Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

14 April 2009

She-Hulk, v. 7: Here Today ...

Collects: She-Hulk #28-30, She-Hulk: Cosmic Collision (2008-9)

Released: March 2009 (Marvel)

Format: 112 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 9780785129660

What is this?: She-Hulk finally tracks down her tormentor from Peter David’s first arc and reveals why she was disbarred.

The culprits: Written by Peter David and Pencils by Val Semeiks and Mahmud Asrar

I like writer Peter David usually. His X-Factor was great in the ‘90s, as was his Incredible Hulk. Madrox and its current follow-up, X-Factor, v. 3, are excellent. Really, David is one of my favorite comics writers, great with characters and humor, and I consistently look forward to his work.

But there are times … there are times he seems to misfire. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, v. 1: Derailed was one of those times. I wasn’t wild about David’s first She-Hulk volume, She-Hulk, v. 6: Jaded, either. Unfortunately, She-Hulk, v. 7: Here Today... seems to be another misstep.

She-Hulk, v. 7: Here Today … coverIn Here Today, David finally lets slip why She-Hulk was disbarred before Jaded: she was goaded into attacking a client and revealing his guilt. On the surface, it makes sense; however, any criminal defense lawyer knows they will occasionally defend a guilty client and might even get them acquitted. None of her explanations — her “savage” nature getting loose or wanting to punish herself — are entirely convincing. Mind control might be convincing, but it’s not offered as a solution.

There seems a bit of laziness in the plotting, and because of that, the story in #28-30 mostly fails to engage. There’s a shadowy conspiracy behind She-Hulk’s torments; sure, there is. Why? I don’t know, and not only do I not care, I can’t summon the energy to tell you how little I care. She-Hulk goes back to the casual sex, this time with a passing Hercules, who happens to know how to take out the villain of the story most easily. (Who really doesn’t do much, despite being used as a plot device for a half-dozen issues.) And there are still jokes about Juggernaut, which should have been retired at the end of Dan Slott’s run.

(And a personal objection: I’m not sure there’s anyone who knows the Cleveland Browns were 4-12 in 2007 and doesn’t know about the Dog Pound and the loyalty of Browns fans, unless Jen is some secret fantasy football freak. I had no idea what Cleveland’s record was in any year, frankly, but Cleveland football fandom is easily remembered. It’s like knowing Oliver Twist was first published as a serial from 1837 to 1839 but never having heard of Fagin.)

Overall, I like the art from Val Semeiks, who pencils #28-30. There are the usual distortions of She-Hulk — one extremely peculiar one in which the reclining She-Hulk’s butt and shoulders seem to keep her waist about a foot from her cot — but his straightforward style fits the story and character. There’s some strange shift in style during #30 — a change in inkers, perhaps — that is less enjoyable, one that makes the Skrull Jazinda look like a half-plant creature when she transforms.

The last part issue of the collection, Cosmic Collision, comes out of nowhere. At the end of #30, Jazinda has a sudden flash about “the Talisman,” whatever that is, and then she and Jennifer are off. Then Collision skips to the pair tracking a minor superhuman in Milwaukee before they are whisked off by the Collector to battle the avatar of a cosmic force. I get the feeling this issue was shoehorned into the collection to make the collection book length; Collision was released several months after the other issues in Here Today and doesn’t seem to dovetail well in terms of continuity.

As for the content of Collision, I appreciate David’s attempt at humor, giving a light touch to Marvel’s space characters who could easily be taken too seriously, but the plot doesn’t engage me: gather together a bunch of heroes solely on the basis of being female, despite their differing shticks and temperaments. (It’s the only way you can stick Storm and Thundra on the same team, really.) Cosmic avatars bore me, especially when they rampage blindly and are nearly all powerful. The art, supplied by Mahmud Asrar, is compellingly simple while avoiding cartooniness and still telling the story; his faces are a little dodgy occasionally. However, I wonder whether he was in on the joke of giving the unfeminine female killing force, Unum, a stereotypical “sexy” costume, given some of his angles on She-Hulk, and the art on the “friendly fire” incident makes Quasar look like an idiot or malicious.

The disinterest inspired by Here Today essentially quashes any curiosity I had about the rest of David’s She-Hulk run, which goes for two more volumes. I can hold out hope that it improves, but since the title’s been cancelled, the apathy is overwhelming. Even if he does turn it around and develop something interesting, why should I care? She-Hulk, as I know it, is over.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol (2 of 5)

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