Book Review: The She-Hulk Diaries
To start, the plot courtesy of the back cover:
Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters's personality is an understatement. When she hasn't morphed into a 650-pund, crime-fighting, party-loving superhero, she's a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles looking for Mr. Right and climbing the corporate ladder by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe she'll finally take on a case that will define her career. Maybe she won't meet one Mr. Right, but two, and she'll have to choose. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can read her Perez Hilton in peace.
Á la Henry Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta is a series of journal entries made by Jennifer Walters about fulfilling a list of New Year's resolutions. If you hate first person narratives, TSHD might not work for you.
This book falls under the "chick lit" genre. Chick lit (according to Wikipedia) focuses on the "issues of modern womanhood". Between that definition and the plot summary on the back cover, I thought this book would be about how Jen Walters juggles her dual lives of being a top-notch lawyer and a world-saving superhero.
It's not. She-Hulk barely makes a showing with a total of eight very brief appearances where she easily takes care of an immediate threat (this includes the final encounter with the "main" villain) and then does some off-camera partying before going back to being Jen Walters. Limited Shulky time is one of Jen's goals for the new year.
The majority of the book actually consists of Jen trying to convince herself she is not still in love with her post-grad crush/weekend hookup Ellis Quintal IV.
She is still in love with her post-grad crush/weekend hookup.
**END SPOILER ALERT**
And as for the "issues of modern womanhood", well, from reading TSHD, i have determined that means moaning about not having a job (she finds a job about 3 seconds after she starts looking), not having a place to live (she goes from one luxury apartment where she's been living for free to another luxury apartment where she lives for free), and not having a boyfriend (this one takes a bit longer to resolve). Even her therapist wants to know why she hasn't yet found a man. It's quite empowering.
I was very surprised by how this She-Hulk is totally unlike the She-Hulk i was familiar with. Ok, admittedly, i have no knowledge of She-Hulk from any of her solo books. All of my knowledge is gleaned from her appearances in other titles. For instance, the current run of FF (Matt Fraction/Mike Allred) - the Fantastic Four ask her to be one of the people to hold down the fort at the Future Foundation while they go off on a family trip. This alone signals to me that she is considered responsible and capable by her superhero colleagues. And her portrayal in the book has lived up to that.
Conversely, Acosta's She-Hulk is immature, irresponsible, willfully destructive, and the Avengers don't want to have anything to do with her.
She-Hulk got us kicked out of Avengers Mansion. People keep posting videos online of her New Year's Eve shenanigans: twirling flaming telephone poles in Times Square, climbing the Empire State Building while dangling Anderson Cooper, dancing wildly at parties, and commandeering a motorcycle cop's ride to do wheelies across the Brooklyn Bridge.
In one scene, she "borrows" a parking attendant's motorcycle to get to a fashion show. In order to avoid traffic, she drives up on the sidewalk. And then for kicks, she jumps the motorcycle off of a row of cabs, causing their roofs to cave in, while waving to the media.
Additionally, in the novel, the public is unaware that Jennifer Walters is She-Hulk.
Just to make sure i hadn't missed some major character changes over the years, i conferred with my comic book experts (fnord12, Wanyas, and Bob). They all agreed with my vision of She-Hulk. Problem was none of us read Dan Slott's She-Hulk run in 2004. Whoops.
So, She-Hulk was (is?) irresponsible and destructive and did get kicked out of Avengers Mansion by Cap in the comics. The She-Hulk Diaries takes place shortly after that.
Now, if you normally dislike epistolary novels because of the lack of detail and the jumps in time between entries, fret not. Jen Walters assures us in the very beginning that she will be as faithful as possible while transcribing conversations and whoo boy, did she deliver on her promise. Her daily interactions are so exactly transcribed, you will start to wonder if Acosta realized she was supposed to be constructing journal entries.
Dahlia had left her radishes on the paper plate so I snagged them.
Nothing is too mundane to be chronicled!
Jen mainly interacts with her best friend Dahlia. Other key characters include Ellis Quintal, the aforementioned crush; Sven Morigi, a client she's representing and the second "Mr. Right" mentioned in the blurb; and Amber Tumbridge, Jen's colleague and, more importantly, Ellis' fiancée.
The supporting characters are generally pretty under-developed and two dimensional. The worst of them is Amber Tumbridge. She was created to fulfill the "bitchy rival" role. Her only expression is a "smeer", a combination smile and sneer. She's outrageously condescending about everything and to everyone. The complete lack of redeeming qualities often leaves both the reader and the characters in the book wondering why Quintal is with her. I suppose we could say that since this is all written from Jen's perspective, it's a skewed picture of her romantic rival. That's all well and good for real life, but it doesn't make for very interesting reading.
There was added frustration when Jen almost has a real and meaningful conversation with Ruth, the woman in charge of all the Avengers' paperwork. Ruth brings up the inequality women face when they are deemed "sluts" by men for being equally sexually active. When i read that, i thought "Yeah! Now we're getting somewhere!".
Jen gives a rather unemotional statement of agreement and then switches the topic immediately to Fan Club business. I was so disappointed. It's like the author enticed me with something that is a very real problem of "modern womanhood" only to say "Just kidding! That's too serious. Let's get back to the lighthearted hilarity.". *sigh*
The She-Hulk Diaries wasn't entirely unreadable. It gave nods to comic book geeks with tidbits such as Holden Holliway mentioning his granddaughter's (AKA Southpaw) left hook. But with zingers like this...
Jen: How come I never have any devastating retorts?
...representative of the level of wit and humor you can expect throughout the book, i couldn't actually recommend it.
**MORE SPOILER ALERT**
The big villain turns out to be Sven Morigi who is really Doctor Doom in disguise. He explains in his villain speech. Obviously.
Rearrange the letters in Doctor Sven Morigi and you get Victor Doom reigns! I dropped the von, which had seemed right at the time but now is a little much, don't you think? Like using punctuation for a name. Glad I never did that!
Wha??? Who the hell is this guy? No way in hell Doom is talking like that. The "von" is "a little much"??? I made a gurgling noise when i read that cause i was choking on my disbelief. Yeah. If you have any respect at all for Doom, don't read this book.