Or – “How To Juggle A Dozen Plots And Make It Look Easy…”

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The petite brunette there in the middle is Jennifer Walters, formerly known as the She-Hulk, proving she can still ‘bring it,’ as The Rock would say. Tom Grice recently took me to task for my adversarial stance during my review of Avengers: The Initiative #3, needling me about my “Dan Slott better bring his A-game” snotty remarks, saying that I was unnecessarily hard on that book. Tom is (say it with me, Spoilerites!) WRONG, Sir! WRONG! My defense is threefold: First, The Initiative is relying on a lot of hoary Army movie bootcamp cliches. Second, I’m not really comfortable with a lot of the characterization, with a wishy-washy Yellowjacket, a whiny Justice, a cocky stone-cold War Machine, and Gauntlet’s overbearing D.I routine. Third, and most importantly, Dan Slott’s She-Hulk has been a delight for several years, and I probably had higher expectations than the book could ever have attained… This issue continues the winning streak, and goes about five places that I NEVER expected.

Previously, on She-Hulk: In the wake of Civil War, Jen Walters gave up her job at the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway to work for SHIELD, fighting the villains She1.jpgleft behind when the Hulk was rocketed away by a coterie of his former friends. In so doing, she provided Tony Stark with information that allowed him to create Project: Achilles, a plan which gave him that ability to shut down the super-powers of those villains, seemingly permanently. She-Hulk also managed to sleep with her teammate Clay Quatermain, Tony Stark himself, and make a play for Wolverine (Ewww!) before a battle with Zzaxx revealed the truth about her cousin’s whereabouts and Iron Man’s involvement therein. In a blind rage, Jennifer confronted him with the truth, and Iron Man quickly (and cockily) tried to take her out, only to find her tougher than he thought. Stark responded by using his Achilles formula to remove her powers, only to have Jennifer inform him that he had just made the worst mistake of his life. With her SHIELD digs gone, Jennifer is forced to crash at the Thing’s old place while she searches for an apartment and deals with the fallout of Iron Man being a schmuck. Worst of all, her temporary building is also home to Mallory Book, her best frenemy from work, currently enjoying a relationship with the Two-Gun Kid…

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For Ms. Book to visit her new client, she has to visit a SHIELD base, and suit up in a full containment rig, as well as being accompanied by a horde of armed agents. Quatermain explains that skin-to-skin contact is a bad idea, as this particular client is a super-villain with mind-control powers… “One last thing… It’s more of a suggestion than a rule. DON’T stare at his head, unless you want to throw up in your haz-mat suit.” Turns out the client is The Leader (in his swollen brained Todd McFarlane glory) and that Mall plans to get him freed of not only the NEW charges, but all charges he’s ever faced. Jennifer tells her that she’s never speaking to her again, but Mallory tells her that’s a shame since she has something for her. Jen thinks it’s a make-up gift, but turns out it’s a subpeona. Mallory is quite the beeeyotch, ain’t she? As the coverage of the trial begins, we see the Leader’s humanoids watching the proceedings, preparing an escape plan. As for the trial itself, it seems like a done deal…

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Even the Leader himself admits that he’s pure evil, but Mallory, as always, has a plan. Her first witness, Doc Samson, explains the origins of the big brained dude. Sam Sterns, a none-to-bright janitor at a chemical research facility, was exposed to a huge vat of gamma-irradiated chemical waste and transformed into a green-skinned mental giant, later to develop mind-control abilities. Her ploy becomes clear when she gets Samson to admit that it’s not really normal for an “average high-school dropout” to try and take over the world after being in an industrial accident. Having planted the seed that Gamma irradiation may CAUSE strange behavior, she calls Jen to the stand…

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After nearly a HALF HOUR, the list of She-Hulk’s conquests is finally complete, and the court reporter is nearly out of breath. Mallory, with calculating malice, asks for the list of the men that Jen was “special friends” with WITHOUT her She-Hulk powers. This list, predictably, takes a little less time to read…

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Oooh, that’s hitting below the belt. Chuck Austen comics should NEVER be referenced, as even Toyfare Magazine has requested that they be stricken forever from continuity. I strongly believe that Juggernaut is the kind of man who would lie about his sexual prowess and partners just to seem like the BMOC, and even if she were mortified by a bad choice, I find Jennifer to be a more believable witness. Either way, Mallory presses her point, insisting that Walters admit the “truth.”

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Oh, dear. This little gambit could actually work, especially given the nature of our legal system. It’s certainly no sillier than temporary insanity, when you think about it. Back home, Jennifer really needs some friend time, but can’t think of any that are around (or not working for Tony Stark or dead or etc) until she remembers August Pugliese. Pug arrives (wearing a very Prince Valiant haircut and beard, which he attributes to “some stuff I’ve gotten into recently”) and she apologizes for hurting his feelings. Pug won’t hold it against her, but points out that they’re “just friends.” I suspect she has broken his heart already, and he’s not going to go there again. Jennifer explains that she doesn’t even know how to start dealing with her situation, and he suggests making a list…

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It’s a very sweet moment, and Pug explains that he didn’t have a crush on She-Hulk, he had a crush on Jennifer even AS She-Hulk. They slow the dance down, and she seems like she might be interested in him, but he again deflects her with “just friends.” He promises to tell her what’s up with him at lunch sometime, and leaves her confused, with a list of traits of her two personalities… At the bottom of the list, for both sides of her personality, is written “never backs down.” She’s no longer She-Hulk, but Jen realizes she can still get the job done…

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As they prepare to enter the courtroom, Clay Quatermain complains that he can’t even use the power inhibitors because Jennifer’s own lawsuit against SHIELD has them held under injunction. Just at that moment, the Leader’s humanoids attack! Even without powers, Jen wades into the creatures alongside the SHIELD team, kicking their heads off with alacrity. The Leader manages to mind-control SHIELD mage Crimson into freeing him, and Big Head McGee takes command of the situation… but NOT in the way anyone expected.

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Suddenly, I wonder if this wasn’t his plan all along… They say his IS a genius, after all. Back at Lieber, Kurtzberg, it has finally been discovered that Stu the comic guy (in charge of the back issues which contain all the legal precedents of the Marvel Universe) has been replaced by shapeshifter Ditto. Ditto explains that he’s been trying to keep an eye on Mr. Zix (secretly an alien Recorder robot), who zapped Stu several issues ago. When they try to figure out why, Mr. Zix himself tells them the whole story: Stu is not dead, he’s just been teleported away since he discovered Zix’s true identity. When asked how to get him back, Mr. Zix is stunned…

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Yay! We may see a Howard appearance! That would be more than just awesome, indeed. This issue was intriguing for me, with courtroom scenes that impressed me by not telegraphing where they were going from the first seconds, and Jen finally realizing that Pug is probably the right one for her. But, sadly, if experience is any judge, it’s probably far too late on that count. Either way, the art is solid with Rick Burchett making me forget that there’s no She-Hulk in the book called She-Hulk. Dan Slott brings it, as always, which makes my bitter disappointment about The Initiative that much harsher… Either way, She-Hulk #19 is a very good effort, ranking 3.5 out of 5 stars. Reports out of Marvel have Slott leaving the book soon, but he seems like he’s ready to wrap up most of his overarching plotline and give us closure, as well as the much-missed Gerber-esque wackiness of Duckworld, and I’m happy to continue with a dose of Marvel that doesn’t involve zombies or Machiavellian maneuvering.

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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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9 Comments

  1. Baal
    July 1, 2007 at 1:30 am — Reply

    I would have given t three and a half stars just for Ben Grimm’s key chain…

  2. July 1, 2007 at 9:12 am — Reply

    I really hope that being sent to Duckworld isn’t the answer to every retcon that Slott has promised us in the Solicitations…

  3. davek
    July 1, 2007 at 7:14 pm — Reply

    “You’re a bad plot idea, and I’m wishing you to Duckworld!”

  4. July 1, 2007 at 10:52 pm — Reply

    That’s… that’s a real good thing you did there, davek. A really GOOD thing… *nervously eyes the door*

  5. Sean Curley
    July 2, 2007 at 12:26 am — Reply

    Does anyone else think the Leader in the last panel of the second-last scan looks suspiciously like Borat?

  6. July 2, 2007 at 8:00 am — Reply

    Sasha Baron Cohen irradiated by Gamma Rays is the scariest thing I’ve ever imagined.

  7. Mark I.
    July 2, 2007 at 10:45 am — Reply

    “Jenqui! I am Leader. I like you. I like sex. Is nice! I fight the American supreme heroman, Hulk. He is very large…very big khram. I also fight against his cousin, She-Is-Also-Hulk. I would very much like to do the sexy time with She-Is-Also-Hulk even though her vajin is green like tumor on foot. I go to court for having too large brain. America find me not guilty by reason of gamma retardation. Great success!”

  8. davek
    July 2, 2007 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    1. Imagine Borat in his little stretch swimsuit.
    2. Imagine Hulk.
    3. Imagine Hulk in said little stretch swimsuit.
    4. Scrub eyes out with lye while horribly screaming.
    5. Repeat.

  9. July 4, 2007 at 3:00 am — Reply

    Wouldn’t Cohen do great as the Leader int he Hulk Movie after next?

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