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I read Marvel by the character. I’m obsessive – I tend to purchase every trade headlined by said character – so I’m understandably picky about which ones I decide to follow. I can’t afford to get into Marvel the way I am with DC, so I stick to guys like Howard the Duck and teams like Nextwave or the Runaways. In fact, based on those preferences, some forum users told me to pick up She-Hulk.
Forum users, thank you.
This trade is among the best modern Marvel trades and one of the best superhero books by a major publisher.
It’s super fun from front cover to back.
Now that I’ve given away my conclusion, let me tell you why. First of all, it’s not a T+A book, as much as the covers might imply (and I have to complain about the covers, sorry. I understand the sales equation, but they don’t represent what’s in the book.)
It’s intelligent, funny, and flat out strange – beautiful to look at, but appropriately cartoony.
She-Hulk, a buxom fem-exploitation-ish offshoot of Hulk, as the name implies, has grown to be her own character since her introduction in 1980. Sure, her original issues had plenty of character building by Marvel house standards of the time (which kind of had to make every super-hero an introspective loser ala Spider-Man), but the brand of angst there wasn’t really doing it for her. The angst here is much better! At least, a lot more tongue in cheek.
She ends up at a superhuman law firm, which results in some amazingly fun storylines. Similar things may have been done before, but not in the Marvel Universe and not this well – Dan Slott does a great job.
While the book builds a winning cast (including one of my favorite characters, Awesome Andy) and overarching plot-lines, each issue stands well on its own.
They run from intriguing who-dun-its with supernatural twists to extremely satisfying legal battles between well known Marvel characters.
It’s a mixed blessing that this was a “minor” book – it allows it a lot of freedom, but don’t expect anything here to have a ripple effect. The status quo of the Marvel U isn’t particularly challenged, it’s just played with.
And because this is a book headlined by a minor Marvel character, look out for plenty of cameos. Luckily, all of them are explained within the story and even a Marvel noob (like me) can happily follow along. There were a few inside jokes that I got by chance and I’m sure there’s a lot more in here for the Marvel aficionado.
It’s one of those books that’s thoroughly enhanced by the shared universe instead of weighed down by it – it’s understandable that there’s no need for a new giant robot character when there are plenty unused from age-old tales.
The story itself nods to the tropes of continuity. Apparently, in the Marvel Universe all comic books are admissible as legal evidence, since they’re licensed publications approved by a government authority (the Comics Code)! Naturally, She-Hulk’s new firm has an entire department devoted to scholarly interpretation of the longboxes.
The art in the book is excellent. Juan Bobillo pencils the first few issues collected here and his lightweight, easygoing style is perfect for introducing the Timely Plaza law firm and its amusing cast of employees and customers. Bobillo’s She-Hulk is curvaceous and strong, but never embarrassingly so – her alter-ego always shows through. It’s no surprise that much of this book is spent with her out of the green and in her lawyer duds.
There’s a switch a little more than halfway through the book to Paul Pelletier, who draws in a more recognizably “superhero” style. The changeover isn’t too rough, thankfully, with the reader quickly accustomed.
All the characters are recognizable and his style works well for these slightly more action packed issues.
While I can’t help preferring Bobillo’s interpretation, Pelletier shows a side of She-Hulk that is unmistakably strong (in character as well as physically.)
I’m happy to report that the entire collection seems to be free of ridiculous butt-focused camera angles or other similar tools of certain unsavory artists.
It’s unfortunate that my fiancee assumed the opposite from the cover, so I hope that my fellow feminist readers will give this one a chance.
It really does showcase a female character who is respected by her peers (male and female alike) and solves problems with a variety of abilities (her intelligence a prominent one among them.)
I could go on and on about this book, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I pointed out ever giggle inducing one-liner or each amusing plotline.
If you’re at all interested in Marvel, Super-heroines, or fun, I highly suggest picking this book up.
For She-Hulk? Yes. For the Marvel Universe? Maybe not, but you’ll be missing out on some of the best it has to offer.
If you’re a stickler for continuity and a completionist, you may want to pick up The Essential Savage She-Hulk and John Byrne’s The Sensational She-Hulk. But it’s really not necessary. Both are fairly different interpretations of the character, and the one here is by far my favorite. It was nice to see the her origins in the Essential volume (and a good price for it) but I think only one of the characters shows up in this particular book. If you’re really interested, you can always go back and read it after this.
I’d go right to the next book, She-Hulk Vol. 2: Superhuman Law and continue through her numbered volumes. They aren’t all amazing (and I’m not sure any are as good as this one) but I happily devoured nine of them in one delightful afternoon. This She-Hulk is at her best when she’s working for the firm and handling humorous situations, and at her worst once crossovers like Secret Invasion start heavily hitting the plot. You’ll be forgiven if your attention starts to waver past Vol. 5, although there are some great moments throughout the entire series.
I’ve also just found out that Slott is starting a run on Spider-Man in November (that’s right now!) which is extremely exciting – his Spidey moments in this book can be ranked among my favorites for the character.