The Good: Decent character work, Trends toward the more serious (which I like)
The Bad: Erratic artwork, Somewhat predictable plot
The Basics: In She-Hulk: Time Trials, Jennifer Walters gets involved with a case that involves time travel and is put on trial herself for attempting to right a death of a close friend, against the laws of temporal non-interference.
Having fully committed myself now to my She-Hulk Year (my nightstand is suddenly very green!), I am pleased to discover that I had been led to a superheroine who is more than just a punchline or a female version of a classic male archetype. She-Hulk, and her fully-human alter ego Jennifer Walters, is growing on me, in part because the books I have read that focus on She-Hulk tend to be smarter than what I think of when I think of The Hulk (“Hulk smash!”). This comes through in She-Hulk: Time Trials, which attempts to make the arguments that Jennifer Walters and the She-Hulk are both unique and utterly replaceable. In fact, one of the only real moments of humor is in a sequence that attempts to illustrate just how replaceable She-Hulk is (I wish I were more of a Marvel aficionado, to actually get the joke!), but because the book is a She-Hulk volume, it predictably comes down on the side of She-Hulk being indispensible.
She-Hulk: Time Trials is a continuation of Dan Slott’s vision of the She-Hulk and a direct sequel to The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk (which is in my reading stack, currently unread, but alluded to with enough detail that one gets the significant aspects of the story spoiled). Apparently in the first run of Dan Slott’s work on She-Hulk, there was an important side-story focusing on She-Hulk that necessitated a reboot of the character and She-Hulk: Time Trials takes place eight months after her last solo appearance to redirect the character.
Eight months after her uncontrolled outburst that destroyed Bone, Idaho – and her subsequent Green Cross work rebuilding the town as Jennifer Walters – Jennifer Walters returns to the supernatural law level of the law firm Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway to find her mentor, Holliway, replaced by the mysterious Mr. Zix. Her first case, which she is co-chairing with Pug, focuses on an attempted murder that occurred in broad daylight by a man who claims to have shot his assailant because the man was going to kill him in the future! With the present jury pool so tainted by media coverage of the shooting, Pug has the trial remanded to a temporal law division that uses a jury pool of people who all died prior to the shooting (and thus could not be tainted or in any way invested in it). Unfortunately, one of the jurors is Clint Barton, the Avenger Hawkeye! Barton had, apparently, died recently and was (also, apparently, because it has not yet come up in the volumes I have read!) a good friend of Jennifer Walters.
Jennifer decides that she is going to save Clint, regardless of what happens in the trial. Attempting to slip him a note about his impending fate before he is returned to his regular, pre-death time frame draws the attention of the Time Variance Authority who decides that She-Hulk will be erased from all existence. Represented by a future version of Holliway’s granddaughter, Southpaw, Jennifer Walters is put on trial with virtually every ally being pulled from time to act as a character witness for her. But, when she sees a glimpse of the Reckoning War, she decides to accept her punishment. Her sentence is commuted when, during the trial, she thwarts a villain from making off with key technology from the Time Variance Authority. In returning to the timeline, Jennifer is given custody of Matthew Hawk, an obscure Avenger known as the Two-Gun Kid, who was pulled out of time previously. As she acclimates the cowboy Hawk to the 2000s, Walters commits to her law firm and a new direction.
She-Hulk: Time Trials has, in its last two panels, an amazing saving grace for the She-Hulk franchise: She-Hulk (and writer Dan Slott) commits to not breaking the fourth-wall. So, despite the allusions to other time periods, writers, and incarnations of She-Hulk, Slott commits to a more serious version of She-Hulk. I like that and Slott does not let the reader down. As the serious reader may appreciate, She-Hulk: Time Trials has larger themes outside the comic book microcosm. Time Trials is all about consequences and Walters puts her ethics and desire to save lives before a consideration of the consequences of her actions.
Interestingly, in the divergent story that takes place during the missing six months of She-Hulk’s life, She-Hulk notes that neither she, nor Hulk, have ever taken an innocent life. I found that interesting as it seems to reduce the overall menace of both characters in their out-of-control forms to never have human collateral damage. That said, She-Hulk: Time Trials maintains that tradition well, if in a predictable way.
The artwork in She-Hulk: Time Trials is problematic in that it is entirely erratic. For one of the chapters, there are no less than sixteen separate artists! Sixteen artists for a single issue and it shows. The interpretations of the characters and the situations are so variable that it is distracting. It is hard to go from beautiful painted panels that look like the quality of covers to cheap comic strip sketches! At least the coloring throughout the entire book is decent.
I do not know the work of Dan Slott well enough yet to know whether or not She-Hulk: Time Trials is truly the beginning of something wonderful or not. The Two-Gun Kid seems a particularly lame hero to pair up with She-Hulk (a comic that already has Walters with a love interest and a man desperately pining for her) and from She-Hulk: Time Trials, it is virtually impossible to become emotionally invested in him. Even so Slott seems to be worth investing in as he wants to make She-Hulk into a serious venture . . . and with She-Hulk: Time Trials he seems to succeed.
For other She-Hulk books, please visit my reviews of:
The Sensational She-Hulk
Single Green Female
For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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