I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but Jennifer Walters has become my favorite Marvel character. Despite always being on the B or C-List, constantly over shadowed by her more famous cousin Bruce Banner, Walters has developed into a complex and interesting character in her own right. The recent She-Hulk series written by Charles Soule with art by Javier Pulido and Ronald Wimberly is a great example of what makes her so appealing, and, despite being cancelled with issue 12, is one of the best books Marvel has published lately. By mixing courtroom drama and superheroics, Soule and company created a book that was as surprising and unique as Jennifer Walters herself.

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Much like Matt Fraction and David Aja’s revival of Hawkeye, Soule’s take on She-Hulk focused on the character’s “day job” so to speak. Walters’ career as a lawyer has always been a part of the character, but Soule, who works as a lawyer himself, really makes that the focus of this series. The series starts with Walters being let go from the firm she works for and struggling to start her own. As if starting her own law firm wasn’t difficult enough, since most of her friends and professional contacts are superheroes, she ends up taking on some, let’s say “interesting”, cases from clients like Steve Rogers and Dr. Doom’s spoiled brat of a son Kristoff Vernard.

While the idea of a comic based around a law firm may not sound too appealing, Soule is able to bring both his experience as a lawyer and his knowledge of the Marvel Universe to the title. The courtroom settings and legal process gives Soule a chance to explore topics usually not seen in superhero comics, such as what is more important, a hero’s intentions or the result of their actions. Soule’s background as a lawyer gives the book’s take on the legal process a level of credence, and luckily this element never feels boring or “dumbed down” for readers without law degrees. He also gives Jennifer a colorful cast of characters, both personal and professional. Her main cohort is her long-time friend Patsy Walker (aka Hellcat), and she also calls in favors from fellow layer Matt Murdock and ex-boyfriend Tony Stark among others. The cameos from these characters are a way of acknowledging that despite the title’s unique style and tone, Jennifer and the book itself are a part of the larger world of the Marvel Universe. That said, one of the most interesting characters is a new one, Jennifer’s paralegal assistant Angie Huang. Angie and her pet monkey Hei Hei add some comic relief to the title, and there is some indication that they have superpowers of their own, a story thread that sadly goes unresolved by the end of these 12 issues.

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In addition to the legal drama, and Soule¬†includes an acceptable amount of smashing –this is a Hulk title after all. The balance between Jennifer’s professional job and her “savage She-Hulk” side has always been a part of the character’s appeal. For example, when Jennifer and Patsy Walker use some legally questionable means to gather evidence, or travel to Latveria to confront Dr. doom, they usually have to resort to fisticuffs. While most lawyers might not be able to get away with this sort of behavior, Jennifer does have an Avengers membership card at her disposal, which gets her out of some sticky situations.

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These fight scenes, whether against AIM agents or Doombots, give artist Javier Pulido a chance to show off his unique style. I realize Pulido’s art isn’t really everyone’s cup of tea so to speak, but I love his stylized “comic booky” art. It may look simple or “blocky”, but his ability to play with perspective and page layouts gives She-Hulk a look and feel all of its own. His character work also gives the scenes in the courtroom a dramatic tension, and at times some slapstick humor. Like Jennifer herself, the art work is more complex and intriguing than it may appear at first glance.

Speaking of art, Ronald Wimberly fills in on issues 5 and 6, and it’s far different from Javier Pulido’s. It’s not bad per say, but I didn’t really care for it, and I wish they would have found someone with a style closer to Pulido’s to do those issues. That would be my one complaint about this series, but luckily it only lasts 2 issues, so it’s just a minor distraction.

Although the title only lasted 12 issues, Charles Soule said that those 12 issues were structured like the first season of a TV series, and it reads that way. The main thread running through the series involves the mysterious “Blue File”: a lawsuit that names Jennifer and a group of D-List characters like Shocker, Nightwatch, Tigra, Dr. Druid, and Wyatt Wingfoot as defendants. The problem, of course, is that none of these defendants remember anything about the case. In the end, the “blue file” serves as a way to examine the relationship between “heroes” and “villains” and what that distinction really means. The conclusion is a surprising one, and I’m glad that Soule is able to wrap all of the loose ends by the last issue, since it gives the book an intriguing overarching theme.

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It is a shame that She-Hulk never did find a bigger audience because Soule and Pulido really did explore some interesting ideas in their little corner of the Marvel Universe. The three part story “The Good Old Days”, which featured Steve Rogers and Matt Murdock, was one of my favorite story arcs fromlast year because it explored some of the uncertain “grey” areas of responsibility and consequences. In the story, a dying man’s deathbed confession implicates a teenaged Steve Rogers in a murder that took place right at the beginning of WWII. Both Murdock and Walters, who know Rogers as the morally unflappable Captain America, don’t believe the charges, but the conclusion… well, I won’t spoil it here, but let’s just say it’s more nuanced and intriguing than most superhero stories usually are.

That sort of subtlety is something most mainstream books don’t feature too regularly, which is why it’s a shame the book ended so quickly. Despite the satisfying conclusion, I’d still like to see more from Jennifer and company, so maybe Soule will return to the characters one of these days. In the end, we do have 12 nearly perfect comics issues with about a strong, independent woman who fights for justice with both her fists and wits. If you’re looking for a solid, compelling story that that balances action, humor, and legal drama, this is a book you need to check out. Who knows, you might be a bigger Jennifer Walters fan than you realized.

She-Hulk can be purchased at your Local Comic Shop, from Marvel, or on Comixology.

Overall Score
90 %

Charles Soule and Javier Pulido offer a surprisingly engaging and nuanced take on She-Hulk in a short-lived series that mixed superheroics with courtroom drama.

About The Author

Paul R Jaissle is a philosopher, collage artist, and musician. In his free time, he enjoys reading comics (especially ones with Batman in them), listening to power pop, and watching wrestling.

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