Sunday, August 28, 2016

Peter David Makes She-Hulk Into A Buddy Dramedy With Jaded!

The Good: Good character development, Artwork, Much of the plot
The Bad: Lack of plot resolution/subplot that goes nowhere, Artwork for Jennifer Walters at the end of the book.
The Basics: She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded finds Jennifer Walter making another big life transition after she loses all of her friends and allies and teams up with a Skrull.

I grew up reading the Star Trek novels of Peter David and his writing style was part of what encouraged me to become a writer. So, as my tastes have grown and changed and I have gotten into different franchises or characters, I am always excited when I find works by Peter David in the new thing I'm into. As I continue to revisit She-Hulk - my She-Hulk Year gave me a real appreciation for the character! - I was pretty psyched to see that Peter David had a stint as head writer for the She-Hulk comic book for a while. The first anthology of his works as writer for the continuing story of Jennifer Walters is She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded, a book that follows She-Hulk's life after the events of Civil War (reviewed here!).

David picks up the story of Jennifer Walters at a potentially awkward place. Walters is without a job, without any recognizable allies and she has essentially renounced her position as a super-hero. As a simple narrative device, it makes perfect sense that She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded would feature some new characters and that Jennifer Walters would need a sidekick. Lacking a sidekick, David would have been forced to resort to extended external narration (the comic book equivalent of voiceovers) or the inorganic technique of having the protagonist talk to herself the whole time. Jennifer Walters's sidekick, Jazinda, is a surprisingly strong addition to the character's narrative, which helps make She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded instantly intriguing and readable.

Jennifer Walters has left her life as a lawyer (and as an Avenger) behind and is now working as a skip tracer for F.B.I. (Freeman Bonding, Inc.). Rockwell Davis, Hi-Lite, attempts a museum heist when a guard walks in and has a heart attack. Unwilling to let the guard die, Davis saves the guard's life and is captured by the police, but goes on the lam before his trial begins. Walters hunts Davis down in Minnesota, but before she can take him away, Davis's cousin, Carl Creel (the Absorbing Man) arrives to take on Walters. She-Hulk is beset both by Creel and Titania, who is in a miniaturized form, pounding away at her eardrum. She-Hulk's fight with Creel takes them through the Mall Of America where She-Hulk has to rely upon her partner, who appears to be Jennifer Walters, for back-up.

She-Hulk's partner is Jazinda, a Skrull, and together they bring Davis to Brooklyn. Despite problems with F.B.I.'s insurance provider, Walters gets paid and goes out to a bar, where she meets Bran. While she is immediately attracted to Bran, she is thrown when his flirting quickly transitions into him setting off a bomb. Returning to the trailer park after saving as many lives as she can, Walters and Jazinda identify Bran and begin a hunt for him. En route, Jennifer and Jazinda are waylaid by an alien ship which is carrying a Froma, a green alien from a Gamma Radiation-saturated planet, who mistakes Walters for a relative. Cazon convinces Jazinda to help him escape the bounty hunters who are after him, but in the process she discovers he is the killer he is accused of being. She-Hulk fights the bounty hunter who is hunting Cazon, until the truth is revealed. In dealing with the consequences of that fight, Jennifer Walters finds herself forced to turn to the life she rejected for resolution.

She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded works well because the characters are interesting and the book has a decent grounding in very relatable human morality. Even the first villain has a decent sense of ethics to him. Davis puts the human life of a guard over the potential profit he would make stealing the (potentially) Holy Grail. The morality adds a sense of character to an otherwise flat character (and gives readers the hope that Peter David still has his wry wit to him in that he immediately calls out the potential plot hole of a guy stealing the Holy Grail, but giving his inadvertent victim CPR).

The moralization and sense of loss for the protagonist is well-executed. Instead of seeming melodramatic, She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded finds Jennifer Walters dealing with the full weight of her recent decisions and experiencing loss that is not simply overcome. Even as she explicitly rejects being a superhero, Walters chides Davis for risking his mother's house when he breaks his bail. Walter's attitude when saving Park from the bombed out rubble is equally heroic and moral; she spends She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded trying to do the right thing, without judging the quality of the people she is attempting to keep safe.

The reveal of Jazinda is fun. Jazinda is a pretty cool character, where her alien nature allows her to get away with monstrous actions, like telling Roz's father that she is dead. There is an initial frustrating aspect to Jazinda's alien biology, but David smartly plays it to the point where it might become unbearable before rewarding the patient reader with making her abilities sensible and the source of future conflict. Jazinda and Walters play off one another well and David writes their banter well and their conflict with psychoanalyzing one another equally well.

While Jazinda is cool, she acts as a medium for the somewhat lamer subplot surrounding the new character Roz, from the trailer park, and her family. She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded further confuses the reader by immediately throwing in a different troubled married couple to add another subplot. These extra characters are much like the fairly generic villains in She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded. Carl Creel is written in She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded as an utterly generic adversary for She-Hulk and I only appreciated his appearance at all because I recognized his character from the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Shadows" (reviewed here!). Similarly, Titania's vengeful attitude toward She-Hulk is alluded to without a single example of past wrongs done to her. That makes her appear as unremarkable an enemy as Cazon.

Despite some weak adversarial characters, there is much to recommend She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded. The artwork in the book features wonderful coloring throughout. While the last chapter's rendition of Jennifer Walters looks very little like the rendition in the first chapter (she suddenly has brown hair, reminiscent of the human corpse from the prior chapter!), most of the book the characters are recognizable. The book has a low sense of movement and some of the book seems rushed in that regard. For example, a single panel is used to indicate a space ship is spiraling down and out of control.

Ultimately, though, She-Hulk Volume 6: Jaded is an enjoyable read which encourages readers to look back into the character of Jennifer Walters and find her journey compelling once again.

For other She-Hulk books from this period in Jennifer Walter's life, please visit my reviews of:
Single Green Female
Superhuman Law
Time Trials
Laws Of Attraction
Planet Without A Hulk
Secret Invasion


For other book reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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