The artwork is great, but the writing is a hard sell.
Marvel Legacy is upon us and with it comes a return to classic numbering for many titles (whether or not the numbers are correct for some is up for debate). Also comes a return to the classic titling for She-Hulk and potentially a new beginning for the title. Will it work and give the fans what they’ve been wanting?
She-Hulk #159 is an odd duck to talk about since it feels strangely disconnected in some sense. For a Marvel Legacy title, the comic doesn’t feel like it fits with the relaunch/rebranding/renumbering angle. It doesn’t feel reflective of the She-Hulk comics of the past, and it doesn’t particularly get things off on an exciting or intriguing start like other Legacy titles. On the flipside, that disconnect also means it feels disconnected from its past as simply "Hulk," no longer focusing on Jennifer Walter’s struggle with her She-Hulk self. It lacks the humanity, and the self-reflective trauma angle of the first arc, while also lacking the energy and action of the second. In its own way, She-Hulk feels adrift and doesn’t seem to fit tonally anywhere with what it was or what it should be now.
Story-wise, the comic gets things moving slowly and is more setup than energy and excitement. Jennifer Walters is kidnapped by the Leader and an obsessive fangirl, and that’s pretty much all there is. We get a vague idea for the motivation with an added undercurrent of Stephen King’s Misery (an interview earlier in the year with Tamaki indicated that this arc was King inspired), but it doesn’t feel like enough. There’s no action, no strong characterization or checking in on how Jen has been progressing with her trauma, and the story presented so far hasn’t really shown much beyond a stereotypical "kidnapped by a crazy fan" plot. Now, none of this plot or story is badly written or presented, but it feels like the comic could have had a bit more bite to it or could have had a strong connection to the arcs of the past for something more thematically appropriate.
There is something lacking in what Mariko Tamaki is presenting here. The pacing of the book is decompressed, with scenes being stretched out for far longer than they should. An example would be an entire page of Jen chasing down a phone snatcher while the next page is her just cracking wise about the thief running into a dead-end alley (seen above), which could have easily been combined into one page. Said pages and pacing lead into another problem: the book’s humor, which takes up more space than the trauma and grief that were the focus of previous arcs. The humor just doesn’t work too well most of the time, either trying too hard to be clever or the joke being stretched out and paced poorly, like the alley page. It’s a matter of taste when it comes to humor, but it just doesn’t have the wit or the timing of other books out there. Wrapping it all together is the dialogue, which feels just a tiny bit stilted and off. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly, there’s just something not quite right (like during Hellcat and Jen’s phone call). Again, none of this actually ruins the book, but it doesn’t make for the most engaging of reads either.
The biggest strength and what ultimately saves the comic is the newest artist on the series, Jahnoy Lindsay. I never have seen this artist’s work before, but I’ve instantly become a fan of his work. He have a great sense of capturing a character’s personality and getting the mood and emotion out of the scene and the people in it. Everyone is very expressive and without even reading the dialogue, you can instantly pick up on what they’re feeling or thinking in each scene or interaction. Despite the writing not being too up to snuff, the art does a great job on selling the tense mood and feel at the end. The layouts all generally flow well together, there’s no issue with panel continuity, and the coloring is pretty nice as well. The biggest issue lies in the fact that there are quite a few empty white abysses and bland gradient backgrounds that just look like the artist was cutting corners, especially when he’s capable of drawing backgrounds in just the previous panel. The rest of the artwork is still good even besides this hiccup and I hope Lindsay is able to stay with the comic until the end of the arc.
Is It Good?
She-Hulk #159 is a bit of a hard sell. For fans of when it was called Hulk, it lacks the focus on trauma, anger, PTSD, and other heavy thematic elements that made them interested in the first place. For old fans of the character, it lacks the excitement, the lawyering, and the sense of fun. Even as a jumping on point, it doesn’t really get going and is more about setting things up and showing its Misery influence. By no means is this a poorly constructed comic, but it’s one that could use a boost to really hook people. Maybe the next issue will present that.