One of the biggest problems in comics, at least according to the journalists who cover the industry, is the ongoing lack of gender diversity in mainstream super-hero titles. At a time when market research shows the industry’s readership to be almost half composed of women readers, a look through the list of monthly offerings presents very few comics featuring female leads, much less female creative teams. Marvel Comics, it would seem, has taken it upon themselves to begin correcting this imbalance. In the last two months, they have launched a new Ms. Marvel title from an all-female creative team, a new Black Widow series, and have altered the make-up of the primary X-Men title to feature a team composed entirely of lady mutants. In keeping with this impressive effort, Marvel has continued to expand their line-up of super-lady led titles with this week’s “She-Hulk #1.”
She’s a butt-kicker and easily one of the smartest women in the Marvel U. Having known more than a few law students in my time, I can tell you that the dedication and intelligence levels of these people is undeniably impressive. When one considers that Jen Walters somehow manages to balance the demands of a legal career with the constant demands of being a member of the Avengers, the fact that she hasn’t gone completely off the deep end is more than a little impressive.
The only working writer in comics today who could possibly understand that set of dual demands is the man helming this title: Charles Soule. Soule manages one of the most impressive workloads in comics and does so with unbelievable aplomb. He is currently writing three titles for DC (Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns and Superman/Wonder Woman) and three for Marvel (Thunderbolts, Inhuman, and She-Hulk) while also maintaining a private legal practice which handles immigration, corporate, and entertainment law. If you’re wondering how he has yet to go insane, you’re not the only one. The nearly manic amount of focus that must go into leading such a dual life manages to find its way onto the pages of this book in nearly every panel. Jen is shown as someone who can rapidly shift between being bright, sunny, and optimistic to showcasing the rage inherent in her jade heritage. What makes her stand out is how she manages to channel this productively at nearly every turn. Unlike her somewhat less-controlled cousin, she keeps her tendency to explode in check until it is absolutely necessary to unleash it and, when she does, the results are spectacular and often hilarious. The ability to strike that balance is the key component to what makes this book work on an emotional level. Jen conveys the dual nature of us all combined with a willingness to deploy either side when needed.
While showcasing this duality wouldn’t be impossible with another artist, Javier Pulido absolutely excels in this book. His ability to convey complex emotion with a bare minimum of lines on the page works wonders. There is no mistaking any of the expressions that the reader sees. We can see Jen move through delight, confusion, anger, and exhilaration, sometimes all within the same page. His panel layouts do even more to encapsulate the wonderfully fractured spirit of the book. When the story becomes mired in legalese and drudgery, the panels become clustered in an almost claustrophobic fashion, giving way to broad, expansive layouts when the action takes off. His depiction of Jen perfectly captures a woman who is at ease in her power. She owns being She-Hulk. She loves it without reservation, and it shows.
Too many first issues get stuck in the rut of needing to establish the characters, situation, and supporting cast in a way that often leaves them feeling like pure exposition. This book suffers from none of that. Soule manages to pack a ton of action between dense hunks of text, establishing who Jen Walters is and her role in the Marvel universe and drawing on the deep history of the Marvel universe. This title tells you everything you need to know about She-Hulk while delivering breathless action sequences that Javier Pulido absolutely knocks out of the park.
Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He also hosts the weekly Infinite Crossover podcast in cooperation with Fanboys Inc. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-world Smallville. contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @CrusaderZero6