She-Hulk Volume Three #11

Okay… I predicted the time would come, and it has.  After eleven issues of blissful ignorance of the events of Avengers Disassembled, the She-Hulk comic has, with issue 11, acknowledged that this travesty — er tragedy — occurred, and begun dealing with the consequences.

One of the wonderful things about pre-Ultimate Marvel is that all the events took place in one world.  Events which happened in one comic were not only remembered in others, but actively reinforced in our memories in other comics.  So, when the Avengers lineup changed on live TV in issue 151, we saw Ben Grimm watching the proceedings in a Thing exo-suit, reminding us that, in FF, Ben was currently de-powered.  And when the Beast made a three-issue guest shot in his alma-mater book, The Uncanny X-Men back around issue 112, he was not only absent from the Avengers, his absence was a significant story point in Avengers — he had to leave monitor duty, and thus pissed off HP Gyrich.

I’m sure part of this connectedness was an attempt to sell more comics — to make you feel you were missing something if you didn’t read all the Marvel books.  Maybe part of it was sales.  Still, it’s a helluva a lot nicer tactic than splattering “Disassembled” on the front of books which have nothing to do with the Avengers or their storyline.  It was a subtle tactic, and it had the by product of making the Marvel Universe seem more real.

We don’t get that today — no even across all those books which are nominally part of a big story arc.  When Washington was decimated during the Kang War, its destruction was mentioned in no other Marvel title.  Even in the Disassembled books, when Manhattan was kidnapped in FF, its absence was not mentioned in books which were set in Manhattan.

But count on She-Hulk to buck the trend, and do things the old Marvel way.  Most of this issue — the parts that don’t consist of Titania threatening death to everyone in her wake while she looks for Jen — deals with Jen trying to come to terms with the tragic events of the last year or so in The Avengers.  I don’t mean that Brevoort let Austen and Bendis fillet the Avengers, I mean that Jen’s gone all Cousin-Bruce-bestial twice, trashed a town and ripped the Vision in twain.

It was good to see Jen crying over Vizh’s demise.  It was good to see anyone crying over it.  Marvel has become the stiff upper lip set lately, when it comes to death.  Vision gets torn in half after erupting baby Ultrons, and his teammates barely even say “oh bummer.”  Phoenix gets killed in what is perhaps the worst piece of plotting Grant Morrison ever committed, and Scott Summers just hops into bed with Emma Frost without so much as an “Oh… Jean…”  Where’s the feeling that these characters, if not their writers, consider each other to be something more than plot points in something that looks more like a shoot-em-up video game than a comic?  Apparently, that feeling is in She-Hulk, maybe Astonishing X-Men, and nowhere else.

That said about the welcome moment of mourning, I feel Jen’s ability to distance herself from responsibility is a little too easy.  Yeah, Wanda made her do it (would someone please explain WHY?), but it was her hands that killed Vizh.  We think.  Jen seems to think.  Is he dead?  Wasn’t he dead when the Ultrons pulled that John-Hurt-From-Alien stunt on him?  I’m not sure.  Maybe Bendis is.  It really hasn’t been explained, because, well, Vision doesn’t really matter.  He hasn’t been ultimized, so why should we care?

Back to She-Hulk…  Reflecting on all this, she asks, “Why do I have to live in a world where stuff like that can happen?”  And that strikes a responsive chord for me, as I’m sure it does for many readers.  We’re asking, “Why do I have read about a world where stuff like that can happen? Can’t things just go back to the way they used to be?”  This makes Jen very identifiable for the audience this book seems to really be geared to — longtime Marvel readers who miss the old Marvel Universe, and readers who might like to know how that Universe survived almost forty years before being Ultimized.

Along with this, because this is not, primarily, an angst-driven book, we have Jen wondering why she’s, well… Jen again sometimes.  Didn’t she lose her ability to change back to her white-skinned form?  Like, forever?  Reed told her — and herein Slott lampoons one of the oldest cliches of the Marvel Universe — “I’m sorry, Old Friend, but this time it’s permanent” — without making Reed look like an ass, or, worse, the Ultimates’ Hank Pym.  Reed told Jen wrong.  But he did it on Doc Samson’s orders.  She can change back to Jen, when her subconscious has had enough.  And, at issue’s end, it’s apparently had enough right as Titania wants to kill She-Hulk.  Hidden death wish?  Time will tell…

The issue has the usual round of humorous bits and asides.  Ditto being crushed by a door under Titania’s weight can’t be fun for him, but it’s quite an image.  Southpaw begging to be let out of her ultra-secure room so she can pee… She’s not allowed to pee a night?  Get a jar, girl! My favorite humorous throwaway has to be the hero in purple at the law office, who’s been thrust forward in time from the forties.  He wants to have his will revoked, so he can get some cash.  We’ll probably never see him again, but the book is full of these little asides which would be stories in themselves… reminding us that the Marvel Universe is still there, even if all those Ultimized books are only showing us a drab, narrow slice of it…  When we’re ready for it, it’ll be there waiting for us… Pretty good feeling for $2.99.  Cheaper than Prozac, anyway.

She-Hulk, Volume Three, Issue Eleven

Rating: 4.5
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Rick Magyar
Colors: Avalon Studios’ Dave Kemp
Letterer: VC’s Dave Sharp
Asst Editors: Lazer, Schmidt & Wiley
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley
March, 2005
2.99
PSR
Cover by Mayhew