by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Enjoying any form of fiction requires a little suspension of disbelief, but this especially goes for superhero comics. Yeah, comics have rich themes and characters and exciting stories to offer, if you can get past the superhuman abilities, if you can reconcile decades of tangled continuity and retcons, if you can learn the rhythms and tricks of the medium.
I adore that kind of nerd nonsense, and I’ve never had any problem accepting superhero comics for exactly what they are, but it took even me a second to accept what was happening in She-Hulk 162. It’s actually a rather delightful issue, as Mariko Tamaki and Jahnoy Lindsay take an insightful look into Jennifer Walters’ trauma and recovery, but both the methods and the speed with which they do so require quite a bit of suspension of disbelief.
The issue finds Jen finally going to see Flo Mayer, her psychiatrist/stalker, who helps her unpack her trauma with some sort of magical metaphor pill. This gives Lindsay a chance to go wild, first drawing Jen as just a floating head (representing her anxiety and the way she’s been trapped in her head since her accident — also represented by her omnipresent internal monologue, which Flo forces Jen to shut off) and later showing Jen quite literally putting herself back together when she finally gets a chance to confront her own issues head-on.
First Jen confronts her new Hulk transformation, admitting how the loss of control it represents scares her, and the Hulk, in return, admits that Jen’s fear frustrates her to no end. Next Jen gets to face her greatest fears, first by finally putting a fist through Thanos’ face, and then by releasing all her pent up sorrow over Bruce Banner’s death before finally coming to terms with it. It’s creative, it’s insightful, it’s cathartic, and at the end, Jen is her old self again — classic green She-Hulk form and all.
As I’ve said, I adore all of this work, it just takes some extra effort to accept. First of all, Flo is more plot device than character (what does she get out of this? Didn’t earlier issues imply that she wanted to write about Jen as well?), with her magical metaphor pill and possible telepathy going completely unexplained. More importantly, it’s a potent, sudden change in Tamaki’s pace. Throughout this run she’d been treating Jen’s recovery with a slow, gentle touch, showing it to be a long journey that she may never fully complete. It was a fairly realistic take, while Jen’s recovery in this issue is as comic book-y as it gets; sudden, full, and complete in a way real life therapy never is.
I get the feeling that Tamaki was given instructions from editorial to wrap this new direction up as quickly as possible so as to return Jen to her classic status quo. If so, I’d say Tamaki executed her task better than she ever really could have been expected to, and I don’t mind meeting her halfway. The payoff may be a bit sudden, but it’s worth putting in the work.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?