Or – “A Change In Focus Is Pretty Much What She-Hulk Does Best…”

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Peter David’s text page in this issue pretty much sums up my thoughts on She-Hulk. Initially, she was created to fulfill a copyright need, to keep anyone from knocking off Marvel’s intellectual property, and her first series was a bit lackluster because of that. Her second book was marked by John Byrne’s specific fourth-wall-breaking take on the character, and when he left, the series floundered and eventually got cancelled. Dan Slott relaunched the character in 2003 with another ground-breaking revamp, casting Jennifer Walters as the main character, and She-Hulk as more of a means to an end. Now, PAD is changing the book again, but the question arises: will the loss of this volume’s original creative team end her book again?

She1.jpgPreviously, on She-Hulk: In an effort to ground her life, Jennifer Walters became an associate at the law firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzburg and Holliway. She was surrounded by a de facto family of fellow weirdos, outcasts, ne’er do wells and lawyers, learned how to fight, got married, hit on Wolverine, became a cosmic judge, defended Starfox, (the skeeviest Avenger of all time) joined the Initiative, fought Iron Man, had her powers stolen, didn’t sleep with Juggernaut, got involved in World War Hulk, regained her powers, and discovered the Holy Grail of Marvel continuity (“Some A-Hole let that one get through!”) before a time-skip jumped us ahead in her personal timeline. This issue starts in New York City with a profile of one of Marvel’s least wanted super-villains: the man called Hi-Lite, who is either a new creation for this issue, or so minor that even *I* have never heard of him…

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Hi-Lite’s target is the New York Museum of Antiquities, and a particular bejeweled golden chalice (thought to the basis for the legend of the Holy Grail [though I believe a ‘real’ Holy Grail has factored in Marvel’s storylines before]) but his night-vision eyes are easily blinded when a security guard turns on the lights. Firing blind, Hi-Lite wings the security man in the arm, but unfortunately for them both, this triggers a cardiac episode.

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“…he went for something more mundane, but more tried-and-true.” Hi-Lite earns a respect point, staying and performing CPR on the fallen rent-a-cop until the police arrive to take the guard to the hospital. Whether Rocky did it to save the man’s life or to keep from facing manslaughter charges is unclear, but his magnanimity ended with his court date, as Hi-Lite skipped bail and disappeared…

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No, you didnt’ miss an issue. Remember how I mentioned the skip forward in time a few paragraphs ago? Whatever happened to make Jen leave WLK&B (Mallory Book replaced Holden Holliway as a senior partner, in case you were wondering…) remains untold at this time, instead giving us another of Marvel’s mystery timeframes. Still, I don’t mind this one, as it doesn’t require me to piece together how the Sentry can be fighting Ultron at the same time he’s comatose at his home, or how Spider-Man is busy running about flailing his arms to save Aunt May and also in a plane crash in Chicago. As she prepares to bring in her target, Jen consults her unseen partner.

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I’m getting a very ‘Stephanie Plum’ vibe from this, but since I’m a Plum fan, I don’t mind too much. Jen approaches the house, remembering how, years ago, bounty hunters could pretty much do whatever they want, including breaking into the perps home to collect their fugitive. Even though this is no longer allowed, she can still walk right in Hi-Lite’s unlocked door and pull her gun on him while he eats his Froot Loops. “Jennifer Walters, FBI!” she yells and he thinks for a moment. “Freeman Bonding Inc?” Heh. Nice one… Jen is somewhat non-plussed by this reaction, cuffing him and explaining that his mother told her where he was hiding out. Hi-Lite is stunned until she points out that he could have cost mom her house in being a schmuck. “Why should she lose her house over YOU?” Hi-Lite agrees, and she starts to take him to her waiting ride…

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With a decisive KRAK, Jennifer neck is shattered, and her lifeless body crumples to the floor in a heap.

I am not kidding…

Seriously…

Jenny’s wide-eyed corpse lies on the carpet, and her killer steps forward, assuring Hi-Lite that he did “what he hadda.” The murderer reveals himself to be Crusher Creel, Rocky’s overprotective older cousin, known to Marvel aficionados by another sobriquet…

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Crusher tells Rocky it’s going to be okay, even scoring a continuity point by remembering that Creel used to box under his cousin’s name (also the name of one of the Challengers of the Unknown) as the cousins decide to run again. Crusher steps out of the house, only to see Jen’s shiny new RV, just begging to be stolen. ‘Sorby has a strange, one-sided conversation with himself (“You’re right, it might have some kinda locator on it…”) before deciding that they can get out of down and ditch the ride, keeping the feds off their tail and keeping them from discovering Jennifer’s body. He reaches for the door, and my mind is officially blown…

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KRAK-A-DOOOOM, anyone? She-Hulk immediately starts hammering him within an inch of his life, but every shot allows him to absorb some of her own invulnerability. “How the hell are you alive again?” roars Creel. “I know guys like us come back from the dead all the time, but C’MON? Ninety seconds? That’s just making God look bad!” Heh. I love that line so much I’d like to shack up with it… Absorbing Man gets the upper hand, and steps into the street to smash Shulkie, but instead, gets hit by a bus. That’s pretty awesome, really. Unfortunately, it allows him to turn himself to steel again, and faces down the Gamma Girl once more, while cousin Rocky watches in horror. Speaking of horror (or at least horror movies…)

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…well, that was unexpected. Outside, She-Hulk manages to wedge Absorbing Man’s arms behind his back, wrenching his metal form out of shape so he can’t escape, when she suddenly feels something crawling in her ear. Creel laughs maniacally, as She-Hulk screams, and suddenly both his one-sided conversation and his references to “the little woman” start to come together.

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We fade to black (if a fistinnaface can be called a “fade”) with that, leaving us with some tantalizing questions, primarily: WHAT THE HELL??? Given that last issue we saw the Jennifer Walters of Earth-A, I wonder if one of these She-Hulks is HER, but then again, having two of the same character might be just a little bit confusing to the casual reader (although I wonder if comics even HAVE casual readers anymore…) Either way, I’m looking forward to next month, and hopefully these mysteries will actually unfold for us rather than being used as a hook to pull 3 dollars out of my wallet every month.

Either way, it’s a nicely done issue, one of those “great jumpin-on points” you hear trumpeted in Previews every month, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Peter David’s script is nicely done, giving us tons of real character out of a couple of minor supervillains, economically sketching out what we need to know about Jen’s new status quo, setting up a couple of big reveals (one of which was a nice “Hell, YEAH!” moment) but still maintaining the charm that I expect from this book every month. The art (by Shawn Moll, someone I’m unfamiliar with) is very well done, reminding me of Gary Frank in some places, and giving She-Hulk a believably powerful but still feminine body. It’s the total package (the book, not She-Hulk’s body) and easily worth 3.5 out of 5 stars…

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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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7 Comments

  1. October 24, 2007 at 12:20 pm — Reply

    Oh Hell Yes…intrigue, intrigue, INTRIGUE!

    Though I’m guessing it’s just jen of Earth-A. How she can remain alive after a neck-cracking I can’t guess. Hmm…unless Jen just hired a Skrull to impersnate her. That would explain the ‘Turn Green’ part.

  2. Sanlear
    October 24, 2007 at 12:54 pm — Reply

    Perhaps the Jen with the snapped neck is a Life Model Decoy the real She-Hulk got her hands on from her time as a Shield lackey.

  3. Igor
    October 24, 2007 at 4:54 pm — Reply

    Or its Ditto

  4. October 24, 2007 at 5:10 pm — Reply

    I just realised…you didn’t keep your promise with heading the review of “Cap #31” with the red Skull screaming “CAN YOU DIG IIIT!?!”

    Not that I mind, it’s your website.

  5. Mark I.
    October 24, 2007 at 6:10 pm — Reply

    Yeah, maybe that’s an Agent Cheesecake variant. Although the reaction of the kitty indicates “strange living thing,” so a Skrull defector isn’t out of the question. Either way, the Absorbing Man is a d***. It’s ALWAYS the Thor thugs, isn’t it? You need a cheap guest villain with muscle who won’t affect anything long term? Call a Thor Thug! From Crusher to the Wrecking Crew, they never fail! They never succeed, either, but…

  6. Tremaine
    October 25, 2007 at 9:35 am — Reply

    W…T…F… I’ve been following She-Hulk for 12 issues and I STILL cant understand that!

  7. October 25, 2007 at 11:09 am — Reply

    Hmmm…seems some interestign changes have been made…preview art originally looked liek this…

    http://www.newsarama.com/marvelnew/she_hulk/22/SHEHULK022015_col.jpg

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