While I have always been aware of the existence of Marvel’s Emerald Leading Lady, I had never read one of her books, for no reason other than it had simply never appealed to me. I (mistakenly) thought “Shulkie” was simply a female version of The Hulk & would share the same concepts and conceits as her cousin. So when I opened my monthly comic book care package from the Hachette Marvel Collection to find a copy of She Hulk: Single Green Female, by Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo & Paul Pelletier, I was expecting to get 6 issues of soul searching anger management. I was pleasantly surprised instead to find a Legal Eagle procedural sitcom that was highly entertaining & self aware to the point that it could look over and around the fourth wall without ever having its main character smash her way through it.
Shulkie’s latest series begins with her taking for granted the powers and privileges her lifestyle brings. She is a high class Lawyer who wins cases whilst asking for a recess so she can go save the planet alongside Earth’s mightiest heroes. Unfortunately after one victory party too many at work and another at home Jennifer Walters finds herself jobless and out on the streets till she receives an offer of employment from one of the most prestigious law firms in town, Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway, working in their Superhuman Law division. The catch? They want Jennifer Walters to come work for them rather than She Hulk.
The idea of a Law firm having a department that deals in Superhuman cases gives the book it’s USP as well as allowing Slott to play up the absurdities that come with having a universe where people are just as likely to fly to work as they are drive. In this run Spider man sues the Daily Bugle for Libel, a ghost testifies against their own murderer & your average American Joe claims damages from his employers after he falls in a vat of radioactive waste & develops super powers. Slott plays fast and loose with the concepts, finding ways around these stories that require the heroine to do something other than simply smash stuff. The fact that Jennifer Walters clearly enjoys being She Hulk more than she does plain ol’ Jennifer Walters instantly sets the tone for the book and sets the character apart from her cousin Bruce.
In amongst all this Slott throws in some recurring background characters by way of an apartment building populated by super powered employees and a library full of comics code approved books that function as federal documents rather than a form of entertainment. With so many elements jostling for a place in the story you’d think the book would feel over-crowded and out of place but instead Slott makes it work to his advantage with each issue feeling more episodic in nature allowing the reader to dip in and out at their leisure rather than having to follow a grand over aching narrative that requires the reader to sign over everything at the start & hold out 78 issues for a big reveal. The only time the writing falls down slightly is in #4. The issue is still solid and entertaining stuff, but the presence of Spider Man tends to eclipse the title character somewhat leaving you somewhat confused as to whose book it is you are actually reading.
Unfortunately as consistent as Slott’s writing is, the art on the book is somewhat more patchy by comparison. While Juan Bobillo’s more cutesy manganese style serves the book well his eye for perspective sometimes makes his panels difficult to look at. At point’s it’s hard to tell if a character is stretching their limbs off far into the distance or whether they had a minor accident that caused their arms to amputated and replaced with those of a T-Rex. Also Bobillo really gives the impression that he doesn’t like masks in his artwork leaving characters like The Scorpion or Captain America looking a little plain at times. I hate being so critical, especially as I couldn’t win a drawing contest against a man with no arms but Bobillo has a habit of knocking it out of the park on one page only to turn in something that looks half finished the next & it has a big impact on how the book reads. That said Bobillo’s ability to emphasis certain aspects of a panel play well off of Slott’s comedy timing. While Paul Pelletier’s style in the last 2 issues is far more classical & consistent the increased level of detail sometimes causes the jokes to fall flat because you’re too busy studying the creases in the characters clothes. Either way while both artists have their pros and cons neither of them renders the book unreadable or ever prevents it being enjoyable.
In conclusion Hachette’s first foray into Marvel’s female roster is a fine choice. Given that the whole idea of the collection is to introduce new readers to the best that the House of Ideas has to offer, it’s nice to step out of the super serious comfort zone of instantly recognisable characters and read something a little more leftfield. Here’s hoping that the collection still has some surprises left to come.