Or – “The Not-Exactly-Calm Before The Long-Overdue-Storm…”

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Hey, it’s a Dan Slott Double-Shot! Can you dig it? No? Alrighty, then, moving on… Of all the people who sided with Tony Stark during Civil War, none surprised me more (not even Mister Fantastic or Tigra) than She-Hulk. Certainly, Jennifer Walters is a lawyer, and perhaps you could make the case that her understanding of the legal realities of the Registration act chose for her, but her whole-hearted acceptance of Tony’s actions, her acceptance of her FORCIBLE DRAFTING into SHIELD to fight her cousins foes (a situation ALSO orchestrated by Stark) make me wonder exactly what’s going on in her emerald cabeza. This issue sheds some light on the subject, while also continuing to show that She-Hulk is a woman without a rudder, and the wind is currently blowing towards “bad ideas…”

she1.jpgPreviously, in the Marvel Universe: several of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe lost a little of their heroic luster when it was revealed that they have been manipulating things behind the scenes since the Kree-Skrull war. The remaining members of this “Illuminati” conspired to send Dr. Robert Bruce Banner (a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk) into space to protect their own interests. In the wake of this incredibly bad decision, the Hulk’s foes have been running rampant and unchecked, with no one of the Hulk’s power level around to stop them. Thus, Tony Stark, the new director of SHIELD, felt it necessary to draft She-Hulk to neutralize the Hulk’s old enemies as part of “Project Achilles,” a super-secret plan whose particulars are still unknown. This dragged Jennifer away from her surrogate family and back into a life with no roots and no consequences. She’s been kicking the snot out of the likes of The Abomination and The Wendigo, but along the way she’s also reverted to her old bed-hopping heavy-partying ways, and actually hit on Wolverine. Ewww…

Awful taste in men aside, though, Jennifer and her Hulkbuster team are on a roll. After a pretty funny aside in the “reference library” of her old law firm (in which the question of why the helicarrier is always shown in a huge two-page spread, wasting valuable pages, is asked), we see Jen, Clay Quatermain, L.M.D. Agent Cheesecake, and special mystical agent Crimson leaping into action again. She-Hulk is concerned that her cousin still hasn’t raised his big green head…

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The “Hulkbusters” remix bears a striking resemblance to “Ghostbusters” as we watch the team enaging The Glob (ironically last seen as an AGENT of SHIELD in “Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos”), the Terrible Toad Men (they certain are), and the U-Foes (about which can be said “U all suck.”) Built up by this rash of successes, the team is on top of their game when they face Zzzax, a relatively minor foe of the Hulk who was defeated by Hawkeye at least once… The big Z is the final piece of the puzzle we need for an entertaining Ray/Pete/Egon referential moment.

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“One in the box! Ready to go! We be fast, and THEY BE SLOW!” It’s okay, the table broke it’s fall… The team returns to the helicarrier, triumphant over yet another dangerous monster, but are greeted with a very sour face by one Sydney Levine, known as The Gaffer, SHIELD’s tech wizard and one of Nick Fury’s most loyal men. Clay asks why he always gives them the “I ate a bug” face,” and Gaff replies that he has no problem with Cheesecake, Crimson, or Clay himself, and aims his stinkeye a couple feet up at Ms. Walters.

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Really, it’s about time somebody pointed out that there’s no more shock value in crashing the helicarrier, and there really hasn’t been since 1985. I find the egregious use of it in Wolverine: Enemy of the State to be the most indefensible, but really, that whole storyline was all about overkill. She-Hulk gives the Gaffer her word that they won’t crash another one on her watch (and where exactly are these 9-mile-long machines falling that nobody in the Marvel Universe is getting hurt? Nitro kills 60 people and the whole world changes, Mark Millar drops 500 tons of machinery to the ground, and there’s no outcry? WTF? How ’bout a little consistency, Marvel?) and Gaffer amusingly replies, “We’ll see.” There’s a man who knows about tempting fate… A minor lackey informs them that the director wants to see the ‘Busters, and a door slides open (in a very Darth Vader fashion, I might add. I can hear the Imperial March in my head during the whole scene) revealing Anakin Stark, but the heavy breathing noise you hear isn’t his respirator, it’s his libido.

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Oh, Jen… I’m sooo disappointed in you. This does, however, raise the question of whether her allegiance with Stark is based partially on their friendship/attraction/booty calls rather than any real affiliation for his side of the argument. Remember, Carol Danvers thinks that her best friend Wonder Man is the second greatest Avenger ever (and, interestingly, Tony Stark ALSO hit on her). Still, they’re both grown-ups, and Jennifer’s long-ago ‘thing’ for Hercules proves that she occasionally has horrible taste in men. Down in the lab, Gaffer asks about the status of the Achilles Project, and finds that some are responding better than others. Responding to WHAT, you ask? We don’t get to find out, as Zzzax is seen riding the current out of his non-EPA-approved ghost-trap and up into the helicarrier’s systems. That… could be bad… Back at Jen’s old job at the law firm, former colleague Mallory Book is madder than a wet hen in an electric fan entreating her boss Mr. Zix to sue the tabloids that keep running pictures of her kissing Awesome Andy…

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Heh. Mr. Zix, unbeknownst to anyone, is actually an alien Recorder, sent to keep She-Hulk under surveillance, and his mysterious masters are very unhappy that she’s off gallivanting with SHIELD. Speaking of gallivanting, a post-coital (EWW!) She-Hulk asks Tony how he ‘gets away with it.’ She’s referring to his multiple-partner sex life, and points out that he’s a “player,” while she gets the label of “skank.” It’s a good point, and Tony tries to point out the double-standard, and the only thing I can think is that I hope her radioactive cells can stave off his Extremis-infected ones. Eww eww EWWWW! I cannot be thinking about Iron Man’s sex life! She-Hulk naked, sure, but NO IRON MAN!!! Just as Tony is about to impart some sort of wisdom, the entire helicarrier shakes, and lasers come out of the walls to shoot at them both. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Tony… but I REALLY think you should get dressed.” Hee. His armor comes running at his mental call, and she points out how unfair it is that he can just snap his fingers, and…

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Tony is evil, but ain’t he a suave bastard? Down in the commissary, the other Hulkbusters feel the thump as well, and Agent Crimson starts to use his magical powers to stop it… when Cheesecake decks him from behind. Whatever has invaded the carrier’s circuitry has hold of her programming as well, and she proceeds to mop up the floor with her teammates. The Green And Gold team isn’t doing any better, as Iron Man unwisely leads them through the hangar bay and is waylaid by a squadron of SHIELD flying cars. Somewhere, Avery Brooks laughs a satisfied laugh, as Nick Fury shows up, and tells Jennifer to follow him. That idea is a Little More Dumb that her usual, or at least it seems that way. ‘Fury’ tells her that Zzzax is in ALL of the computer systems, and she deftly mentions, “Like, let’s say… a certain Nick Fury LMD?” Clever girl! Now, where was your brain when you boinked the Iron Dictator, hmm? The LMD (Life Model Decoy, I suppose I could have explained a couple of paragraphs ago, a lifelike android developed by SHIELD) spins it’s head 180 degrees, and laughs. “It’s more like EVERY Nick Fury LMD!”

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I love the female form as much as anyone, but two consecutive issues where She-Hulk ends up fighting in her underwear concern me. As I’m pretty sure it’s not turning into a ‘good girl’ art book, I’m hoping that this all ties into the “She Hulk Gone Wild” sub-plot and will be referenced, otherwise it’s just fan service. Zzzax has pretty easily managed to pin down Iron Man, She-Hulk, and the Hulkbusters, and starts opening the tubes full of sedated supervillains in the Gaffer’s lab… Back in New York, Mallory arrives at The Bar With No Name, a known villain hangout. She stomps in to confront her former clientele, but finds them to be less than receptive, even calling her ‘Awesome Andrea.’ When Batroc ze Leapair comes on to her, it’s too much for the Two-Gun Kid to bear. Matthew Hawk leaps into action against a horde of two-bit villains (and, puzzlingly, first-stringers The Vulture and Electro) before getting bounced out of the place.

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I like this scene, even though it neuters the end of Punisher War Journal #4, an issue that was a lot of fun in it’s own right. Mallory and Matt’s presence in the book reinforce that She-Hulk will probably rejoin her old firm sooner rather than later, and that we won’t be completely without the wonder that is Slott’s take on Marvel Universe law. Back on the helicarrier, Clay Quatermain finally manages to down Cheesecake, and runs as fast as he can to the lab, expecting to find Sydney and the techies dead, or WORSE! What he finds is a triumphant Gaffer standing over the prone bodies of the U-Foes and Abomination. “It is my pleasure to inform you that Project Achilles has passed it’s first field test!” The plan, apparently, is to implant neural shutdowns in all the villains’ skulls, rendering them useless. Gaffer quickly works to rebuild the Zzzax trap, while She-Hulk holds the head of the last Fury LMD. “You look like crap!” it says, and a crabby Iron Man snaps that it’s just replaying recent LMD files (repeating dialogue from various LMD Fury appearances verbatim) while he laments the loss of twelve million dollars worth of flying cars. Stark hooks himself up to the helm controls, as Clay arrives with the Zzzax trap… Jennifer figures out where Zzzax is headed and captures him seconds before he invades Iron Man’s armor. She saves the day, but still gets chewed out by Gaffer for the destroyed LMD’s. Trying to point out the obvious, she reminds Gaffer that “the important thing…”

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And the duplicity is revealed. Looks like Tony’s late-night big green booty days are coming to an end, hmm? She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, eventually Tony wants to sleep with ALL the female equivalents of his male friends. Sort of casts a new light on the attempt to get Spider-Woman over to their side, doesn’t it? I am glad to see that they’re using Iron Man here, especially given that She-Hulk is currently working for him. It’d seem like a cheat not to. I think that some fecal matter is about to hit the proverbial rotating blades, and not a moment too soon, for me. It’s about time some of Tony’s lies came back to him. Most of what he’s done since 2004 has been two-faced, if not outright illegal, and it’s time someone called him on it.

This is a well-done issue, with tongue firmly in cheek (among other places) and even the ‘Don’t Wanna Think About It’ dalliance at least makes sense between these two characters. Jennifer’s point about double-standards is a good one, and I’m wondering if that was intended to be the point when she slept with Tony. In either case, now that we can see the light at the end of the Agent of SHIELD tunnel (and that we’ve checked in with Mallory & Two-Gun) I’m happier with this issue than with the last one. Paradoxically, though, it’ll get the same grade, an above-average 3 stars out of 5, because though this issue was good, it didn’t give me a chop in the chest and say “Whoo!” The scene with the Gaffer came close, but there wasn’t a big “Hell, YEAH!” moment (at least for me) though I predict one may be coming next issue… Wouldn’t it be nice if she actually knocked some sense into Iron Man again?

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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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