The Good: Generally decent artwork, Moments of character
The Bad: Peripheral stories have nothing to do with the “a-plot,” Completely misses the character of Jennifer Walters, Very standard super hero plot
The Basics: Geoff Johns steps in to take over The Avengers and does a middling job with it in The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk.
I generally enjoy the writings of Geoff Johns. Obviously, the guy has talent; he now serves as the Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics and he has written in virtually every significant title for that company. So, the fact that he wrote some books that might be relevant to my She-Hulk Year. I pulled Johns’s work The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk ahead in my reading order for two big reasons: 1. Johns wrote it, and 2. the events in the graphic novel were alluded to several times in the main She-Hulk books I have been reading.
Going into The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk with a pretty strong idea of what the plot was about gave me the ability to focus much more on the character aspects of the book. That, unfortunately, is where Johns falls down in this book. Even though I have read only a few She-Hulk books so far, most of them were written right around the same time as The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk. Thus, the character of Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk, should “read” the same between the volumes, especially considering that The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk is set during She-Hulk: Superhuman Law (reviewed here!). While there is an incident the precedes The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk that Johns is forced to clean up after (and Slott in the She-Hulk book contemporaneous to this volume is compelled to allude to). Fundamentally, the problem with The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk is continuity. Even with limited knowledge so far of She-Hulk, Johns does not get her voice right in The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk. The result is that much of the book seems absurd instead of compelling.
Following a side story where Hank Pym proposes to Janet Van Dyne and the two come under attack by the lovestruck mutant Whirlwind. Following that, Jennifer Walters makes it to Bone, Idaho with her last three dollars. Taken in by a local waitress while she waits to find her cousin, Dr. Bruce Banner, Walters has a cathartic moment with the waitress. Unfortunately for all concerned, the Avengers – Captain America, Iron Man, and Wanda (The Scarlet Witch) – arrive to bring Walters in before her erratic changes into the She-Hulk occur again and hurt someone. Their arrival, however, precipitates the incident they were trying to avoid and soon thereafter, She-Hulk is rampaging to destroy everything in Bone.
With She-Hulk out of control, Bruce Banner and Hawkeye arrive to try to put her down, but their efforts lead to mass destruction. So, the Avengers call in the one person who might be able to neutralize She-Hulk by transforming her back to Jennifer Walters against her will, the alien who caused the problem in the first place: Jack Of Hearts! In an epilogue to the main action, the Avengers try to figure out what to do in the long term with Jack Of Hearts and She-Hulk when one of the Avengers’ daughters is abducted by a killer!
The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk relies way too heavily upon the prior incident, with Jack Of Hearts adversely affecting She-Hulk for it to not be included in the same volume. The frequent allusions to that story, combined with the suddenly ridiculous and irrational voice for She-Hulk is a heavy drag on the story in The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk.
The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk is also minimally concerned with actually fleshing out the characters in the book. Instead, this is a plot-heavy volume that reads like a ridiculously typical superhero story. The first and last chapters feature generic villains who pop up and are quickly put down, allowing no real time for reflection or character building. Whirlwind is a pretty ridiculous and obvious villain whose motivation is misplaced love. But just because he has a motivation does not suddenly make him a compelling character. Similarly, Charles Cooley appears as a father experiencing profound loss, but given that he caused it he comes across much more as a psychopath than a character the reader might empathize with.
Sadly, Johns puts She-Hulk in the place I feared (and was thrilled was not the case in the other volumes focused on the character) where She-Hulk is reduced to monosyllabic utterances and the brutish idea of “She-Hulk smash!” That is not the character and while Jack Of Hearts might have triggered something in her prior to this, it is not detailed well-enough to make her sudden reversion to a female parody of the Hulk seem realistic or at all compelling.
Indeed, that is what sinks The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk. The artwork in The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk is adequate, but hardly extraordinary. There is a slight sketchy quality to the panels, as if the artwork were not quite finished, not quite fleshed out when the book was done, making it a tougher sell on that front as well. Despite being alluded to and having consequences for She-Hulk, The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk is now worth reading.
For other Marvel Universe books, please visit my reviews of:
She-Hulk: Time Trials
Daredevil: The Return Of The King
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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