She-Hulk, vols. 1-2

Tuesday, June 23, 2015  By  Thomas Maluck     No comments

shehulkSuperhero comics have to go a long way to impress me, and it’s not just because this site is called No Flying No Tights. The dramas and conflicts of superheroes are oftentimes so rote and formulaic that they can blend together over time, failing to make any impression aside from “this is pretty artwork with a famous lead character.” Thank goodness for Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk. Collected in two trade paperbacks, it is one of the strongest 12-issue runs in recent memory, despite some negligible shortcomings—its joyful combination of clever twists and clear, colorful action ought to infect more comics after its end.

Professional lawyer Jennifer Walters, a.k.a. She-Hulk, is a far cry from her cousin Bruce Banner. To start, she retains her full intelligence while she’s hulked out, which leads to some absurdly entertaining courtroom compositions. Bruce is always monstrous in a torn shirt and stretchy pants, but Jennifer makes being green look easy in her smart suits. After she breaks up with the old boys club at her law firm, she starts over on her own, assisted by dutiful paralegal Angie Huang and her pet monkey Hei Hei. Each case puts Jennifer in contact with a different corner of the Marvel universe, from a patent case against Tony Stark/Iron Man to defending Steve Rogers/Captain America from a 90-year-old murder charge, and these are among the most ordinary of her cases.

Soule, himself a practicing lawyer, brings an analytic eye to Marvel, lending legitimacy to its linked franchises while finding an entertaining spin for each legal showdown. For example, Stark’s lawyer—nicknamed “Legal”—is known for being perfectly logical and extremely verbose. His challenges to Jennifer are represented over the course of several speech bubbles that dominate the page, a visual throwdown that all but contains Jennifer in her corner. For Jennifer, action and adventure are ways to unwind after dealing with the intellectual frustrations of practicing law. It is to Soule’s credit that the legal components of each story are not simply waved to verdict; instead, we see how Jennifer and Angie earn their victories.

Javier Pulido’s art is magnificent throughout this series. Every panel is used efficiently, whether it be relaying a conversation, wordlessly conveying interactions in a bar, or bringing the full weight and force of She-Hulk’s strength to each blow. The series often takes advantage of two-page spreads to give action scenes room to breathe, and they play out with the clarity, humor, and impact of a Looney Tunes cartoon. The effect of Pulido’s art reminds of me of Mike Allred’s work in the sense that every page feels cooler than other comics. Everyone seems so drawn to life and full of personality that if one of the characters asked you to save an elevator or taxi, you would do so in a heartbeat to have a conversation with them. If there is a single flaw, it is that characters’ eyes seem to look in separate directions when they face directly towards the reader; I don’t know if that’s unique to Pulido’s illustrations or an anatomical fluke, but it’s unnerving and it makes some otherwise brilliant illustrations feel alien.

Two issues of the series are drawn by Ron Wimberly in a surreal, trippy style. It’s not to everyone’s taste, as it’s a radical departure from Pulido’s style—especially in faces and perspectives—but it is no less consistent and confident, filling Jennifer’s world with a unique power and energy.

Muntsa Vicente is equally brilliant with colors, shifting effortlessly between silhouettes that carry dashes of identifying color, subdued scenes with muted palettes, and comic action that glows with candy-like hues. I have compared the coloring techniques between print issues and on my tablet, and either way, the comics shine.

If all of this sounds too good to be true, well, you’d better believe it. Joining the ranks of Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman ’77 is another superheroine whose brain and personality are just as fascinating as her powers and adventures. Like the others, She-Hulk represents top-shelf comics that will expand teens’ and adults’ opinions on how good this medium can be.

Reviewer’s note: this review was written after reading the first trade paperback collecting the first six issues and the latter six issues via Comixology.

She-Hulk, vols. 1-2
Law and Disorder, Vol 1
ISBN: 9780785190196
Disorderly Conduct, Vol 2
ISBN: 9780785190202
by Charles Soule
Art by Javier Pulido, Ron Wimberly
Marvel, 2014, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (13+)

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