Jen is no Columbo in Hulk 8

by Ryan Mogge

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Most detective stories make sure you know just as much as the detectives. You discover clues along with them, and are with them as they figure out what it all means. Then, there is the Columbo-style of storytelling. That’s when the audience knows the “solution” to the mystery from the beginning. The pleasure of these stories is watching the detective start from zero and deduce motive, means, opportunity and identity of the criminal. In Hulk 8, Mariko Tamaki starts the reader with all of the information, but Jen’s investigation ends up feeling lifeless as a result.

In some ways, the investigation is almost too easy. Within the span of one day, Jen and Bradley are able to figure everything out. They know who did it, why and how. It’s nearly anti-climactic. The investigation is done in short hand. When Jen reveals to Bradley that Oliver’s transformation is available as pay-per-view, it feels like a retread because we had a scene with Steve announcing this plan only pages earlier. She and Bradley both express disgust but there isn’t enough of an emotional core here to make it feel like new information. The entire investigation feels this way. Jen is certainly more proactive in choosing this case than her last, but the depiction of her investigation makes it feel plodding.

When the audience already knows the details of the crime, the investigation itself needs to be engrossing. Jen’s reaction to seeing the space where Oliver transformed is a nugget of this. When the sunlight shines in through the destroyed wall, the reader can empathize with Jen. There is something beautiful and warm about it, even as it is evidence of a man becoming monster. Seeing Jen’s small hand in the print of Oliver’s is another moment that elevates this story.

The meta arc of this series is about Jen healing from trauma and when the story stays close to that, it can be powerful.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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One comment on “Jen is no Columbo in Hulk 8

  1. Yeah, this felt like a very transitional issue to me. Getting the characters from A to B, so that next issue we can have story. It seems like a risk this book has. Good, until it needs to do an issue like this. Honestly, the stronger parts of this issue were focused on the witnesses. THey actually had emotional cores, so it was good seeing, for example, the sound technician’s troubles dealing with the aftermath. Which is a shame, as the story really feels like one that Jen should have more of an emotional stake in.

    Honestly, the one scene that truly worked in this issue was the final scene, of Jen Hulking out. The best thing about this book is how the story ar feels like a sequel to the previous one. It doesn’t feel like treading in the water or ‘illusion of change’, but of the next part of the story. And that is fantastically demonstrated here. Jen gets to make a choice that few other superheroes ever get to make. One that has such major consequences for the run. If this was Jane picking up the hammer, it wouldn’t mean much. But we know that when Jen started, she would never choose to Hulk Out. So to see her make that leap is meaningful (so much to say about the visual metaphor here. The diea of falling, the the complete surrender to a ‘higher power’ in the Hulk…), it was the powerful scene in an issue that missed that.

    I think this book is really going to work better as a trade. But what a trade it will be. Imagine picking up the second volume, and seeing a story that is a true continuation, and not just a remix or a new twist on the same character. I think it is going to be so powerful, when this book is completed, to read this storyline and see a new character, one that has come out of the previous arc’s events changed and different.

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