She-Hulk a couple of years ago, I didn’t expect to buy it. It was on my list of “I’ll pick it up off the stands” titles, the ones I used to get when I had a couple of extra bucks. Now, even though “extra bucks” are a thing of the past, I’ve moved She-Hulk to my must-buy list. Why? Because it’s brilliant, crafting an unexpected and interesting story out of a former second-tier girl knockoff and diverse elements of Marvel’s huge continuity tapestry. Where do leftover androids, time-tripping cowboys, celestial judges, super-villains and lawyers (though the last two are often indistinguishable) mix in a happy consomme of brilliant? Nowhere but She-Hulk, baby… Of course, change is in the air for Jen and company, and this issue is one of those “great jumping-on points.” How easy is the leap?

she1.jpgWell, I feel bad for Jenny, but it’s very interesting to watch. As much as I miss the fun and family of the past issues, the characterization and plotting are still there, and still as quirky as ever. The neatness starts with a really spiffy Steranko pop art cover pastiche (a very well-done one, at that), and launches right into the story proper with a caption that says “Weeks Ago,” but doesn’t clearly state whether it takes place before or after the events of Civil War.

We start with an assemblage of Tony Stark’s nearest and dearest, taking down a giant robot in the center of Manhattan. This scene looks familiar, and I seem to remember having seen one like it before, everything up to the point where the Pro-Registration forces drop the ‘bot like a bad habit. What we HAVEN’T seen before is the discussion between Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic, about the events leading up to Civil War.

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What vacuum, you say? Why, the vacuum created when all the villains that only The Hulk was strong enough to fight started realizing that there was no longer a Hulk to stop them. This point is one that a “futurist” like Tony might have seen coming, but, no worries. I mean, after all, it’s a volunteer effort, right? They won’t be conscripting anyone into SHIELD, right?

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Quoth Dr. Evil, “How ’bout NOOOOO?” Once again, we’re given reason to think of Tony Stark as a total jackass, because Shulkie has been dragged in and forced to clean up HIS mess. Supported by the SHIELD Hulkbuster team, led by veteran Agent Clay Quartermain and his second, Agent Cake (What sort of name is Cake, you say? More on her, later), it’s now Jennifer’s job to beat up the villains that only her cousin Brucie could handle before. Case in point: One Emil Blonsky, former superspy, former human being, current holder of the title “Strongest One There Is,” at least while The Hulk is off getting planets named after him. How does the strongest man alive spend his day?

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Watching ice skating at a Horndog’s bar and grill, of course! What else would The Abomination do with his free time? (But didn’t he used to have only TWO toes?) He’s pleasantly sedated by boobies and buffalo sauce, until the schmuckos at SHIELD interrupt his television show to warn the citizens that he could rampage. Ol’ ‘Bommy isn’t going to let this insult go unchecked, as he steps back out into the streets of Reno, revealing the carnage that he’s already wrought. Looking up, he sees what looks like a missile being fired at him, and pooh-poohs the idiots in the helicarrier, thinking he can be hurt by something so common. But it’s not a bomb, it’s something more devastating… a lawyer!

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“Trick or Treat for Unicef.” She’s your worst nightmare, a lawyer with wings. Jenny knocks Emil into next week, but unfortunately, he’s still tougher than Sanskrit Algebra, and knocks right back. As they rampage down main street, the rest of the SHIELDies step in to avoid casualties and keep the populace under control. As looters hit the local Best Buy, an agent steps in, and we meet the sensational character find of 2007!

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Agent Cheesecake. Heh. That’s brilliant. I still miss Awesome Andy, but this is interesting. And what’s a “Nick Fury/James Bond” pastiche without a super-hot woman in heels? Back at the main fight, She-Hulk finds herself out-muscled, but still have speed and skill of her side. When fisticuffs leave her short, Jen grabs a lamp-post (which she quickly dubs her “quarter-ton quarterstaff”), and uses it as a weapon. Abomination gets desperate, and starts chucking cars, but Jennifer’s martial skills allow her to block them all, and psyche him out.

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“The She-Hulk says, open your mouth and eat your roll!” Or something. Unfortunately, the taunts make him mad, and an angry Abomination is a really bad idea. Quickly overwhelmed again, She-Hulk has to call super-psychiatrist Doc Samson for help. Dodging punches as she goes, Shulkie gets the explanation of what gamma rays do, bringing out the inner psychological states of the gamma beings. The Hulk as an expression of rage, Doc’s own powers as an expression of his admiration for heroes… But what does that say about Abomination, whose head puts the “ugh” in ugly? Jen has a suspicion, so she gets in close, puts on her game face and tests her theory.

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Blonsky tears up, and Jennifer takes the opening to hit all his major nerve clusters, leaving a paralyzed, unconscious, and chastened Abomination in the dirt. It’s a rather clever strategy, actually, if a bit cruel. But he’s a rampaging dirtbag who crushes cities for the heck of it, so I’m not terribly hung up on it. When the smashin’s done, Agent Quartermain steps in to compliment her on her good work. She-Hulk thanks him…

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…in a rather vigorous manner. Remind me to compliment her hair sometime. She-Hulk is neither happy nor proud of herself, and laments how she no longer feels grounded in her life. Those of us who’ve followed the book since the beginning know how this behavior is kind of a step back for her, a return to old bad habits. Which begs the question, if gamma rays show your inner psychological state, what does it say about you when it makes you a wanton, giant, super-sexy babe? I think her inner turmoil doesn’t stray too far from where Blonsky’s sits, hmm?

As big changing-of-the-guard issues go, this one was handled very smoothly, covering the bases of Shulkie’s new status quo and situation without getting overly talky or expositionary. The presence of Doc Samson is a good thing, since Jen obviously isn’t happy in her new role, and misses her surrogate family at the law firm of Leiber, Kurtzman, etc. There’s a definite tension there, and I really liked Agent Cheesecake. I don’t think the whole “Agent of SHIELD” bit is meant to be a long-term status quo, but it makes for a clever change of pace. This is a well-done, pretty average issue of She-Hulk, but since the average issue of She-Hulk is better than average, we’ll call it 3.5 stars, and see where the helicarrier takes us.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Brother129
    February 11, 2007 at 7:50 pm — Reply

    Get this guy Slott on Amazing Spider-Man already!

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