She-Hulk Volume Four #17

“Shock After Shock”

After spewing voluminous bile last week in the direction of Avengers: The Initiative, it’s nice to be able to say something nice again. Despite the title, which could describe any other Marvel story of the last two years, She-Hulk # 17 certainly gives me the opportunity to be nice to poor Dan Slott, whom I roundly abused last Wednesday. That’s because She-Hulk continues to be largely a refuge from the ravages of the Civil War.

A note before I continue. Last week, I trashed a book that a lot of people loved, a book that seems to be in tune with what a lot of readers want to read and/or look at right now. This week I’m praising a book that, well… doesn’t seem to be noticed the way, say, Civil War or New Avengers is noticed. And I think that’s a shame.

BUT…

Reviewing is really a silly art (says the reviewer.) It’s silly because storytelling is a collaborative process. That’s not to say that the writer/artist doesn’t or can’t create his content on his own, fresh out of his individual mind. It’s certainly not to say that creativity should occur (Don’t retch now!) by committee. No, what I mean when I call storytelling a collaborative process is that it starts with the teller, but it finishes with a single receiver. Whether that receiver is watching, listening or reading, the story itself is happening inside his head. (Or it’s not happening at all.) Everything that reader / listener / watcher brings to the experience is part of that story. So the story is a separate entity for each person who lives it. If Dan Slott has 50,000 readers, he (hopefully) creates 50,000 story experiences every time he writes a script.

And that’s why reviewing is a silly art. How can I tell you what your experience of the story will be? I only have one piece of the equation that feeds your experience. I can only comment on that, and my piece of the equation may be so critical to my experience that my opinions on that experience are useless to you.

But we press on, having trashed the silly idea of objectivity.

The Greg Horn cover is, as usual, worth the price of admission. Yeah, the scene depicted (Nick FUry flying a hover-car in pursuit of a falling, SHIELD-uniformed Shulkie) doesn’t happen in the story, but it certainly incorporates all the key elements of the “A” story within. Not surprising that the cover doesn’t show our heroine as she appears through most of the issue — in her magenta unmentionables — in this age of superficial, stuffy, middle-class prudery. Equally unsurprising is the absence of a major guest star on the cover, that being Iron Man. After all, if you want to market one of the few books that’s a refuge from Civil War, why put the villain of Civil War on the cover? The guy that long-time fans like me now hate more than we ever hated Thanos? Much better to show SHIELD’s OLD director on the cover, and lull fans into a pleasant euphoria of believing that the House of Ideas is not about to collapse under the weight of its own self-satisfaction.

Truth be told, Tony Stark’s appearance herein is actually one of the best parts of the story. That’s because, in this story, he’s not the villain of the piece. In fact, aside from the fact that he’s now director of SHIELD, it’s as if he’d never made the transition from good guy to utter Nazi. He and Jen share dinner and, well, dessert, putting Jen in her skivvies when the villains strike the heli-carrier. He armors up and fights beside her, without a single speech about how he has, since 1962, known every bad thing that was going to happen, and can prevent them happening, if only he’s allowed to rule the world. For a few pages, Tony is a good guy again, instead of a tool used by East Coast liberals to show the unwashed masses how evil entrepreneurs are.

Another nice touch for those with functioning long-term memory is the bevy of Nick Fury LMDs spouting random phrases of dialogue from the past. It’d be interesting to see a citations list. Knowing Slott, they all came from actual stories from the 60s and 70s. Perhaps, when Roy Thomas has a spare moment…

The annoying (in other books) white-on-black “story so far” page (which is black-on-lavender here) is funny and appropriately disrespectful to the Civil War storyline. The sarcasm employed to remind us that this book once had its own, distinct plot and this character once had a life outside the multi-title crossover is appreciated. It also makes a nice lead-in to some time spent with the (useless to the current MU) supporting characters.

The geeks in the basement have a page of debate over the merits of two-page establishing shots, and how they decompress stories and tell in two pages what Kirby could have done in one panel. (Of course, it was thirty years ago that the late Dave Cockrum and John Byrne were doing them in X-Men.) We get a one-panel reminder that Stu was killed many issues back and replaced with Ditto. We have a humorous break with Mal and Matt, as the former attempts to regain her credibility in the wake of her notorious affair with Awesome Andy. The only downer on the supporting character front is the absence of the Awesome One himself. One fears that, by the time Civil War goes away, readers will have forgotten who he was. Still, it’s nice that the subplots keep plugging along, despite the advent of Civil War.

Overall an enjoyable reminder that Marvel can produce comics in which the colors are not all muted and the heroes are not more evil than the villains.

She-Hulk, Volume Four, Issue Seventeen
Rating: 4.75
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Rick Burchett
Inks: Cliff Rathburn
Colors: Avalon Studios’ Andy Troy
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Asst Editors: Lazer & Sitterson
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley
MAY, 2007
2.99
Rated T+
Cover by Greg Horn