As recently as a couple months ago I was very up to date on the goings-on in the various comic book universes. Particularly Marvel comics, as that is my jam. Then life got in the way and I fell off once again (a common theme in my adult comic-reading life). The problem is always that I take on too much – it is nearly impossible to read all of the books about the X-Men that come out in a given month. But I can probably keep up with one or two (or twenty) monthly titles if I put in the effort. How convenient then, that one of the series I have been anticipating debuted today. Ladies and gentlemen, meet She-Hulk.
Jennifer Walters was a normal everyday lawyer until she received a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (maybe you’ve heard of him). Jennifer received a nice dose of Bruce’s gamma irradiation along with the red stuff, but she is actually able to control herself post-greenification. She-Hulk debuted in February 1980, and in the ensuing 34 years she has been the star of a number of series penned by some very accomplished writers, including John Byrne and Dan Slott.
Shulkie’s latest series, appropriately titled She-Hulk, is written by Charles Soule, with art by Javier Pulido, colors by Muntsa Vicente, letters by Clayton Cowles, and a fantastic cover by Kevin Wada. The premiere issue is light on superheroics; aside from a few feats of amazing strength She-Hulk spends the issue lawyering her way through a widow’s case against Iron Man himself – Tony Stark. Fun legal intrigue has always been a staple of the character, and it is great to see it as such a big part of this first issue. It is important that the creators establish that Jennifer is smart and resourceful, as well as strong and indestructible.
The book is part of the second wave of an initiative known as Marvel Now, which began as a way to attract new readers in the wake of the huge success of 2012’s The Avengers. Many of the line’s biggest properties were relaunched with all new creators in an effort to draw equal attention. The latest round of number 1 issues seems to be taking on more riskier properties, rather than one that are guaranteed to sell like Iron Man or Captain America. In fact, a surprising number of these titles are based on female characters (including Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Elektra, Ms. Marvel, and our very own She-Hulk), which are titles that tend not to sell as well to the mostly-male comic audience. It is a testament to Marvel’s willingness to try new things, which their competition is not as quick to do.
Charles Soule does a great job making this a unique book that might draw some fresh eyes. Despite several Avengers name-checks, this issue really has nothing to do with the larger machinations of the Marvel Universe. Much like Matt Fraction’s highly acclaimed Hawkeye series, She-Hulk is more interested in Jennifer’s activities outside of the tights (she wears suits instead you pervs). Soule has proven over the last year to be a strong new voice in mainstream comics, providing a breath of fresh air to books like Thunderbolts and Swamp Thing. Soule doesn’t write the book as sharply or humorously as Slott did several years back, but he trades that feel for something more classic.
That retro-ness is helped immensely by Javier Pulido’s art. Pulido has been working in the industry for years, but he really gained notice after a couple runs on The Amazing Spider-Man, where he brought back the Steve Ditko vibe that birthed the book back in the ’60s. Pulido brings that same approach to She-Hulk. Aside from a reference or two in the script, the book is nigh indistinguishable from something published in the silver/bronze age. And that’s a good thing. Photo-realism is such a huge part of comics these days; it is always refreshing to see a Pulido or a Marcos Martin or a Darwyn Cooke shaking things up with more cartoon-y styles. Vicente’s vibrant colors go a long way to bridge the gap between Pulido’s throwback art and Soule’s more contemporary writing.
The finished product provides a great character study. She-Hulk has always been a strong female character starring in funny, meta books. The character often rides the line of exploitation (it is usually for comedic purposes, but still). The creators of this new series completely side-step this. She-Hulk is never sexualized in this issue (save for a couple modest rips in her clothing); she is sensibly dressed, and Pulido draws her from respectful (and physically realistic poses). “Girl power” is not really a theme of the book, but that may have come off as disingenuous anyway. Instead we get an entertaining tale starring a positive female role model doing all of the things (and more) that her male contemporaries are capable of. I cannot speak to what the series will become in the coming months, but for now Soule and Pulido are making a comic that everyone can and should read.