Issue(s): She-Hulk #18, She-Hulk #19, She-Hulk #20, She-Hulk #21, She-Hulk #22, She-Hulk #23, She-Hulk #24, She-Hulk #25
This is the end run on She-Hulk's first series.
It's pretty clear what went wrong with this series. It's worth comparing this book to Spider-Woman, another female character derived from a male counterpart. Spider-Woman had a great look, with a unique and interesting costume and a distinctive art style from Carmine Infantino in the early issues and Stephen Leialoha later on. The writers on the book set out very clearly to distinguish Spider-Woman from Spider-Man, with a different power set, an unrelated origin, and a very different tone and setting for the book, with Spider-Woman's earliest issues having a supernatural/horror theme.
She-Hulk on the other hand was literally derived from the Hulk. She has the same power-set, initially even had the same set-up with her father playing General Ross and Zapper playing Rick Jones, and, superficially at least, a pretty similar conflict between her 'normal' and 'enraged' selves. As for art, the series started strong with John Buscema, but he was quickly replaced with Mike Vosburg, who does a fairly generic and not-that-great Marvel House style. His art is fine. But it's not convincing anyone already predisposed to not like She-Hulk to pick up the book.
A major factor that probably prevented people from even giving this series a try is the lack of a costume. Aside from a couple of issues in this story, She-Hulk wears her white torn rags the entire series. It's not a question of being exploitative; it's just a really unappealing look. Say what you will about the Hulk's purple shorts, at least it's a distinguishing feature. A torn white shirt just looks... unfinished.
The sad thing is that David Anthony Kraft was actually making some progress here. I think he put himself in a bad situation beginning with issue #2 with a pretty boring cast of supporting characters and a status quo with She-Hulk that was identical to the Hulk's (i guess it's fair to say he inherited the latter from Stan Lee's issue #1). However, he does some interesting things with the She-Hulk's nature, first allowing her to control the transformations and then increasingly blurring the line between She-Hulk and Jennifer Walter's identities, first having She-Hulk say that she'd prefer to always be She-Hulk and then having Jen also say that she wished she was always She-Hulk. Kraft even eventually has the police realize that the She-Hulk wasn't responsible for the crimes she was initially accused of, so she's able to move around the city without constantly getting attacked.
On the personal side, though, there was less development. Jen's relationship with her father was irrationally bad and just got worse. The only other character in Jen's legal sphere was Buck Bukowski, and he was basically just a parody of a male chauvinist (until, to Kraft's credit, a dramatic switch towards the end here). And then there's lovesick side-kick Zapper, just really a "what is this guy even doing here?" nothing of a character who somehow manages to become She-Hulk's boyfriend. Bringing in Richard Rory should have helped matters but he's generally a non-entity in the series as well.
I don't know if it would have helped sales, but if Kraft had been able to stay on a little longer he might have wound up with She-Hulk in a place not too different than where she winds up with Roger Stern and John Byrne. He wraps up the conflict with her dad in this arc, removing the major sources of angst in her life that couldn't have just been jettisoned. Establishes that She-Hulk is going to be the dominant personality. He even experiments with having She-Hulk wear some actual clothes a bit in these issues. But his insistence on keeping She-Hulk with Zapper says to me that it's probably better that the series was cancelled so She-Hulk could move on to better things.
I guess the other problem with this series is the villains. There really haven't been any noteworthy villains in the series. Mobsters and a re-painted robot in her early issues. The Man-Elephant and the Grappler. And then in this arc, we're introduced to a series of villains, none of whom stand out. Then, in issue #25, we learn that all of the villains introduced beginning in issue #19 were different iterations of the same guy. It's very likely that this was to avoid leaving a lot of baggage behind. It's actually pretty implausible that the various villains are actually all the same guy. One of them is like a robot/cyborg kind of guy, and none of them are really alike. So it seems like in the wrap-up for this, the decision was made to say they were all the same entity so they could all be gotten rid of in one fell swoop.
The story begins with Jen going to bed in human form and waking up as She-Hulk. She acknowledges that her transformations are how she escapes the trials of her human life and, presumably as the transformation solidifies, decides that she doesn't need Jen anyway, or anyone else.
She walks that back a bit when she meets up with Zapper, but Zapper has (sort-of good intentioned) plans to betray her. He brings her to the UCLA lab where his colleague Ralphie and his mysterious boss (referred to as just "Doc" throughout these issues) are waiting to drug her and analyze her. They've told Zapper that they're looking to use She-Hulk's genetics to find a cure for cancer, but the truth is that Doc is looking for a way to apply the She-Hulk's ability to transform (which Doc hasn't actually seen, but has concluded that it "must" be the case) to the army of cloned creatures that he's been working on.
After Zapper leaves, She-Hulk escapes, and to protect himself, Doc transforms Ralphie into a mutated creature.
She-Hulk tears him apart. As supporting evidence that the "five in one" villain idea was the plan all along, we do see Ralphie's body slowly reforming itself at the end.
She-Hulk decides to go home for some rest before tracking down Doc, and winds up transforming back into Jennifer Walters in front of Richard Rory, who has already changed his mind and returned after leaving last issue. Rory reveals that he's known all along that Jen was She-Hulk.
Counteracting the calming effect of Rory's return is an arrival of formal eviction papers from Jen's father. And then Zapper shows up, feeling guilty about delivering She-Hulk to Doc (although still under the impression that the goal was to cure cancer). Needless to say, She-Hulk is not interested in apologies.
Note that Jen states that "There is no more Jenny!" and she'll stay She-Hulk forever.
Checking in with Buck Bukowski, we continue to see the effect that learning he was responsible for the death of Jen's friend Jill had on him. I really only highlight this panel because of the thought bubble from Buck's father. I mean, Buck is an Assistant District Attorney! Granted he's still living with his parents, but it's not like he's working part time as an ice cream truck driver. I guess it's not just Jennifer Walters that has daddy issues.
The next issue is not quite a downtime issue, but it shows She-Hulk dealing with regular crime and becoming a local hero, something she's not at all comfortable with.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Walters arrives at the Walters family home to find out that Jen tore up the place. He thinks it's out of spite since he is evicting her. Rory tries to tell him that his daughter is She-Hulk, but he doesn't believe it.
In the next issue, we learn a new boss is trying to take over the LA crime scene. It's Speculated that it's Nick Trask, She-Hulk's first major villain, or the Kingpin, but we learn it's a guy called Shade. She-Hulk is lured to an "Arena" (really just a construction site) so that Shade's super-villain the Seeker can defeat her, proving that Shade deserves to be the master crime boss.
One nice thing about this fight is that prior to it, She-Hulk stops at a store in Los Angeles and picks out some clothing for herself ("it's not make-up... she's really green!' type of lines will be more common as She-Hulk starts appearing in public more).
She has to modify them, of course.
Love it! Yes, the Hulk wears torn clothes, but he's got the mind of an angry 3 year old. Even with She-Hulk's more aggressive personality, Jen retains her intelligence and there's no reason for her to want to go around in a torn nightgown. And she's been able to control her transformations since issue #12 so she really should be prepared with a change of clothing when she changes. She doesn't need a formal super-hero costume; just something that fits her that isn't a white rag. As i said above, Kraft is moving this book in the right direction, albeit slowly.
Anyway, the Seeker has the ability to "absorb any stimulus... and magnify it a thousandfold, or convert it to an energy blast.
But She-Hulk buries it in rubble. And as always i love She-Hulk's attitude about it.
She-Hulk's next villain in
And we're learning that Doc is working with Shade.
She-Hulk wants to know why the mob is bothering her. "I'm no crime fighting super hero! I don't go out of my way to track them down! That's dad's job!"
Radius' power is to vibrate the molecules of his targets. But She-Hulk says that because she already has some control over her molecular structure, thanks to her ability to transform back into Jen, she's able to resist him. She doesn't actually transform back into Jen, so i'm not sure exactly how it helps, but it's what she says.
More to the point, She-Hulk doesn't care what super-powers these villains have.
She does describe Radius' attempt to constrict her into a solidified air cage as a metaphor for her life, but she decides to embrace her past troubles and let them be her strength. Again, a lot to like about this arc.
When She-Hulk frees herself, Radius flees from her, and Doc destroys him.
Meanwhile, Richard Rory is worried that Jen is staying as the She-Hulk for too long, speculating that it might cause problems or become irreversible. And Sheriff Walters learns that Beverly Cross tore up the letter that Jen wrote to him.
Next up is Torque.
She-Hulk beats him too. She's unfortunately back in her white rags for this story. The in-story reason for that was she was relaxing at Zapper's parents' beach house, and made a bathing suit for herself out of a curtain.
She-Hulk finally decides to take the fight back to Shade, so after intimidating some other mobsters and rejecting help from Lou Monkton, she heads to his mansion.
And let me just say again that i like the way She-Hulk is scripted, calling everybody else wimps and talking about the punks she's going to smash. It's the dialect and vocabulary that the Hulk used in his earliest issues (and again, in his grey period).
She-Hulk runs into a bunch of Doc's reject clones at Shades' place...
...as well as a super-powerful "perfectly-formed" child and...
...a giant mound of animated dirt called Earth-Lord.
While first facing the boy, Kyr, we see a flashback to a young Jen Walters defending Zapper from bullies.
While all of this is going on, Lou Monkton decides to follow She-Hulk anyway, and Richard Rory and Zapper declare a ceasefire on their awful bickering to talk to Jen's father again.
Between them and Buck Bukowski, they convince him that Jen is really She-Hulk and then just about everyone heads over to Shades' mansion for the finale.
It's at this point that it's revealed that all of the villains She-Hulk has been fighting in this arc were iterations of Zapper's friend Ralphie.
We learn that Shades is actually a construct created by Doc, piloted by a tiny clone!
And we learn that Doc himself is actually over 100 years old.
During the fight, She-Hulk is trapped in a force-field bubble, and her supporting cast realizes that she could escape if she'd turn back into Jen. She initially refuses, but does it when her father apologizes for the way he's been acting and tells her he accepts her.
While the transformation allows her to escape, she still intends to remain She-Hulk. As Jen, she says a final goodbye to Richard Rory...
...and then turns back into She-Hulk for the final fight against Doc. She-Hulk announces that the madder she gets, the stronger she gets...
...and eventually tears Doc out of his mechanical contraption, with her father convincing her not to kill him. With the fighting all over, she tells Zapper that she still loves him and that she'll stick around to help her father fight crime.
In a series that has some good points mixed in with a lot of bad points, it's the Zapper relationship that is the most bewildering to me. There's nothing about this guy that is appealing; his most memorable act in these issues is to turn She-Hulk over to Doc. There's nothing that explains what She-Hulk sees in him.
This is the second to last appearance of Richard Rory. He'll appear once more in She-Hulk's second, more satire-oriented, series and then that's it. I guess as a voice for Steve Gerber, he didn't seem interesting to other writers, but i think he has a lot of potential as a 'regular' guy with a very different perspective than, say, Rick Jones.
With "Doc" revealed as an ancient super-scientist, i immediately thought of Tyrannus and wondered if i would have liked the story better if Doc was revealed as an established villain. Tyrannus has some history with the Hulk, and you could also say he got interested in She-Hulk when she destroyed the Fountain of Youth back in issue #8, since Tyrannus is associated with a Fountain of Youth of his own (maybe they were related, with one feeding in to the other). And then "Shade" could have been Nick Trask, the mobster from She-Hulk's first arc, who was last seen plummeting to the center of the Earth in a giant snake vehicle. I don't know why i'm doing a fanfix here, except to say that tying She-Hulk into some established stuff, instead of just throwing wave after wave of underdeveloped new villains at her, might have helped things.
The good news is that She-Hulk doesn't get shuffled off entirely, and she'll be in the hands of some of my favorite writers (Roger Stern and then John Byrne) soon enough. The ending of this is pretty much ignored; Zapper won't be seen again until She-Hulk's satirical second series, and the idea that she'd be fighting crime with her father is ignored.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential She-Hulk vol. 1 (#25 is an original)
Inbound References (2): showBeverly Cross, Buck Bukowski, Daniel 'Zapper' Ridge, Doc (She-Hulk villain), Lou Monkton, Morris Walters, Ralphie Hutchins, Richard Rory, She-Hulk
Ugh. Sorry to have to be alerted to this entry by spam....
When Rory reappears, he bears no resemblance to the Rory seen beforehand. That was one big disappointment with Byrne's She Hulk run, for mine.
Posted by: Anonymous | July 6, 2013 9:02 PM
By the way, you are coming in as Anonymous which is fine if that's what you want to do but i've been noticing it's been happening to some people by accident. Maybe the "Remember personal info" cookie is getting dropped. I need to put in some kind of warning shield.
Also, this entry is about to get revised now that i'm adding the rest of the She-Hulk issues.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 6, 2013 9:18 PM
They never did resolve what happened with Beverly Cross, did they? One minute she's planning on suing Jen's father, then she disappears from the plot.
Posted by: Michael | July 7, 2013 4:26 PM
Right. Last we see, she's forged a power of attorney so she can deposit a check, and then says that she's going to sue him. I wasn't sure if it was eventually covered in a later She-Hulk story, but it is the last we hear of her here. I guess the lawsuit would go out the window pretty fast once it's confirmed that the power of attorney form was forged.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 7, 2013 4:34 PM
I don't think Kraft researched his villain names too well. "Torque" is a measurement of the force needed to get a nut off a screw(yes, I know how that sounds) and "Radius" is the distance from a circle's center to its border. That guy should have been called the Radiator.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 7, 2013 6:18 PM
Richard Rory actually turns up yet again, in the Dan Slott SHE-HULK series. He encounters supporting character Stu Cicero (who tended to function like a voice for Slott the way Rory did for Gerber), who borrows Richard's van to get back to New York after getting stranded in Man-Thing's swamp.
It is only a brief guest appearance, but at least the poor guy did manage to get another appearance in after all that time. I think he also had a cameo earlier in Slott's series, as part of She-Hulk's "time trial", which featured cameos from people from all of her series to date.
Posted by: Dermie | July 7, 2013 10:08 PM
David Anthony Kraft is one of the lower tier comic book writers, and this run is a good example why. He seems to have good characterization and scripting - he's stronger than Mantlo who is my go-to example for publishable work. And he seems to understand the importance of a supporting cast. But the cast here, outside Jen's father, isn't good although he does some nice things with them. But where he really fails is at villains and good plots appropriate to the character. This is not a character to be fighting the mob. She-Hulk's foes and the kind of stories here just aren't good for her.
If he had solved the problems with weak villains and uninteresting main plots, I think he would have been fairly successful. I think Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest was a similar kind of writer, but a little more successful.
Posted by: Chris | January 8, 2018 11:02 PM
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