The Good: The artwork is fine, Moments of humor
The Bad: Tries so hard to be funny that it does not tell a compelling story, No real character development, Boring, obvious, superhero stories.
The Basics: John Byrne’s reboot of The Sensational She-Hulk is anthologized in a book that illustrates perfectly why the heroine has never truly taken off.
Whenever I start a new year of studying a new (to me) comic book subject, I invariably have a moment when I think “I have made a terrible mistake.” That moment comes right away for me in my She-Hulk Year, which just began with Single Green Female (reviewed here!), when I picked up and read The Sensational She-Hulk. I did not realize before I read The Sensational She-Hulk (which is an anthology of the comic book by the same name, issues 1-8 and a portion of the Marvel Comics Presents from 1988) that this was the third book I have read by author John Byrne. With The Sensational She-Hulk, Byrne goes 0 – 3 as I was not fond of his book Assignment Earth (reviewed here!) and his arc in Wonder Woman where he had one of the most politically impressive, but boring volumes with Lifelines (reviewed here!). The Sensational She-Hulk follows in a similar vein as a one-trick pony redressed several times, none of which are more interesting than the last.
It is worth noting that The Sensational She-Hulk takes place long before the volume of She-Hulk I have already read and while there might be character development between this volume and that, this incarnation of the character and the book is utterly unimpressive. Regardless of where She-Hulk ends up in her character arc, in The Sensational She-Hulk, she is a humorous character and the book is self-referential and silly, utterly lacking in real substance.
After an introduction where She-Hulk imagines being able to take on all of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe, her regular storyline starts up with the Ringmaster brainwashing her. In an attempt to learn her powers, the Ringmaster betrays his employers, the Headmen. But after getting a new apartment from a fellow superheroine (who is moving out to the West Coast), She-Hulk falls afoul of Toadmen working for Mysterio. Knocked out, She-Hulk is taken advantage of by the Headmen, who want to use her body to cure their friend, Chondu. Chondu’s allies lop off She-Hulk’s head (apparently) and place it on She-Hulk’s body. Rescued by Spider-Man, She-Hulk recovers.
Following that ordeal, She-Hulk goes to work for District Attorney Towers, whose assistant is the Golden Age Blonde Phantom. She takes on Stilt-Man, Doctor Bong (who traps her in a television world), joins interstellar truckers through Razor-Back (I kid not!), and returns to Earth to solve a case with the help of Santa Claus.
The Sensational She-Hulk is a ridiculous book and it is like what one might expect from Archie Comics, as opposed to Marvel. She-Hulk - in this time trapped in this version of herself, unable to change back to Jennifer Walters – is a wise-cracking comic book heroine and she knows it. Frequently calling out the writer for plot points, littered with notes supposedly between the author and the editor, and referencing her progress in these issues relative to the books of other superheroes, She-Hulk is all about making jokes. Sadly, most of them fall very flat.
In fact, The Sensational She-Hulk is essentially the one-joke repeated over and over again. Worse than the joke not being particularly funny, The Sensational She-Hulk undermines the entire Marvel universe. Stilt-Man, apparently, appeared in Spider-Man and Daredevil and as a result, when the book constantly references the fact that it is only a book, it undermines the reality and menace of the more serious volumes.
The artwork in The Sensational She-Hulk is fine, but the story goes in such crazy – and, alternatively, banal – directions, but the quality of the art cannot save the book. Instead, it is a ridiculous series of events that are the typical super heroine story that acknowledges itself far too much to be truly menacing or even interesting.
Byrne fails so spectacularly to make something interesting, engaging, or vibrantly charactered that I cannot mister up the enthusiasm to write another word about The Sensational She-Hulk.
For other Marvel books, check out my reviews of:
Shadowland: Blood On The Street
Deadpool Classics: Volume 1
Daredevil: Lady Bullseye
For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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