Friday, December 13, 2013

The She-Hulk Diaries Leaves She-Hulk Fans With Nothing To Marvel Over.

The Good: Moments of humor
The Bad: Bland plot, Lack of genuine character development, Poor interpretation of Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Narrative voice is boring
The Basics: Apparently trying to nab more of a female audience, The She-Hulk Diaries ends up disappointing She-Hulk fans (of either gender).

As my She-Hulk Year nears its close, I find myself in the unenviable position of not being able to get in any more She-Hulk graphic novels. As a result, I found myself eager to pick up the novel The She-Hulk Diaries because it offered a potentially different take on the character I had spent my year immersed in. Unfortunately, though, author Marta Acosta treads over the line of reinterpreting the character and into the realm of illustrating that in order to produce a novel like The She-Hulk Diaries she either had to make up something as she went along or had no idea who the established character actually was.

At its core, The She-Hulk Diaries is a “Jekyll And Hyde” type story where lawyer Jennifer Walters is plagued by the reputation and actions of her alter-ego, She-Hulk. Unlike in the modern canon of She-Hulk, where Jennifer Walters both has the ability to transform at will to She-Hulk and She-Hulk’s partying is more reckless than self-destructive, in The She-Hulk Diaries Jennifer Walters is characterized as having control issues that prevent her from reigning in her alter-ego. So, The She-Hulk Diaries begins as Jennifer Walters is regretting her recent past (having been kicked out of the Avengers Mansion) and working to reform her life (with Valentine’s Day Resolutions, so she might be less likely to relapse into old behaviors).

Lacking a job and a boyfriend, Jennifer Walters resolves to get both. The first is easy enough; as one of her friends points out, she has incredibly marketable skills as a lawyer and with minimal application, she is once again litigating. Given that she is taking cases in the Marvel Universe, this means Jennifer Walters is working on an extraordinary case, in this case for a company that created clones for organ harvesting and whose cloned organs are now breaking down. The boyfriend issue is almost as quickly resolved when a one-night stand of Walters’, Ellis Tesla from the band Fringe Theory pops back up. Foreshadowed from almost page one, the mystery of what happened to the band Fringe Theory and its lead singer Ellis Tesla becomes a chance for Jennifer Walters to put her loneliness and sense of regret behind her when he reappears.

But, as the case drags on and Walters and Tesla start forming a more meaningful relationship all the signs emerge that there are other forces at work in the City. To that end, Walters must rely on the raw power of She-Hulk to combat Dr. Doom and save New York City.

The She-Hulk Diaries is one of the irksome books that tells young women (which seems to be the book’s target demographic) that getting a man and losing weight are essential aspects of their lives and that’s annoying for anyone who knows the character of She-Hulk. She-Hulk is promiscuous and unrepentant about that, at least in the graphic novels she stars in. In fact, in the graphic novels, more than being in conflict, She-Hulk and Jennifer Walters work much more like an Id and Super Ego than a Jekyll and Hyde type story (it’s what keeps She-Hulk from being a cheap retread of Hulk).

Beyond that, The She-Hulk Diaries is depressingly lacking in significant character development. Jennifer Walters sets out goals for herself and the book slowly plods along her achieving and having setbacks to those resolutions. These are not clever resolutions and Walters achieving (or not) them is hardly the stuff of great literature.

Moreover, for those only tangentially familiar with the Marvel Universe, Walters referencing various characters only by their first names without truly delving into who they are can make reading The She-Hulk Diaries more frustrating than enlightening. The book was also clearly rushed to market as it includes numerous typos – like “She-Hulk got us got us kicked out of the Avengers Mansion” (2). If your editor has given up by page two, the book is in trouble and The She-Hulk Diaries is a novel that is in trouble by the fourth chapter.

Ultimately, the big battle is not incredible, the case is not compellingly presented, and the romance plotline is hardly worth gushing over. In short, the few clever lines in The She-Hulk Diaries do not justify the time one would spend on reading the book.

For other books based upon comic book or television properties, please check out my reviews of:
Daredevil: The Cutting Edge
Wonder Woman: Mythos
Heroes: Saving Charlie


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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