Since crashing onto the Marvel scene in February of 1980, Jennifer Walters has carried a lot of descriptors. She’s been savage, sensational, and always the She-. But this week, Marvel trims the fat off of any preconceived identifiers, bringing readers a new take on both an old title and a beloved character. The title Hulk is historically synonymous with Bruce Banner driven story lines, but after the events of Civil War II, Writer Mariko Tamaki and Artist Nico Leon smash that tendency and re-orientate the title as a female driven narrative in HULK #1.
Early in the story of Civil War II, She-Hulk fell into a coma after being beaten within an inch of death by Thanos. She awakes to find that, while her body had been healing, her world was being broken. Her beloved cousin Bruce, the original Hulk, was slain by friend and fellow hero Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, friends are battling friends and nothing is as it was.
The story, titled “Deconstructed, Part One,” is not an action packed issue. There are no explosions or epic battle scenes, no spandex clad cast of heroes, and noticeably no Jade Giantess. In lieu of a barrage of thwacks and kapows, this issue determinedly fills twenty-eight pages with information that solidify the machinations of the first arc to be a very cognitive story, dealing with a subject matter of PTSD, social anxiety, and other forms of trauma. Jennifer is repressing her “other self,” secluding herself from her personal life, and refusing professional assistance to deal with recent events. In the meantime, she is being tasked professionally with representing a client who is suffering from some of the same mental and emotional issues that Jennifer herself is struggling against. Miss Brewn, a possible Inhuman with healing abilities and a less than human appearance, is being unceremoniously evicted from her home which she has secluded her self too. Readers are also introduced to the supporting cast of reoccurring characters that will surround Jennifer throughout this tale. She meets her new assistant, office peers, and a self-described social worker/would-be-writer wanting to interview her for a book on trauma. We also see a text message from longtime friend Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat, which fans can only hope is a teaser for Patsy’s inclusion in this book. Ending this first issue, we find out that Miss Brewn, while being meek and unassuming, may be involved with a dark force that will prove to be the physical antagonist of Tamaki’s debut Hulk narrative.
Scribe and Style
While Canadian writer Mariko Tamaki may just now be hitting the radar of mainstream comic enthusiasts, she’s no stranger to the realm of sequential novelization. Tamaki, along with her cousin Jillian, produced the Eisner nominated and Ignatz Award winning graphic novel, Skim. She also recently made her DC comics debut with SuperGirl: Being Super, and has written Tomb Raider for Dark Horse Comics. Tamaki’s astute understanding of dialogue is equivalent to that of a seasoned professional. She uses both wit and timing to her advantage while moving the story forward without skimping on the details that readers need to fully follow the happenings of the tale. The storytelling maintains a balance of on-the-nose plot points without becoming stale. It will be interesting to see how she navigates an action scene, as so far she has only delivered the swift violence of an anxiety attack.
Like Tamaki, artist Niko Leon is also a fresh face to comics. Leon has recently laid down lines in books like Bendis’s Spider-Man as well as 2015’s Guardians 3000. The Argentinian artist’s style has tints of anime inspired design, but isn’t so heavy in that trope as to limit itself to that genre. While drawing strong backgrounds and landscapes, Leon’s facial expressions suffer from being bland and vague. In several panels, if not for the colorist Matt Milla, readers may have had trouble distinguishing between characters such as Jen and Brewn. The devil is in the details, or lack there of. That being said, Leon’s elevator scene in this book should be shown to new artists as an example of the perfect way to display an emotional breakdown. It’s gorgeous, it emotes chaos and fear, and it displays how a quiet moment can scream at the viewer.
This opening book is a solid starting point for what is potentially not only a great She-Hulk story, but an important statement on trauma recovery and mental health.As it stands, I give this book 3 out of 5 Hulk fists. Fans are held in suspense until January as to what will unload out of this arc, but can hope for the pace to pick up while maintaining an in depth review of Walters mindset and personality. Tamaki has to display something other than here extensive understanding of anxiety issues to keep readers coming back. Hopefully, the art improves as Leon settles into the characters and finds his groove.