Monday, February 6, 2017

Dan Slott's She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters is comfortable in her own skin - or not

"The moment I become She-Hulk I become something better!" -- Jennifer Walters 

Writer Dan Slott turns the premise of being comfortable in one's skin completely around during his 2004-'05 run on SHE-HULK.

And in doing so, fans discover a She-Hulk who isn't as confident as she lets on -- at least when she's not a superhero. In Volume 1 of the trade paperback collection, defense attorney Jennifer Walters is comfortable and confident only as She-Hulk. But the compulsive big, green gal doesn't make the best decisions -- which is why her original law firm fires her and the Avengers make her move out of Avengers Mansion.

Walters relies on her intelligence and knowledge of the law only after she's hired by the Superhuman Law Offices of GLK&H. This is where she can't depend on being a superhero and/or her status as an Avenger and celebrity to succeed. Her boss hires Walters on her promise she only can work in the office and courtroom in her everyday form.

Through all the stories, we get more and more insight into what makes She-Hulk and Walters click. She-Hulk is a: Party girl, insecure, sometimes clueless, a fighter, force of nature, loyal friend, outgoing, a wisecracker, faithful teammate (in the Avengers and especially the Fantastic Four) and grateful for Hawkeye's longtime support and friendship. Sometimes she's all or many of those at once.

Slott adds depth to a character about who, I'd felt "meh" for years.

Now I see She-Hulk as a much more developed superhero with much more depth than the strong bimbo I knew. Or assumed she was. (Writer-artist John Byrne's must-read FANTASTIC FOUR run is what helped me get to know She-Hulk; before reading those issues just a few years ago, she had irritated me for no other reason than she replaced Ben Grimm on the team.)

Walters/She-Hulk is a real sweetie, someone you want in your corner and be the kind of superhero friend you'd like to have.

Slott rounds out her deeper-than-expected personality most poignantly in SHE-HULK No. 100 in which she's put on trial with the possibility of being erased from history for messing with timeline. That's what the gentle giant must endure, all for attempting to get word to Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) about his pending death.

In addition, Slott delivers an origin for another strong-woman with little depth to her, the villainess Titania. Given what she's gone through, there's a legitimate reason for her obsession over defeating She-Hulk. That three-part story is one of the better storylines in the collection. It's a microsm of the being-comfortable-with-yourself theme.

And guess what? Slott does one better by slyly indicting fans who complain or nit-pick about minor continuity flaws; these are the fans who know too much comic-book history for their own good and point out any minor flaw in story when it comes to continuity issues. Walters recruits such fans at a comic book shop near where Titania is causing all kinds of havoc (ever since she was bonded with the Infinity gem which gives her primordial power) so she can find a logical way to defeat her without ever transforming into She-Hulk.

Slott even manages to slip in a zinger about trade paperbacks once the issues in the long boxes stored at GLK&H are destroyed. The law firm considers the classic comics published before 2002 legal documents since they bear the seal from the Comics Code of America. Clever, huh?!

Reading this She-Hulk trade helped me understand why she went on a rampage and ripped apart Vision in AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED. And why I've heard fans say She-Hulk might be the strongest character in the Marvel Universe -- or at least she was, at one point. I also got clued in on why Doc Samson created a gamma-changer for Walters to wear -- something I have read in a back issue or so.

See, it all ties into Walters reconciling herself with She-Hulk -- and what each persona brings to the table. I've still got no clue why she chose Western lawyer Matt Hawk (aka Two-Gun Kid) from a time cell into modern continuity, when she could have chosen any hero, but I guess not everything can be explained.

Grades:
Story: B-
Juan Bobillo's art: C- (too much of an independent comic style for my tastes)
Paul Pelletier's art: B (very Alan Davis-esque)
various cover art: A 

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