Thursday, January 31, 2013

Consequences, Character, I Like It! She-Hulk: Superhuman Law Is A Well-Constructed Story!

The Good: Decent artwork, Engaging character, Good story/plot development, Effective use of humor
The Bad: “Missing” chapter, Relies upon quite a bit not in the book
The Basics: In She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, Jennifer Walters continues her adventures as She-Hulk, practicing law for Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway, though old enemies crop up to do her and her friends harm!

My She-Hulk Year is in full-swing, though it got off to a rocky start. The second She-Hulk volume I read, The Sensational She-Hulk (reviewed here!) was just an abysmal book and I thought I might have to abandon my study of She-Hulk for lack of interest. Fortunately, the third book I picked up, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, was easily the best of the character’s books I have yet read and it turned out to be exceptionally well-conceived and well-executed. A direct continuation of Single Green Female (reviewed here!), She-Hulk: Superhuman Law follows She-Hulk, with only occasional appearances by her human alter-ego, Jennifer Walters.

While usually I find myself bothered by stories where the elements are telegraphed in the construction of the story, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law seems far more well-constructed and well-conceived than it appears contrived. For the greatest enjoyment and understanding of She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, the reader must read Single Green Female in advance of this volume. There are numerous callbacks to the prior book and writer Dan Slott does an exceptional job of making some of the throwaway lines and moments in the first book have importance in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law. Unfortunately, this volume is far from perfect in the continuity regard (and I am not referencing the Infinity Gem stuff, as I have no knowledge of those outside this book); there is an incident referenced with the Scarlet Witch, which is not contained within She-Hulk: Superhuman Law. To truly appreciate the sense of confusion and loss She-Hulk has immediately prior to her confrontation with Titania, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law should have included that.

On the fringe of the galaxy, a Champion boxer, Tryco Slatterus, pounds the crap out of any and all who enter the ring in which he fights. By Skardon law, he maintains control of the planet with each victory he achieves. A representative of the Magistrati (an interstellar legal authority) oversees the fights, reluctantly. When one of the Magistrati comes to Earth to induct She-Hulk into their ranks, Jennifer Walters is initially honored and she and Southpaw are sent to mediate the dispute on Skardon. In resolving the issue on Skardon, She-Hulk ends up exceptionally powerful and unable to control her physical strength as well when she returns to Earth.

After helping Hercules out with a case and getting outfitted with a power-limited suit by Reed Richards, She-Hulk once again finds herself in conflict with Southpaw and an old enemy. After a primer on Titania, the deposed Champion outfits Titania with the Infinity Gem and the villain Titania comes after She-Hulk . . . this time with enough lethal power to actually be successful!

She-Hulk: Superhuman Law includes a whole chapter that is a primer on Titania and while that is exceptionally useful, it seems to come at the expense of including the incident She-Hulk undergoes with the Scarlet Witch, which is alluded to but not seen. She-Hulk: Superhuman Law is generally strong and interesting on the character front. In fact, the only real issue on the character front is that, after years of being lied to about her condition, Jennifer Walters learns the truth about her transformative abilities. Having been lied to for years, by two people she seems to have trusted more than anyone else, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law does not include nearly enough of a chance to explore the ramifications of those lies. Instead, She-Hulk’s world is shaken and turned upside down, with no real emotional consequences.

She-Hulk: Superhuman Law lacks a larger thematic moral or exploration of emotion or humanity that the best books contain.

However, what the book does have, is an exceptionally engaging storyline and the character aspects that it does explore are well-conceived. When She-Hulk realizes that she can defeat Hercules, she becomes concerned about the level of power she possesses. In the process of taking responsibility for her actions and powers, She-Hulk thinks her way out of some of her legal problems and that makes She-Hulk: Superhuman Law an engaging read.

While the first fight sequence in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, the conflict between the Champion and most of Skardon is predictable and blasé, the second fight is better and it sets up an important character development. With Tryco Slatterus wanting vengeance, it makes sense that he would seek out She-Hulk’s greatest enemy and that progression is well-developed (with minimal breaks in the fourth wall!).

Unfortunately, as She-Hulk develops and is tormented by her own demons, Southpaw shows nothing quite so compelling or interesting in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law. At her earliest opportunity, well three months after her earliest opportunity, she goes rogue again and that is an unfortunate lack of development after witnessing how hard She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, and her grandfather, Holden Holliway, work to keep her safe and reform her. Even Dan Slott cannot make her a more interesting character.

The artwork in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law mostly wonderful. The coloring is homogenously rich and filled with real depth and an artful sense of shading. However, several of the panels in the book, especially early on, are overly simple. The artwork does keep the pace of She-Hulk: Superhuman Law moving fast.

Were it not for how dependent She-Hulk: Superhuman Law was on the prior book, this would be a great entry point for new She-Hulk readers. Even so, it is a very good read.

For other graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Angel: Immortality For Dummies
The Brave And The Bold, Volume 4: Without Sin


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

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