She-Hulk Volume Four #18

“Illuminated”

It’s about frickin’ time, is all I can say.

And by that I mean that it’s about frickin’ time She-Hulk realized what a boob she’d been for signing on with Iron Man on the side of SuperHero Registration. (I can’t call him Shellhead. Shellhead is dead, as far as I’m concerned.) Not only that, it’s about time someone offered us a semi-plausible explanation as to why she would have bought into Tony Stark’s fascist party line in the first place.

That said, I’m afraid this issue is only almost emotionally satisfying. It falls short of full satisfaction for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it’s a detour from what we’re accustomed to in She-Hulk (even moreso than the recent “Agent of SHIELD” stories have been), in that the supporting characters play almost no part at all. They’re just there. At times, they even look like they’ve been deliberately drawn to look two-dimensional. The best Marvel Comics – and anything Dan Slott wrote until he began hemorrhaging Avengers Initiative from his pores is among the best of Marvel Comics — have incredibly strong supporting characters. Observe J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Pepper and Happy, Alicia Masters, Rick Jones… heck, most of our favorite Avengers are but supporting characters. So it’s sad to see them get shafted by Civil War guano. Even more shafted than they have been for the past six or so issues.

**SPOILER WARNING**

Then there’s the kind-of conclusive battle that Clay Quartermain’s team has with the Leader, in which all the team but Clay himself are killed, and… it doesn’t seem to matter. Okay, two are LMDs, but still… it’s like we start this battle, and then we realize we don’t really care about it, and we win it, but… yeah, we didn’t care… It lacks punch. It lacks power. It lacks point.

But most of all, there’s the fact that Tony Stark does not, in fact, get the thrashing he deserves. Jen learns that he is, in fact, mostly responsible for exiling her cousin (the Hulk, in case you didn’t know) in space. She gets angry. She goes after Stark. Thousands cheer. She shrugs off his claims of superiority and his She-Hulkbuster devices. Thousands cheer louder. Bets are placed. Bookies begin checking out REALTOR websites to find private islands to which to retire…

And then Tony injects Jen with nanites he’s been testing on all the Hulk villains she’s rounded up, and she’s no longer She-Hulk, and never will be again. There isn’t even a next issue blurb, leading us to believe there won’t even be a next issue. (There will, according to Marvel.)

Unsatisfying. Like most of the mega-story of which it’s part. It makes us hate Tony Stark even more, and successfully makes him into exactly what Jen called him – the new Doctor Doom; but it’s not satisfying.

On the plus side, Slott explores Jen’s rationale for signing on with Iron Man in support of SuperHuman Registration. She did so because she believes in law and order, rainbows and unicorns. It makes sense. Jen’s a lawyer and a good one. She’s committed and idealistic. Stark pulled the wool over her eyes, and she believed what he was doing was right. Then she found out what a scheming little schmuck he is. And she’s just as angry now, because he’s condemned her cousin without a fair trial. Consistency in characterization! Is anybody taking notes?

Disclaimer: I don’t believe for a minute that Tony, Reed, Hank and Stephen Strange would do what they’re depicted as doing. I don’t read Illuminati. Correction: I read the first issue, and I found it tiresome, over-written and completely self-serving. Still, not reading subsequent issues of that book, I can’t believe it could contain anything that would make me believe that these noble people would behave this way. Yeah, one or two of them might go nuts. But not all. But I digress. Stipulating that the heroes of my childhood all turned into John Ashcroft, I find the reason given for Jen falling temporarily under their sway plausible.

So, bereft of powers, Jen makes the humorous statement that she may not be a hulk anymore, but she’s a lawyer. She-Hulk might have beaten Stark to a pulp, but Jen will /destroy/ him. She goes off into the sunset, filled with determination, and, by gosh, we know she’s gonna do just that. It’s a real /Porgy and Bess/ ending… but…

This issue’s story is continued in /Hulk /106. I won’t fully review it, but I’ll comment briefly. I enjoyed it, but t’s an inconsistent follow-up. It begins with Jen lamenting to the absent Bruce that she’s screwed everything up. (Um… didn’t… she… just… say… um… that she was gonna destroy Stark? Never mind. She forgot. Now she’s distraught and needs the new Rick Jones to straighten her out.) The story proceeds to show her re-making the decision she’s already made, but making it with less conviction… and then she’s She-Hulk again. Okay. No harm done. But… huh?

Still. The battles scenes with Iron Man are classics. And I don’t even like battle scenes.

She-Hulk, Volume Four, Issue Sixteen

Rating: 3.75
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Rick Burchett
Inks: Cliff Rathburn
Colors: Avalon Studios’ Andy Troy
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Production: Kate Levin
Asst Editors: Molly Lazer
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley
June, 2007
2.99