Review: HULK #1

Written by Mariko Tamaki
Art by Nico Leon & Matt Milla 
Published by Marvel Comics
Release date: December 28, 2016

Jennifer Walters is awake, while the She-Hulk remains trapped in Jen’s body. Instead of being the comfort and image that Jen wears in everyday life, she is tucked away, fighting to be released.

This slow and purposeful reintegration of Jennifer Walters into society reads more as a zero issue. It is clear that instead of being formatted for the direct market, this story is structured more for a graphic novel release. This gives readers a clear introduction into who Jennifer is and how she is currently living. The menace of being unable to trust her own body is akin to her Savage She-Hulk days. For those unfamiliar, that is when Jennifer Walters first received her blood transfusion from cousin Bruce and was an uncontrollable rage monster. The pacing could be equated to the first few episodes of a Netflix Marvel television series.

Also for the uninitiated, the Hulk title is more than just dropping of the word “She.” It’s a series that has as history of dealing with Hulks who are resentful, such as General Ross, or those seeking vengeance, such as Bruce Banner. It’s a very purposeful choice to put She-Hulk in this title. She was made comatose at the beginning of Civil War II, after a questionable battle with Thanos (let’s not get started about how she had previously been fine winning against much worse.) On top of this, her cousin Bruce Banner is once again dead. However, the manner and permanence of this death are being sold, and therefore are being felt, more acutely.

This is the set-up that Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon have been provided to tell their story. Before continuing, let’s make things very clear.

Do read this issue if: you’re a She-Hulk fan, a Mariko Tamaki fan, Nico Leon fan (I’m looking at you Ms. Marvel and Red Widow fans,) if you enjoy purposeful stories that make it clear they will be slow reveals, or enjoy intrigue and mystery.

Don’t read this issue if: you’re wanting trademark She-Hulk humor, her close and wide network of friends, or massive She-Hulk kick butt action. [SPOILER WARNING] The most action you see was shown in the issue’s preview.

Tamaki’s dialogue is pointedly uncomfortable. No one at Jen’s new job knows how to treat her. It has a raw and organic feeling. It will be familiar to those who have be struck by tragedy and the social awakwardness that takes over public places. The small talk on the page takes on an extra weight that normally would be cursory and boring. Readers of Tamaki’s  This One Summer will understand this weight.

One unusual, or out of character, point for both Jen and those closer to her is the lack of their presence. This may have been done to drive the awkwardness of people not knowing how to act around someone who has been through a traumatic situation. The easiest thing to do it just stay away. However, that feels out of place for someone like Patsy, who mourned Jen so deeply while she was comatose. Of course, this lack of friends could have been due to story structure. There is one text message sent and Patsy’s name is part of Jen’s internal monologue. It’s this monologue, and constant pep talk, which drives the story.

Tamaki and Leon highlight Jen in many ways she’s not regularly shown. The whole story takes place with Jen in her human, unhulked form. While Jen is technically at the center of most panels, Leon has created on emphasis on Jen’s surroundings. The city of New York plays the role of supporting character. It shows how this environment acts as a  distraction or irritant upon Jen’s nerves.  The only reminders that we are in the Marvel universe come from Jen’s super or power- infused clients, as well as her own near-hulk experience. The manga influenced style of Leon works well for the rather mild happenings of this issue. Most of the issue could be equated to talking heads. However, Leon’s perspectives keep the story moving. Character design of the supers is also very creative and amusing.

Matt Milla’s colors really shine with the creepy Ms. Brewn and on the pages where She-Hulk is trying to escape. Glows on computer screens and phones, as well as the neon colors of transition help to sell these unique scenes. In the rest of the book the pallet is subdued, reflecting droll everyday work experience. Blues, greens and tans provide contrast between people and objects. At the same time it conveys depressive normalcy.  It’s a simple enough task to go out for anyone else, but this everyday activity is not easy for Jen.

It’s a subdued start, to what is typically one of the more bombastic characters in the Marvel universe. With any status quo change, it will take multiple issues to reveal the depth and heart of this story. It will be a story only for those willing to hang on and deal with the emotional turmoil along the way.

The Verdict: 8.0/10


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