I got to admit, I love She-Hulk.
There’s something ridiculously charming about a female hero that not only is comfortable with herself enough to have a sense of humor, but one that has a respectable job on the side. I realize that this may be a strange statement to some, but what one has to realize is that comics still struggle to this day with how to deal with the presentation of female characters. While the general idea of simply presenting women as sexual objects has slowly begun to pass (though there is still plenty of shameful objectification), the male writers who comprise of over 90% of the comic-writing force struggle of exactly how to present a modern, well-rounded, independent woman.
For example, I can’t think of many female superheroes who have jobs or an independent life outside of their costumed persona. If they do, they certainly aren’t memorable enough for me to remember. There really is no female equivalent to Spider-Man’s Peter Parker or Superman’s Clark Kent. Even Wonder Woman, the supposed paragonical female superhero, does not currently have a job or even much of a life outside her adventures.
Thus, there’s just something interesting and refreshing to me about a realistic and balanced female character. And writer Charles Soule and artist Javier Pulido’s first She-Hulk issue utilizes unique character traits to make not only an entertaining comic, but also a great start for a future series starring the Jade Giantess.
Let’s get the problems of the comic out of the way first. While I do like Pulido’s simplistic, angular art style (I pretty much love anything that resembles the work of Bruce Timm, who drew Batman: the Animated Series), I can’t help but feel that Pulido was rushed in this job. The faces are jarring, and the eyes rarely go in the same direction. Some panels look like the basic sketches that an artist does BEFORE getting to the real line work. However, other panels, such as She-Hulk in a bar, are full of detail, color variety, and fine lines. Pulido definitely has some serious talent and style, and while the occasional awkward face or wall-eyed stare can take one out of the moment, it’s nothing grievous enough to actually ruin the experience.
Soule’s writing has the occasional misstep as well. While some of the dialogue flows freely and naturally (such as She-Hulks interaction with billionaire philanthropist and She-Hulk’s past flame, Tony Stark (aka Iron Man)), other dialogues feel clunky, heavy with legal jargon and exposition. I understand and applaud Soule for most likely doing his research when it comes to legal matters, but it’s a bad sign if your word balloons fill a sixty to seventy percent of the panel, regardless of the subject matter.
But despite this, the comic book shines in just how well it portrays the character. She-Hulk embraces both sides of her life, but is not willing to exploit her superhero connections for clients for her legal branch. She can be both extraordinarily kind, and understandably vindictive. She might wear a relatively skimpy costume, but when she is not being a superhero, she wears smart business attire and even normal, casual clothes like baseball hats and yoga pants (GASP!)
But what truly sets She-Hulk apart, and what this comic strongly showcases, is her lawyer persona. In fact, the comic skips over the one potential fight scene and instead mainly deals with She-Hulk’s pursuit and investigation of a court case. Soule makes certain to let us know that this issue will not be about She-Hulk the hero, but Jessica Walters the lawyer when he writes “No one is only one thing.” She-Hulk is both superhero and lawyer. Business and casual. And to see a female character presented with such balance of qualities is surprisingly refreshing.
While this issue isn’t perfect, it’s a promising start for this series. In an era when writers still struggle to write female characters, it’s nice to see a character like She-Hulk be treated with respect and dignity, and with an acknowledgement of both her occupations.
Photo: Sam Howzit via Flikr