A Beautifully Low-Key Resolution in She-Hulk 163

by Spencer Irwin

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

Last month’s installment of She-Hulk was a beautiful way to wrap up the many issues Jen’s been dealing with throughout writer Mariko Tamaki’s run, but those resolutions came at an unrealistic, breakneck speed. It’s nice, then, that She-Hulk 163 finds Tamaki and artist Diego Olortegui slowing down again, allowing this run’s finale to be the kind of simple, low-key resolution that fits the more realistic tale of trauma and recovery Tamaki’s been telling ever since Civil War II. Continue reading


She-Hulk 159: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin

She-Hulk 159

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

Drew: Why do we like superheroes? For some, the appeal might be whiz-bang action or modern mythologies, but I’ve personally always been drawn to the genre for its ability to comment on everyday life (albeit by blowing it up to epic proportions). It’s not a feature of every superhero story — far from it — but there’s a certain type of superhero story that manages to scale up relatable conflicts and struggles to matters of life and death. Mariko Tamaki’s work with Jen Waters (formerly on Hulk, now retitled and renumbered as She-Hulk) has always fit into this category with ease, using Jen’s Hulk-outs as a stand-in for PTSD-fueled anxiety attacks. It’s an approach that served the character and the story beautifully, creating a series decidedly unlike any other superhero story on the shelves. This issue is at its best when it focuses on those relatable elements, though the introduction of a bona fide supervillain might just blow the parallels out of the water. Continue reading

Recovery Means Coming to Terms with the Monster Within in Hulk 7

by Spencer Irwin

Hulk 7

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

Recovering from a traumatic incident is a process that never quite ends. One can’t expect to ever be the exact same person again that they once were before the incident; instead, they have to learn to move forward and live with their new status quo. That seems to be the point Jen Walters has reached in Mariko Tamaki and Georges Duarte’s Hulk 7 — having come to terms with the fact that her life has changed, Jen’s now looking to figure out what, exactly, these changes mean and how they’ll fit into her life going forward. Continue reading

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 4

patsy walker 4

Today, Shelby and Ryan are discussing Patsy Walker: A.K.A. Hellcat! 4, originally released March 23rd, 2016.

Shelby: I don’t have a lot of female friends. I know, I know, girls love to say they’re the kind of girl who only hangs out with boys, but it’s true; I’ve always had more close friendships with men than with women. I’m sure in my salad days it was a matter of not wanting to be a girly girl, of assuming there were two kinds of girls in the world and wanted to be the cool girl instead of the girl girl. Now that I’m both older and wiser, I’ve learned that there are as many kinds of women in the world as there are people who identify as women, and there is nothing wrong with having a strong lady crew for both hair/makeup-doing and whiskey/beer-drinking (Selene, girl, I’m lookin’ at you *wink!*). Unsurprisingly, Patsy Walker: A.K.A. Hellcat! has got me thinking about the juxtaposition between being a girly girl and one-of-the-guys girl, and how it’s perfectly all right to be both and everything in between.

Continue reading

Spider-Woman 5

spiderwoman 5

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Spider-Woman 5, originally released March 16th, 2016.

Spencer: I’ll admit that, much like Clint Barton, I never took Jessica Drew for the motherly type — she’s always been such a socially awkward, work-oriented character that it just felt like a poor fit to me. Still, Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez’s first volume of Spider-Woman was so strong that it seemed likely they could sell me on Jessica Drew as a mother, or at least get a good story out of it. Boy, was that an understatement. This first arc of the rebooted Spider-Woman has been astounding, but this week’s issue 5 is especially powerful. Not only do Hopeless and Rodriguez make a convincing argument for “Jessica Drew as a mother,” but they present such a compelling take on parenthood that their editor actually feels it necessary to include a disclaimer on the letters page! That’s some good stuff, there. Continue reading

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 1

Today, Ryan M. and and Spencer are discussing Patsy Walker: A.K.A. Hellcat! 1, originally released December 23rd, 2015.

Ryan M.: A first issue in a series is sort of like a first date. You don’t need the full origin treatment. It’s really a matter of figuring out if you enjoy each other’s company. It provides a sample that hopefully indicates what’s to come, but cannot necessarily lay all of that out. After Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 1, I am ready to invite this series to my place for a home-cooked meal.

Continue reading

She-Hulk 12

Alternating Currents: She-Hulk 12, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing She-Hulk 12, originally released February 18th, 2015. 


And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Drew: I fully appreciate what’s disturbing about historical revisionism — the above passage is undoubtedly the scariest thing I read in high school — but I’m less certain why people seem to be so opposed to similar revisions to fictional continuities. Retcons (or retroactive continuity) might be one of the most reviled devices in all of comicdom, but I honestly don’t understand why. Nobody is more invested in the idea that each issue matters than the publishers (or at least their marketing teams), so fears that a single retcon represents a first step on a slippery slope strike me as totally alarmist. Instead, publishers tend to use retcons to clean up continuities that have become overly complicated after decades of embellishment. Still, being told the opposite of a fact we know is unsettling, even if the “fact” describes something in a fictional world. It’s that exact phenomenon — that the facts both do and don’t matter — that makes She-Hulk 12 so much fun. Continue reading

She-Hulk 11

Alternating Currents: She-Hulk 11, Drew and SuzanneToday, Drew and Suzanne are discussing She-Hulk 11, originally released December 24th, 2014. 


Dramatic Sound Effect, Traditional

Drew: There’s nothing like a good plot twist. I may hem and haw over whether I prefer that a plot be surprising or relatable, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as having the rug yanked out from under us. Still, I find that twists work best when, to paraphrase fellow contributor Greg Smith, they’re both an interesting plot devices and an organic extension of the story. That is to say, while the ending of The Sixth Sense may feel like just a clever, Twilight-Zone-y twist, it actually provides a very logical end-point to Cole’s newfound mission in helping ghosts come to term with their deaths. It’s not yet clear if all of the twists in She-Hulk 11 (and there are many) are quite as character-driven, but writer Charles Soule cleverly packs them into this penultimate issue, leaving plenty of space for more meaningful conclusions next month. Continue reading

She-Hulk 10

she hulk 10Today, Spencer and Suzanne are discussing She-Hulk 10, originally released November 12th, 2014. 

slim-bannerSpencer: At first glance, there are hardly any similarities between being a writer and being a lawyer, but ultimately, both professions owe a lot to the power of words. Writers use words to bring life to worlds and characters, while lawyers use them to argue and persuade, and sometimes even to tell stories of their own. The case between Jen Walters and Matt Murdock over the fate of Steve Rogers, as presented in Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk 10, is just one of those situations; everything comes down to the two lawyers each telling their own version of the truth and leaving the jury to decide which story they believe. As a look into the criminal justice system, it’s a bit unnerving, but as a showcase of the kind of power storytellers hold, it’s absolutely fascinating. Continue reading

She-Hulk 9

So, look.  I'm not saying that writing is easy.  This is a craft.  It requires a certain set of skills, a patience, a level of general competency.  And as someone who fancies himself a writer, it's a little painful to see something that reads at such a high level above what I could possibly do.  Extrapolating even further past that, She-Hulk is devastating.  Excruciating.  I want to take sharp objects and whittle away my skin, exposing my tender flesh to the harsh elements so that I may embrace the harsh, tortuous reality of my own limitations.  Did I mention that I rather enjoyed She-Hulk 9 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and the rest?  Because it was something special.  In the Marvel comics universe, superheroes are rather common.  A dime a dozen, even, and since all but a few of them are headquartered in my own home of New York City, you can pretty much toss a stone and hit someone invulnerable without even trying.  It takes little effort to read a comic about a character with super-strength, but, I must say, it's not quite as simple to read about a character in a law firm.  In fact, I can really think of only two major comic book characters who are lawyers, and, well, what do you know?  In this issue, both feature prominently.  It's almost like it was planned that way, who'dka thunkit?  Marvel legend Matthew "Daredevil" Murdock goes up against Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters in court for, near as I can tell, the first time in comics history.  This alone is monumental, and having them war over the fate of Captain America can only add to the significance.  And as the middle issue of the saga, having the exact details of Captain America's brazen culpability revealed, with his arrogance leading to the death of an innocent, presents something of a moral quandary.  How can one defend someone that blatantly pushes an unstable man, to the point of someone else paying the price?  And at the same time, how do we condemn arguably the greatest hero in Marvel's history, the leader of the Avengers, somebody who has saved the country, the world, even the universe, countless times?    Daredevil sidesteps these issues quite comfortably, presenting the struggle in clear legal terms.  Is Captain America in any way responsible for this man's death?  Setting aside his famed heroism, the good Captain is human, and can he suffer grave errors in judgement?  And in the same vein, She-Hulk attacks Murdock's approach in technical terms, so that the judge may throw out the case before it grows further.  Although a strategy plagued by Steve Rogers' own sense of...responsibility? Justice? Guilt? The issue showcases a clear representation of a court of law, with a level of accuracy rarely seen in casual fiction.  In fact, few writers in the comics industry could show such a devoted insight to the details of the legal system, discussing case dismissals and mistrials and everything that I don't understand, but Charles Soule clearly does.  It's not a surprise, really.  Soule has quickly risen to the top of the comics industry for many reasons--his immense skill level, the top-rank books he writes, and the sheer quantity of his workload.  And yet, in addition to all of this, he has a day job. A law practice, even.  Something that most other people would consider a full-time job, Charles Soule takes on as...more than a hobby, certainly, with the level of devotion he provides.  It's admirable, and in his work, it shows.    With as much devotion as Soule puts in, though, artist Javier Pulido matches, especially in page layouts.  I'm happy to attribute many strengths to Pulido, including a recognition of facial expression matched by few modern artists not named Jamie McKelvie, but there are even less artists on top-tier titles who have such an innate mastery of the craft that Pulido expresses.  His layouts with She-Hulk pursuing Daredevil amongst the rooftops of San Francisco capture superheroics so seamlessly, and that's merely a fraction of the issue.  The final two panels of the issue, which I won't spoil here, are so casually intertwined, and yet flawlessly challenge any other artist to present two opposing viewpoints with anything resembling the same level of poignance.  Even the notable admissions of Steve Rogers in this very issue can't match the message in Pulido's work.  He's just that good.  The fate of the ongoing She-Hulk title has been somewhat the forefront of comics news as of late, with a not-unexpected but equally not-accepted cancellation that apparently fits with the creative team's plans but not hopes.  The quality of this issue presses the unpleasantness of this news, but I'm anxious to see how Charles Soule wraps the many plotlines built in this series and exacerbated by this issue.  With the last-page reveal, Drew, how do you suspect Soule may write around what could be a dramatic change to Marvel comics (one that, let's face it, will likely not be allowed in a tertiary title?)  Has this historic challenge between Marvel's two most notable lawyers met with your expectations?  And, most importantly, what do you think of Kevin Wada's cover for this issue?  Because for me, Wada's covers have been probably the best part of a series that has basically zero flaws, and yet I sort of feel like this is his weakest cover on the book yet.  It's almost traditional.  Come on, Wada.  You can do better.Today, Shane and Drew are discussing She-Hulk 9, originally released October 22nd, 2014. 

slim-bannerShane: So, look.  I’m not saying that writing is easy. This is a craft.  It requires a certain set of skills, a patience, a level of general competency. And as someone who fancies himself a writer, it’s a little painful to see something that reads at such a high level above what I could possibly do. Extrapolating even further past that, She-Hulk is devastating. Excruciating. I want to take sharp objects and whittle away my skin, exposing my tender flesh to the harsh elements so that I may embrace the harsh, tortuous reality of my own limitations.

Did I mention that I rather enjoyed She-Hulk 9 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and the rest? Because it was something special. Continue reading