Issue(s): She-Hulk #31, She-Hulk #32, She-Hulk #33
One thing that is different is the state of play at Marvel, so we see references to Todd McFarlane and other newer artists.
Note that this time, at least, Byrne is poking fun more at himself, and there is a fair amount of that.
The plot has She-Hulk and Weezie trying to go on vacation, but instead investigating reports of a moving mountain. And they find a scientist talking about Spragg the Living Hill.
Practically a full retelling of Journey Into Mystery #68 is given (despite it being called "an extremely condensed retelling", we get 5 pages compared to the original's 13).
One of my favorite lines:
Anyway, Spragg has now returned, but re-entry to Earth has burned away all of his mass and buried him deep beneath the ground. She-Hulk winds up falling in after him.
She-Hulk lands in the Mole Man's kingdom, and initially has to convince him that she's not trying to invade his kingdom. When he hears that she's after Spragg, he agrees to help, in return for a price that She-Hulk agrees to without hearing.
Bob and Weezie, meanwhile, find Spragg's relatives.
So since She-Hulk's punching...
...and Mole Man's rock monsters do no good against Spragg...
...it's a good thing that the other rock spores are not evil like Spragg, and indeed don't like Spragg very much, and they show up and try to arrest him.
What's striking is that there's actually not a ton of humor in most of issue #32 and the fight in #33. Some quips from She-Hulk, some of which are metatexual, but it's mostly played straight except for the villain himself (and let's face it, we've all seen weirder). And it's good; i would happily read a straight super-hero series like this. That was one of the failings of a lot of the books in between Byrne's runs: they went straight for the zany without having a good story at the core.
Anyway, while Spragg is fighting with his people, the Mole Man uses the opportunity to launch all of them into space. She-Hulk says that she would be really unhappy with the Mole Man is she didn't know that Byrne already had a sequel planned.
And then we get to the part where She-Hulk promised something in return for helping her, and if we already read Avengers annual #20 (or saw the cover of this issue), we know it's that Mole Man wants She-Hulk to marry her.
After getting a dig in at Jim Lee (even while providing his own brand of cheesecake)...
...Byrne takes a crack at modern comics in general while explaining why She-Hulk would honor her hasty promise to the Mole Man (and i don't know who Paul is).
The diamond glop that She-Hulk and the Outcast are talking about was brought up earlier but i skipped over it. Mole Man has been melting the diamonds from his Valley of Diamonds, and when the above Outcast accidentally fell into it, it transformed her from being ugly to being beautiful. So Mole Man has made the assumption that the melted diamonds transform someone into their opposite, except you can see that the Outcast interprets it differently.
It also turns out that the Mole Man didn't expect She-Hulk to honor her promise, so as a contingency he's tied up Weezie and dangled her over the diamond glop. In the resulting kerfuffle, Weezie, She-Hulk, and the Mole Man all fall into the glop. Nothing happens to She-Hulk, because, as She-Hulk surmises, the glop really brings out your inner self, and She-Hulk says that gamma radiation already did that. Weezie is de-aged.
And the Mole Man, well, maybe he's turned into an actual mole, and maybe he's escaped (either way, he's back to normal by his next appearance in Infinity Watch).
Weezie's crack about aging women is made more explicit a little later; he's talking about Spitfire.
Note also that the de-aging puts Weezie in her early 40s, and She-Hulk is said to be in her early 30s.
In addition to the main story, we get a few pop culture quasi-cameos, including mMilli Vanilli...
...and the Simpsons.
The latter sequence is setting up the next story. We also see a silhouetted Blake Tower getting ready to call She-Hulk about it.
Fun stuff, both as a straight adventure and as a comedy. I do dislike the cheesecake, even while it's done for satirical purposes (have your cheesecake and eat it too). She-Hulk is unique at this time for Marvel in being the only solo book starring a female character, and that kind of thing would have been a barrier for entry for female readers (it's a subject of debate in the lettercols). But if you can overlook or don't care about that, this series gets a 180 degree turnaround with these issues. The talent, energy, and humor is back.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Two days pass before the final page of issue #33, which is when Blake asks to be put in contact with She-Hulk, and at that point She-Hulk is on vacation and may not be easy to get a hold of. So the Simpsons will just have to get eaten by zombies.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBlake Tower, Blonde Phantom, Bob Robertson, Mole Man, She-Hulk, Spragg the Living Mountain
What a relief that John Byrne is back on the title! When he was on it, it was one of my favorites.
The cheesecake stuff all eventually comes to a head in an upcoming issue. Heck, it's even called out on a few covers in the process. I never had an issue with it because it was all in fun and therefor had a point.
Byrne is back, let this series be fun again!
Posted by: Bill | October 29, 2015 7:30 PM
"What's striking is that there's actually not a ton of humor in most of issue #32 and the fight in #33." Did you mean #31 and #32?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 29, 2015 7:47 PM
The Valley of Diamonds plot, including the Mole Man turning into a giant mole, was Byrne's original plot for FF 296. (The idea was that the glop would leave Ben the Thing, because that was his inner self.)
Posted by: Michael | October 29, 2015 8:18 PM
@Morgan, no i meant #32 and #33. Issue #32 has She-Hulk confronting the Mole Man and learning about the diamond glob, and Weezie and Bob exploring Subterannea. There are some quips and things but it reads pretty well just as a straight action story. And issue #33 has the actual fight with Spragg, which is wrapped up in the first half and then there is the wedding plot which gets back to having a lot of meta references.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 29, 2015 8:40 PM
I have a lot of problems with the usual cheesecake in comics. It's often actually very unappealing with all the broken spines and silly poses, and it never seems to make any sense, with the woman staying in just their bathing suits even when they go to the north pole.
Byrne does a lot better in those regards. There's usually some story purpose or a joke tied to it, and his women actually look attractive. The main problem I have with it is that it's always the women looking sexy, enforcing the idea that comics are purely a guy thing. Add Namor or Hercules to the cast for some regular doses of beefcake to even things out!
Posted by: Berend | October 30, 2015 2:06 PM
Wasn't "First Flight" an SF novel by Chris Claremont?
I'm guessing editorial thought it would be too controversial to leave the Milli Vanilli guy black.
Too bad Byrne never brought back Quogg the Living Hut.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 31, 2015 1:18 AM
Strictly speaking, Hank's passion for insects in the original story seemed to come as a result of his ant hill episode and he had invented the shrinking formula before any display of entomology.
Posted by: Max_Spider | October 31, 2015 2:19 PM
"I do dislike the cheesecake"
That is John Byrne's thing. He's a pervert who has to shoe-horn skin-revealing shots and sexual situations in his stories.
Posted by: Dar | June 11, 2016 6:24 AM
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