Jennifer Walters has to face her worst nightmare: Another Hulk, easily as powerful as herself. With little to no control of her own Hulkitude, is this the end of She-Hulk? Your Major Spoilers review of She-Hulk #161 awaits!
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Jahnoy Lindsay
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Editor: Christina Harrington
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in She-Hulk: “After her Hulk persona rampaged out of control outside a county courthouse, Jen has been getting increasingly worried about her gray alter ego. But trying to regain control of her transformation is difficult work — made all the worse by the fact that Jen has been kidnapped by the Leader and an obsessed fan he’s been manipulating named Robyn. And now The Leader’s plan has come to fruition — Jen faces the Hulk-like monster that Robyn’s been transformed into, with one directive: kill or be killed.”
THE MANIPULATIONS OF THE LEADER
As the issue opens, we get a flashback to the methods that The Leader used to manipulate an innocent woman named Robyn into a monster capable of (and very intent on) killing Jennifer Walters, The Hulk. Unfortunately, Jen is fighting her Hulked-out other self, so when we flash forward to the relative present, Robyn’s a Hulk, and Jen is not. Their fight is an unbalanced affair, made worse by Jennifer’s insistence on not turning gray and ragey, but all her strength proves to be in vain when the transformation happens anyway. While her other self prepares to smash every bone in Robyn’s body, Jennifer finds herself in a strange mindscape, where Robyn’s inner-self awaits. It’s not clear whether this is somehow the Leader’s doing, a side-effect of the transformation, or something else entirely, but Jennifer finds the strength to protect Robyn, and by the end of the issue, is ready to protect herself.
MAN, WHAT AN UGLY COVER
I’ve been a fan of She-Hulk since her days in the Fantastic Four (because I”m @&$ing old), but this series hasn’t really grabbed me the way that previous solo She-Hulk books have. I was bugged by the idiosyncratic naming (it was just “Hulk” until the Legacy renumbering kicked in), I was bugged by the premise of a gray, out-of-control She-Hulk, and frankly, I’ve been put off by how unpleasant I find the computer-rendered covers. This issue is no exception, as the interior art is quite lovely, with tons of nuance and expression, but I might not have ever opened it to find out based on the unpleasant and overly busy cover. For all the good parts of this issue, there never seems to be a real sense of jeopardy for Jennifer Walters, and the battle between Hulks is weirdly one-sided, to the point where much of it isn’t even shown on panel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
I get that it’s about the battle inside, and I love the use of Patsy Walker in these pages. I even like the reveal in the last couple of pages, giving us a hint as to where things are going, but much of the issue seems to labor without a clear purpose. Even the threat of The Leader doesn’t feel particularly threatening, leaving She-Hulk #161 a bit disappointing, even with the positive aspects of story and Jennifer’s character in these pages, leaving us with a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. I hope that this book gets a chance to hit its stride before the shadow of cancellation falls, and that Jennifer Walters lands on her feet once it does…