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She-Hulk #1 (review): “Back to basics”

Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Roge Antonio
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Marvel Comics, 2022

While the mildly controversial run of She-Hulk led by Mariko Tamaki was certainly good (and definitely not as bad as some may lead you to believe), it was lacking, at least for me, in certain aspects that tended to make She-Hulk books stand out from other superhero publications. For me, and for many people, the appeal of the character comes from the intersection between her superhero life and her normal work, which often leads her to take care of cases related in one way or another to superheroics. This aspect was downplayed in the Tamaki run, which focused more on her rage and her identity as a gamma-irradiated monster.

This is why I am happy that the new She-Hulk run seems to be a return to form. Jennifer Walters is back in action in a more traditional-looking Hulk costume, and once more she is having money problems as she deals with the aftermath of the events from the last run. The issue is fairly simple, and it mainly serves to introduce her situation. But it also seeds into the plot the many characters that will, we can assume, be relevant through the rest of the run. In that regard, it is a fairly standard first issue, but the innovation comes in how it introduces all of these concepts.

First of all, I have to say that the art is perfect for this book. It’s down to earth and not overly complex, but colorful and full of personality. In fact, the entire book exudes charisma, and not just because of the art: the way Jen interacts with other characters is very charming and engaging, especially when considering that some sequences are genuinely funny. Notice the clever use of framing to emphasize Jen’s considerable change in size after taking off her heels:

And yes, that is the old She-Hulk villain Titania. She’s back, of course, but this run is trying to take her in a different direction: after years of constant rivalry over who is the strongest, Jen has finally had enough and decides to offer Titania a way out. She argues that, since they both enjoy fighting each other without holding back, they should hang out to do precisely that, instead of putting civilians in danger every time Titania breaks out of jail and comes for her.

This is a very important character moment, because it shows how much Jen has matured over the last few runs, and allows Titania to continue to develop forward after the interesting characterization that books like Black Bolt and The Immortal Hulk gave her.

Jen herself also gets a lot of nice characterization in this book, establishing how she is going to act going forward. This is a back to basics for her, but she is in a completely different spot: this time, she is a more responsible person, and is determined to do better despite the circumstances. She puts her professional life before her superhero life, at least in this issue, as shown when she fights Titania in her underwear just so she does not rip her new suit. Which is, in itself, a pretty funny moment.

This scene in particular is very clearly a parody of the ridiculous oversexualizing situations that Jen got herself into during her early years. The artwork here is very nuanced in the way it depicts her body, however, and is not actively trying to sexualize her at all. Instead of wearing the lacy underwear that artists in the past had drawn her in, she is sporting a pair of black boyshorts that make way more sense for a part-time superhero with a constantly shifting body.

Most of the issue focuses on her fight with Titania and its outcome, where most of the characterization and exposition takes place. Only the latter half is used to establish her new job and the home she is occupying at the moment, courtesy of fellow Avenger Janet Van Dyne. These last sequences are nothing that remarkable, considering most of Jen’s character was already established during the first half of the issue. There is a small, cathartic moment in which Jen finally allows the previously mentioned skirt to rip once she finally acquires her new clothes, which is a nice bookend to the issue.

I would say this is a great way to soft-reset Jennifer’s solo series without undoing her character development through the past few runs. The book is funny, full of charisma and with amazing art, and I would strongly recommend it to fans of the character that enjoyed the Slott and Seoul runs.