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Pulp Culture
'She-Hulk' fun mix of
superheroes, antics

March 18, 2004
By Franklin Harris

My stacks of unread comics continue to grow almost faster than I can whittle them down. But I took some free time last week to catch up on my reading:

"She-Hulk" No. 1. (Writer: Dan Slott, Penciler: Juan Bobillo, Inker: Marcelo Sosa.)

She-Hulk art by Adi Granov.
Image © copyright Marvel Comics
She-Hulk art by Adi Granov.
The Incredible Hulk's more sensible cousin, She-Hulk, returns in her own monthly title 10 years after Marvel Comics canceled her last series, "The Sensational She-Hulk." But in keeping with Marvel's current habit of mixing traditional superheroics with other genres, She-Hulk's alter ego, attorney Jennifer Walters, is getting equal time. Think of this as "Ally McBeal" with capes, or perhaps a slightly less wacky version of Cartoon Network's "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law." I'll go with the latter.

In a world full of superheroes, it makes sense that superheroes would need legal help. The way Thor and the Hulk cause property damage, they should be in over their heads in lawsuits by now.

Like Bruce Banner, Jennifer undergoes a personality transformation when she "hulks out," but hers is less extreme. Jennifer is quiet and reserved, while She-Hulk is a raging party-girl. All things being equal, Jennifer is happier as She-Hulk. But now all things aren't equal. First, She-Hulk loses her latest court case when her world-saving heroics result in a mistrial. Next, she loses her job and her boyfriend, although she wasn't serious about the boyfriend anyway. And on top of that, She-Hulk's teammates, the Avengers, ask her to move out of Avengers Mansion, citing her wild behavior as a security risk.

But opportunity knocks in the form of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg and Holloway, "the most prestigious law firm on the East Coast," we're told. There is just one catch: They want Jennifer Walters, not She-Hulk.

"She-Hulk" is a fun, breezy read, into which Slott squeezes two pages of superhero action. She-Hulk is a character who doesn't take herself too seriously, and this series doesn't either. All of this liveliness is served well by Bobillo and Sosa's crisp, uncluttered and slightly cartoony art.

With future plots to include gimmicks like a ghost who wants to testify at the trial of his own murderer, "She-Hulk" looks like a winner in my court.

I can't say the same for "4," Marvel's new Fantastic Four title, published under its edgier Marvel Knights imprint.

"4" Nos. 1-3. (Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Penciler: Steve McNiven, Inker: Mark Morales.)

Aguirre-Sacasa originally was to take over writing "Fantastic Four," but angry fans and a management shake-up at Marvel resulted in popular "Fantastic Four" writer Mark Waid keeping his job. So, as a consolation prize, Aguirre-Sacasa got this book. All I can say is that I'm glad Waid is still around to write the "real" Fantastic Four title.

Aguirre-Sacasa's idea is to have the first family of superheroes lose their money and their home in the fabulous Baxter Building and find themselves forced to get everyday jobs to make ends meet. The Invisible Woman takes a job as a substitute teacher. The Thing finds work on a construction site. And the Human Torch contemplates becoming a fireman, which is supposed to be ironic but actually is just annoying and obvious.

Played for humor, as in "She-Hulk," this might be entertaining, but Aguirre-Sacasa lays the family drama and supposedly heartwarming moments on thick, as when Mr. Fantastic, caught up in one of his projects, forgets to pick up his son from school.

True, Waid is sailing similar waters in "Fantastic Four," but in that title, the family drama is a subplot amid the FF's continuing adventures.

It is a shame that the story in "4" is so lackluster, because I love Steve McNiven's art. Pair McNiven and Waid, and you would have the best of both FF titles.

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