“Some Disassembly Required”
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1)
What can I say but… oh, I promised the guys at AF.org I wouldn’t swear, didn’t I? In that case, I guess I can’t say much. You just pick your favorite obscene and profane words and fill in the blanks on what I’d like to say about having just discovered that the twelfth issue is the last issue of the current She-Hulk series. I had no idea. See, I read comics. Not Previews. Not CBG. I read comics. (Not that I don’t also read books, but… you get the idea.) So I very rarely know (especially in these days of Marvel marketing) just what is and what isn’t a mini-series.
But on to my reactions to She-Hulk #12. And now I can give utterance to my first reaction: “Wow!” I don’t know what was my favorite part of this incredible finale to an incredible series. Oh, yep, I do. More in a sec. First, the shining moments that made this book such a pleasure:
Seeing the Scarlet Witch (if only for a panel) with no reference to her Bendisization, and no suggestion that she would have been better served if only Jessica Jones had been around to keep her on the straight and narrow.
Doc Samson suggesting that Titania’s obsession with She-Hulk might be sexual.
Hercules as a construction worker.
The Avengers in action in broad daylight, without dead bodies falling from every window.
Jen and Stu at a comic shop, looking for a way to combat the infinity gem, and their resultant verbal battle with a local fen over the perceived continuity errors in the book this past year. S’a much nice way to answer your critics than flaming them on the internet, or getting your associate editor to call them names on the letters page.
Awesome Andy’s pathetic message “Help… Dying… Scared,” and Holden’s paternal reaction to same.
Stu telling off the continuity creeps and showing off his precious No-Prize. Jen telling Stu he’s her favorite kind of fan.
Titania, imprisoned, asking Jen to be her lawyer.
Holden telling Jen that “This will all be back… in time.” “When?” asks Jen. “Eight months…” We can only hope it’s true.
But my hands-down favorite part of this book is Holden’s speech at the end: “… It doesn’t matter how much good work we do here, month in and month out… In the end, it’s far easier to garner attention by tearing something down. We’re a race of rubber-neckers, Jennifer. A society more entertained by acts of destruction than by the fruits of creation.” Consider Holden’s talking about the ruins of Timely Plaza, and the offices of gentlemen with names like Lieber (Lee) and Kurtzberg (Kirby), it’s pretty easy to take his inference: that much of what’s “hot” at Marvel Comics right now (and, for that matter, at DC back in the 90s) plays on the perverse love of seeing great works torn down. That the Bendises and the Marzes (and sometimes the Byrnes) of the world can make it seem that it’s more exciting or important to disassemble the Avengers, or invalidate Green Lantern’s legacy than it was to build that group or establish that legacy.
Really, it’s neither, and Dan Slott’s work shows us that. He’s writing, good, solid comics, comics which respect the traditions we grew up on and love. Comics which make us laugh with joy and irony, and sympathize with the pains and cheer the triumphs of our heroes. Seems to me a couple guys names (gasp!) Lee and Kirby used to do that kind of work. And they did it without finding it necessary to tear down all that had come before. And they could do that because they were talented. They didn’t have to use gimmicks. They didn’t have to shock us to make us feel something. They didn’t have to kill people just to get our attention. They didn’t have to turn our heroes into psychopaths to prove to us that they were humans and therefore flawed.
I know, I know. Change is necessary for growth. We can’t just keep telling the same stories over and over again. (Though we can twist them around, weaken their punch, slap “Ultimate” in front of their title and try. To quote a comics fan named Cheeks, “I’m just sayin’ is all…”) But I don’t think Dan Slott and company told the same story we’ve seen before. He’s told new ones, but they feel as good as the old ones did. Better, they feel as good as our memories of the old ones do. After all, reading The Avengers Celestial Madonna saga for the first time in 1975 isn’t nearly as much fun as as being 40 and remembering being ten, reading it for the first time.
Sometimes, as the title implies, some disassembly is required. Some of the established concepts bear a second, critical look. Some things should change. Some things can be made better. And some of the worst mistake in history are really just our poor, human attempts to try and make it all better. Still, in the case of the Marvel Universe, and with that sense of Deja Vu I’m still getting after having lived through Heroes Reborn ’bout ten years back, I can’t help echoing Jen’s sentiment when she looks at the ruins of Timely Plaza, which Herk has offered to rebuild as an Olympian palace. “I’d rather they just put it back the way it was.”
Lady, you said an ever-lovin’ mouthful!
She-Hulk, Volume Three, Issue Twelve
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
Cover by Mayhew