In the first issue of Rainbow Rowell and Rogê Antônio’s She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters is down on her luck. Coming off a series of earth-shattering adventures, she still has bills to pay. With some enemies from the past gunning for her, how is She-Hulk supposed to make good on a new job opportunity? Sometimes being a superhero is more of an inconvenience than you’d expect.
More than anything else, what struck me about this take on She-Hulk is how much it’s about the interior lives of costumed heroes and villains. For my money, Jennifer Walters has always been one of the more down-to-earth heroes in the Marvel pantheon. Even when she’s breaking the fourth wall, it’s often in service of cutting to the heart of a problem in her circle of friends and fellow heroes. As a defender of the public, she also considers the human cost of her battles, something that was beautifully explored in the all-too-brief run by Charles Soule and Javier Pullido (which I reviewed here a while back).
This is brought to the forefront in a fight with Titania. The tussle is a lot of fun, with the the two picking up whatever heavy objects are convenient and batting one another around. The brief sequence is filled with fluid action and bright, poppy colors from Rico Renzi — the pinks and yellows in the background lend a fun energy to a superpowered fight that somehow continues to become sadder (and more human) as it goes on. The transition from Jen to She-Hulk is cleverly marked less by a shocking transformation and more by a pragmatic change of clothes. Now that she’s back in the public sector, Jen is more concerned with the financial constraints of constant suit-shredding battles, which makes for some fun and snappy banter. It also leads to a surprisingly touching convo with Titania, who likewise feels like the balance between work and play just isn’t fair sometimes.
Rogê Antônio delivers some excellent acting from the characters in this book, from Jennifer’s reluctance to get into the fight to Titania’s stubbornness in admitting why she’s sought out She-Hulk this time around. There’s a nervous energy to She-Hulk throughout the issue, nicely showing the readers how out-of-sorts she feels to be getting back to her old life. There’s a weird balance that comes from being a super-strong hero and a run-of-the-mill office worker with a public idenity, and Antônio sprinkles in some really fun sight gags that show just how hectic the transition can be between Jen’s two “settings.”
This first issue is extremely friendly to new readers, giving them a chance to see what Jen’s all about ahead of her Disney+ debut, but the pacing is a bit odd. Aside from the aforementioned fight, not much of note occurs in this book. A potentially stressful first day at a new job is cut short after just a few panels, with the threat of being late to the job seemingly being negated. Likewise, while a sequence showing Jen settling into her new digs is endearing, it doesn’t do much to advance the story. There’s a lovely moment where She-Hulk allows herself to relax and just be herself, but the majority of this issue feels a bit aimless.
Still, I’m happy to see Jennifer Walters back to the daily grind. There’s a comforting “gal pal” energy to this first issue that made me feel extra cozy, and the surprise of the final page upsets She-Hulk’s new life in ways that I’m excited to see play out.
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