Writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Nico Leon have done something incredible with Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk. One of the strongest figures in the Marvel Universe sounds and reads like an entirely different character, now, following the events of Civil War II.
Namely, Thanos beat her within an inch of her life, and put her in a coma. When she woke up, she discovered that her cousin Bruce Banner had been killed by friend and fellow Avenger, Hawkeye. She’s a wreck.
When we meet her again, she’s lost her confidence. She’s lost her strength. And she has to stand on tiptoe to reach things in an apartment built for her alter-ego. It’d be adorable if it weren’t so tragic.
Jennifer has gone back to work as a lawyer with some former colleagues. She struggles to get through the day. Her clients are mutants, inhumans, and other creatures. The primary guest spot is filled by Miss Brewn, a strange shut-in who’s threatened with unlawful eviction. Jennifer promises Brewn she’ll do everything she can.
The mystery of who Brewn is and what’s going on in her apartment is intriguing, but secondary to the highlight of the comic: watching a superhero deal with PTSD. It is nothing short of beautiful.
The HULK is about more than green skin, purple tights, and massive strength. At its core, at its absolute best, HULK is about a person losing control.
Long before he died, Bruce Banner had perfected his control over the Hulk. The Totally Awesome Hulk, too. It makes for a neat comic, but by no means compelling. At all.
What HULK does beautifully is illustrate a woman barely hanging on by her fingernails. A pushy journalist ambushes her at her apartment, triggering her. Jennifer has a panic attack, and starts to Hulk Out.
She’s not in control, anymore. But she gets it back. Mariko Tamaki has taken a strong, intelligent, confident woman, and flipped her on her head. She doesn’t trust that strength anymore. She barely manages to keep a lid on it. Her sense of self has been shattered, and now she’s left with trauma, and some helpful techniques to manage her stress.
THIS is a ride that interests me. THIS is a comic I’ll be picking up again. You should too.