Sometimes it seems that a story’s title comes before the story itself, and it’s then a scramble for the creators to find something that might vaguely fit the concept. I fear that World War She-Hulk may have been just that.
The potential for that title—loaded with meaning with its allusion to the original World War Hulk crossover event of 2007, in which a very angry Hulk comes back to Earth and proceeds to mete out justice to the Illuminati who betrayed him—is so massive, so perfectly attuned to provide Jennifer Walters (or one of the handful of other She-Hulks) the sort of important, meaningful story presented in its namesake.
The story collected Avengers volume 9 presents, however, nothing of the sort. Rather than working with long-running plot threads or resolving well-earned character development, these five issues create a bombastic, left-field spectacle custom-fit to return Jen to her status-quo.
You see, She-Hulk has been gamma supercharged, of late, with her Hulk side more closely resembling the sentence-fragment loving, mindlessly smashing incarnation of her cousin’s Jade Giant. But Marvel has already announced a new solo book that seems intent on returning the character to the lawyerly ways of her more classic runs. Jen had to be returned to a place where such a story could be told.
World War She-Hulk does that deftly and interestingly, in the sort of big-picture, bananas way of Aaron’s current Avengers run, in which everything is over-the-top and earth-shaking in scope. It’s not a bad story so much as a tragic waste of its title.
Indeed, for a She-Hulk story, Jen is largely absent. Kidnapped by The Winter Guard and forced into a hyper sci-fi version of Black Widow’s Red Room, Jen becomes more a quasi-mindless tool used to make dramatic shifts in the political makeup of superpowered world forces than a character in her own right. It’s a story filled with double-crosses, feints, and long cons played out by Gorilla Men and Atlanteans — action-packed, but ultimately derailed by bigger concerns.
That’s because the last half of this book is Avengers #750, one of the most conceptually wide-open single issues you’re likely to experience. Jen’s story can’t even conclude without being overshadowed by the multi-dimensional mayhem of the story yet to come; her hard-earned conclusion is unceremoniously dumped over the course of two or three pages of a nearly 100-page issue.
All that said, #750 is a gem of an issue in itself, stuffed with enough major ideas and minor characters to determine years worth of future stories, including (but not limited to) the cross-dimensional whirlwind currently unfolding in current issues of both Avengers and Avengers Forever. It’s big, it’s a little sloppy, and it’s incredible.
For one, that one issue highlights five artists—including, of course, Javier Garron, whose chonky/sleek mash-up style was the highlight of all that disappointing Jen story of the first half. Secondly, it promises places for a lot of great characters, big and small, moving forward.
Ultimately, the book maintains the series’ tone and style and points ambitiously to the future, but the story itself falters and feels unemotional, using its characters coldly as chess pieces and its buzzy title as an unfulfilled promise.
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