Characters Appearing: Al the Alien, Big Enilwen, Blonde Phantom, Mary McGrill, Poppa Wheeler, Razorback, Retread, Rocket Raccoon, She-Hulk, Spragg the Living Mountain, Taryn O'Connell, U.S. Archer, Vuk, Wide Load Annie, Wyatt Wingfoot, Xemnu the Titan
Issue(s): She-Hulk #40, She-Hulk #41, She-Hulk #42, She-Hulk #43, She-Hulk #44, She-Hulk #45, She-Hulk #46, She-Hulk #48, She-Hulk #49
This arc, unusually long for the She-Hulk book, approaches the end John Byrne's second run on the title. The scenario established here will actually continue through issue #49, but issue #47 is a fill-in and there's enough of a break between issues #46 and #48 that i'll cover the latter two issues in a separate entry. Issue #50 will be Byrne's final issue (and it's more of an all-star jam goodbye issue). The book will then only run another ten issues before being cancelled. Sales have slumped dramatically since Byrne left the first time, and i guess his return didn't fix the problem. We'll have the SOO numbers in the next entry; and they have gone up, but not significantly.
That's actually the joke for the first issue in this run. A few issues back it was said in the lettercol that if sales didn't improve, Marvel would run an issue of nothing but She-Hulk skipping rope naked. And that's what happening at the start of issue #40.
This goes on for "only" five pages before editor Renee Witterstaetter puts a stop to it.
Renee then pushes She-Hulk into the actual story.
I'm always of two minds with the "have your cheesecake and eat it too" jokes in this book, but it's a cute gag.
She-Hulk then goe sto the airport to pick up Weezie, who has put back on all the weight she lost thanks to the Mole Man's rejuvenator.
The story is that she's always been a heavy eater. When she was the Blonde Phantom, she was active enough to keep the weight off. But now, even though she's been de-aged, she's gone back to the weight she had when she was older. The good news is that She-Hulk's father, who Weezie is dating, has no problem with it.
So that gets Weezie back into the cast, and now we're ready to actually start this storyline (we're still in issue #40, for what it's worth). On the way home from the airport, She-Hulk's flying car starts getting controlled by an outside source, and She-Hulk and Weezie are flown into outer space.
They run out of oxygen, and pass out. She-Hulk holds out longer, and wakes up first. When Weezie wakes up, she's face to face with Al the Alien from the US1 series.
And that's when Byrne runs out of the extra duo-shade paper that he had left over from his Namor run, so we are back to regular looking art again.
The story is that after Spragg the Living Hill was launched into space, he's been flying around as an asteroid and attacking the US1 space-station/truck-stop.
The duo-shade seems to be back for issue #41. I've noted my mixed feelings on the cheesecake satire, but i definitely thought this was funny.
She-Hulk says she was going to finish that sentence with "hair", but they are attacked at that point. She-Hulk initially thinks the attack is from the Comics Code Authority, but it's really Spragg.
The rest of issue #41 is actually a fairly straightforward fight, with a traditional kind of problem in that Spragg can spread his consciousness across multiple rocks, so no matter how much She-Hulk smashes him up, he's still there, just in smaller versions. The issue does end with one more gag, based on the idea that his pacing for the issue left the issue one page short (i love the depiction of Renee's office).
That might have been a legit pacing problem since there are only so many pages of She-Hulk punching asteroids that you can do.
Issue #42 opens with another gag. Weezie is boycotting the series, because she's upset that Byrne made her overweight again. She says he only did it because he was doing basically the same story with Spitfire.
It's not entirely true that Byrne only makes women fat. See Hulk annual #14. I guess that was only written by Byrne, not illustrated, but the guy's weight was a key part of the plot.
Anyway, She-Hulk shows Weezie some solidarity and then gets back to punching ever tinier Spraggs.
Eventually, with some help from U.S. Archer and Al the Alien, the core Spragg asteroid is captured.
And then, speaking of Byrne drawing fat men, Big Enilwen shows up.
Enilwen is collecting rocks instead of teddy bears now, and he's allowed to add Spragg to his collection. But the fact that he's set all his "bears" free means that Xemnu is on the loose again.
Then Renee shows up again to stop Byrne.
In a later lettercol, a "fromage" is defined as a case where a younger artist is caught doing a swipe and then claims it was really an homage.
Renee makes Byrne do the scene again in his own style. They involve more splash panels and two page spreads, so i'm not going to replicate them (they're at the CBR link), but here's where She-Hulk realizes that she's done it already.
Xemnu then uses his mental powers to paralyze She-Hulk. He intends to humiliate her by selling her to seedy creatures, such as those that might put out a Marvel Swimsuit comic.
But Xemnu is defeated by the return of Weezie, who has negotiated for a compromised body shape.
This is all a fun zany gag, but the idea that there are multiple possible body shapes in between "frumpy" and "She-Hulk" is actually a serious point. I've linked to Kelly Thompson's article before, which includes a very nice photograph depicting the very different sizes and shapes of various female athletes. And those are just athletes, let alone (currently) non-super women like Weezie. Unfortunately, even Byrne tends to draw all his women basically the same way most of the time. And we're not done with body changes for Weezie in this arc, either.
Next, Retread (another US1 character) shows up to say that Taryn O'Connell and Razorback have been kidnapped by the "Asparagus People". True Marvel fans know that means the D'Bari. But for those non-true Marvel fans (and/or those who want to see Byrne drawing scenes from X-Men and the Avengers), much of issue #44 is spent recapping what we've seen of the D'Bari so far.
She-Hulk, Weezie, and some of the US1 crew go to rescue Taryn and Razorback, but they are met along the way by Skrulls.
The Skrulls actually intend to blow up a settlement of what are said to be D'Bari survivors of the Dark Phoenix attack. But they allow She-Hulk to try to rescue her friends, first. So she is beamed down to the planet, and she allows herself to be captured. Note the Ovoid.
Also in the prison is a petrified Rocket Raccoon.
Issue #45 tells its story, starting with a flashback explaining how Rocket Raccoon got captured, around the sides of big splash panel pin-ups of She-Hulk.
Again, Renee steps in (just via footnotes this time) to complain about this. Byrne responds that he's just doing what a lot of artists do. Taking random splash panels and stringing them together.
But Renee says that those artists at least pretend that they are telling an actual story with the pin-ups, and she tells Byrne to cut it out.
The D'Bari that appeared in the original Avengers story (who will eventually be named Vuk in a handbook), approaches and turns Razorback to stone just as he's about to say that the D'Bari aren't what they appear to be. She-Hulk asks him why he's doing this, but her way of downplaying the Dark Phoenix incident doesn't help her case.
So when Vuk leaves, She-Hulk turns to the Ovoid, who she learns was imprisoned when he came to this world to try to sell the secret of his species' mind-swapping power. She learns that there's no tested range on the power, so she has the Ovoid swap her mind with Weezie, who is still on the Skrull ship. But the swap actually changes Weezie's body again, and She-Hulk's too.
The problem is that the Ovoid thought She-Hulk was a Skrull (since she's green, and since he heard that Weezie was on a Skrull ship). But when he hears that She-Hulk is really a gamma-irradiated human, he realizes the problem. Her radioactive blood interfered with the process, and swapped the characteristics of their bodies instead of their minds. But Weezie figures out what's up, and heads to the D'Bari settlement with a contingent of Skrulls and US1 characters.
However, Vuk sets his petrification gun to explode, and apparently the explosion is enough to turn the whole planet to stone. The Skrulls teleport back to their ship, leaving everyone to fend for themselves. They all cram onto the Ovoid's ship, leaving the petrified Razorback and Rocket Raccoon behind. The petrification wave affects even the Skrull ship, destroying it. But the Ovoid ship avoids it. They then return to the planet, and find all of the D'Bari have been turned to stone, but Razorback and Rocket have been returned to normal.
It turns out that the D'Bari were really Carbon Copy Men, from Journey Into Mystery #90.
The story ends with She-Hulk and Weezie still in their swapped bodies. She-Hulk's gamma irradiated blood means that the Ovoid can't help reverse the process.
As i've said a few times, even as recently as the beginning of this entry, it's really possible to enjoy Byrne's She-Hulk run a straight super-hero story. I like the appearance of the various obscure characters and alien races like the D'Bari, the Ovoids, and the Carbon Copy Men. It probably helps that, due to more recent developments, i can take the appearance of Rocket Raccoon seriously, and the Carbon Copy Men have appeared as recently as X-Factor #32, and Byrne himself has made use of the Ovoid mind-swapping ability in a serious comic prior to this. So i don't think of these things as just weird Silver Age concepts; they're totally legit to me. I think the fact that the stories work on a semi-serious level may be part of why Byrne's She-Hulk works better than, say, Steve Gerber's, where the plots are just outright zany. But it's also that Byrne's meta-humor is more on-point. The knocks on Liefeld and the general tendency toward pin-ups, and even the commentary about cheesecake and the like, all feels very relevant.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: She-Hulk informs us that next issue will be a fill-in.
That fill-in takes place out of sequence, and is placed earlier in my project. Issue #48 starts with She-Hulk and Weezie having made it back to Earth and with the Fantastic Four, but they start that arc still in their swapped bodies, so they shouldn't appear elsewhere in-between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I agree with your analysis of what works in JB's She-Hulk that didn't work in the others. JB takes the ridiculous elements already present in the Marvel Universe and treats them seriously. At least seriously enough outside the Breaking the 4th Wall comments. The villains have real motivations and real plots that make sense considering the original characters. Granted, these stories are still ridiculous, but in general Byrne steers successfully to keep them from being so absurd you can't enjoy.
Exploring this side of the Marvel universe wouldn't be my idea of a series, and I don't think it ever worked without Byrne. But it seems legitimate in way that the other writer's work doesn't.
Posted by: Chris | March 2, 2016 9:03 PM
In that panel with She-Hulk in lingerie and chains, the alien on the hoverdisc is a Mekon from Dan Dare, a strip in the 1950s British "Eagle" book.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 4, 2016 4:15 PM
When I think about She-Hulk #45, I think about Uncanny X-Men #282, which by coincidence, John Byrne scripted over Whilce Portacio's art. Every page was about being and/or looking like a splash page. In realtime, I counted the total panels for that issue and it was under a hundred. Like less than 90, I think. Byrne was able to wring humor out of that, which was a big achievement. On the other hand, the humor is kind of topical, so I'm not sure the Liefeld slams will hold up in the trade paperback reprint in the today's environment.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 10, 2016 10:41 PM
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