She-Hulk Volume Four #1

“Many Happy Returns”

A few months back (or maybe a few years – I’m getting old and losing all track of time!) there was a brief flutter of attention in comics fandom, because Bendis! Was offering a money-back guarantee on his Avengers Disassembled issues.  At the time, I thought, “What kind of a stunt is that?  Why not just make them good to begin with?”  Now, with only 25% of the Avengers Forever community saying they’ll be buying the new She?Hulk, I’m beginning to wish I had the funds to make a similar offer on Dan Slott’s behalf.

Bendis! never really needed to make such an offer, because both he and the Avengers command enough built-in interest to sell anything with either of their names on  it.  But, for reasons which escape me, neither Dan nor She-Hulk’s names seem to do the same.  That’s too bad, because, as is probably no secret around here, I think Dan is the best writer Marvel has right now.  (Aguirre-Sacasa’s catching up fast with Knights 4.  If you’re not reading it, you should be.)  Dan respects history, believes strongly in continuity, and the guy’s freakin’ funny to boot.

But, since I don’t have the funds to offer all of you your three bucks back (even though I don’t personally think you’d have cause to ask for them!), I’ll have to settle for continuing to tell you how good this book is.

The first issue of She-Hulk’s latest series came out this week.  As you may recall, we’re picking up on a Jen Walters who lost her ability to become Shulkie at the end of her last, 12-issue outing.  She’s found a way around that – a device called a gamma charger.  Like the super-weapon in your average Xbox game, however, the gamma charger needs to, well, charge.  So, when Jen, out jogging, comes upon a mugging, she has to handle it as plain Jen Walters.

Nor is this a bad thing, really.  We see that Jen’s learned Badoon spine-busters and Centauiran nerve jabs during She-Hulk’s travels, and that she can handle two very big muggers very well.  So well, in fact, that the watching Captain America and Mrs. Bendis – er – Spider-Woman – ask her to join the New Avengers.  This is a nice touch, because it lets us see that She-Hulk’s alter ego is no slouch, and that her strength of character is rooted in Jen.  We also get to see Jen tell Cap and Jessica “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” and even threaten to sue them on behalf of the mugging victim.  Nice little dig at the great New Avengers, and nice way to establish that Jen’s got her confidence intact.

In a scene which is an aftermath to a sort of mini-Disassembled, Jen returns to work at her newly-rebuilt law firm, and learns that the long boxes of comics, the super-human law firm’s reference library, are to be replaced by trade paperbacks… which are back-ordered.  Then, keeping up the Boston Legal feel of the book, we cut to the firm’s latest case – two minor super villains versus the Young Avengers, with a nice cameo by Vision and Cassie Lang.  This is one of the great parts of She-Hulk as a title: it’s very intergrated with the regular Marvel Universe.  House of M and its ilk notwithstanding, this is a quality which is very much part of the classic Marvel feel which Marvel at large has lost.    There’s a big difference between a cash-hungry, multi-title event and a happy integration of all the books in the line.  The former tends to annoy you, the latter just makes you feel like you’re reading a fully realized fantasy world.

Jen’s continuing therapy sessions with Doc Samson are refreshing, for all that many of us are probably tired of the therapy culture.  In a Marvel book, it’s nice to see a character take the time to feel bad about the awful things that have happened lately – particularly when she herself has been a mind-controlled tool of much awfulness.  Geoff Johns had Shulkie go nuts and trash a town, while Bendis! had her rip Vision in half.  She also feels some survivor’s guilt over the death of Hawkeye.

* SPOILER WARNING *

And, as luck and a healthy use of coincidence in storytelling would have it, Jen winds up trying a case which involves time travel, and requires a jury made up of people from other times.  One of those people is Clint Barton, presumably prior to the explosion which killed him in Avengers.  Jen’s reaction?  “Yep.  I’m gonna do it.  I’m bringing back Hawkeye.”

Here, we can only hope she’s speaking on behalf of her writer.  Like Jen, Dan probably realizes there are a lot of people out there screaming, “You can’t do that!”  Jen’s contingent is probably adding, “You must respect the laws of time travel!”  Dan’s is more likely expostulating, “You must respect the unwritten rule that a hero’s death is final for five year’s longer than a villain’s!”

Fortunately, both of them can answer, “Why not?  No one else does.”

Bobillo’s art is satisfying.  It’s not the heavy realism we see on House of M or New Avengers, but it suits the tone established in the previous series.  There’s a cartoony edge to it, but the action sequences are fluid, the characters’ faces and body language carry definite expressions, and there are variations of color and contrast which keep the book from looking murky and dark, as many current titles do.

Overall, a promising start and a welcome return.

She-Hulk, Volume Three, Issue Twelve

Rating: 4.5
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Jan Bobillo
Inker: Marcelo Sosa
Colors: Avalon Studios’ Dave Kemp
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Asst Editors: Schmidt , Lazer & Stitterson
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley
Decmember, 2005
2.99
T+
Cover by Greg Horn