Monday 22nd December 2014,
Comic Booked

She-Hulk #1: Spoiler-Free Review

Cal Cleary 02/13/2014 Reviews

She-Hulk #1 Spoiler-Free Review

Charles Soule (w), Javier Pulido (a), Muntsa Vicente (c)

I have a feeling this one is going to throw a few people off.  While being a lawyer has typically been a big part of who She-Hulk is, few books have explored it with any depth.  Those that have, like Dan Slott’s excellent run, have done their best to combine the two.  She-Hulk #1, the new Marvel NOW! relaunch written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Javier Pulido with Muntsa Vicente, upends that balance considerably.  While She-Hulk’s superhero identity is important here, both as a startlingly realistic impetus for trouble at her job and for her connection to people like Tony Stark, the focus of the issue is squarely on legal trouble.  And, as it turns out, that was unquestionably the right direction to take this debut issue.

Javier Pulido first came to my attention in an early two-part story in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and he makes an inspired choice to headline She-Hulk.  His art has an Allred-esque flair that positively bursts with pop-art wit and energy.  The snappy style of the book is further supported by Muntsa Vicente, whose vibrant colors place She-Hulk‘s legal antics in the world of classic comics.  If Pulido controls the pace of the book – and he does, with some fantastic layouts that can really propel you forward in a couple scenes – then Vicente dictates She-Hulk #1’s tone and energy.  Played straight, with a ‘realistic’ style, She-Hulk could feel off-putting or slow, but Vicente and Pulido keep the art lively even while Soule is taking his time setting up his heroine’s situation.  The issue’s highlight is a five-page sequence that finds Walters meeting and confronting Tony Stark’s legal department.  It’s an inspired set of scenes, confidently blending the satirical bureaucratic dystopia of seminal sci-fi film Brazil with the lightning-fast office atmosphere of The Good Wife, a great TV show Soule seems to be drawing from fairly heavily.

And really, in many ways that’s what draws me most to the book.  She-Hulk makes for an engaging lead in a beat ‘em up, but I’ve always felt like her wit and energy – and statuesque green appearance – made her a far more endearing (and surreal!) presence in a more grounded book.  Soule appears to agree, because She-Hulk #1 is a straight-up legal drama.  A legal drama that involves the head lawyer beating the crap out of a bunch of robots before she can get her client a settlement, sure, but a legal drama nevertheless.  Soule has always been a fairly character-driven writer – it’s quite possibly his greatest strength – and a fairly procedural format tends to be a good way to slowly explore a character and build a supporting cast.  I don’t know if he’ll stick with the book that he sets up here – less comedic than Slott’s, but with a similar underlying idea – but I hope he does, because he does it so very well here.

Often, our comics can fall into repetitious patterns.  How many books out of your pull are 1) sci-fi action epics, or 2) grim crime comics with borrowed noir style?  I’d be willing to bet it’s a considerable amount, particularly if you read Marvel and DC exclusively.  But comics can – and should – be much more than that, because one of the best things about superheroes is that they fit in literally any genre, and typically serve to heighten many of the tropes (for better or for worse) already present.  I tend to appreciate it when a creative team finds a novel way to approach a potentially staid genre, and Soule does that and does it well.  She-Hulk #1 is quick and witty.  It’s a blast to read.  It looks gorgeous.  And it’s like nothing else you’ll read this month.

My Rating:4.5 / 5

She Hulk #1

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