She-Hulk # 22
Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Shawn Moll
Inker: Victor Olazaba
She-Hulk, the Hulk’s cousin, is a lawyer. That was,however, Dan Slott’s run and he was so good at it, no sane writer would simply follow along. That leaves Peter David, he of the marvelous characterization and careful plotting on pretty much everything he touches (see X-Factor, the only book that dealt with M-Day in any meaningful way) writing a new direction for the character. Since this is the start of his run, now is the best time to take a look ourselves.
Between last issue and this, She-Hulk has lost her ability to practice law for undisclosed reasons, and has become a bounty hunter. This issue, naturally, sees her trying to collect a bounty when events spiral horribly out of control. The original villain is quite humanized, unsurprisingly, so that he stands in stark contrast to the absolute villains that show up later. His lack of willingness to take responsibility for his own actions can be seen to create and escalate the evil, giving the book a nice thematic resonance. That and a fight are really all we get this issue.
The major problem here is that nowhere in the issue does it mention that we’re skipping into the future and there is no explanation for She-Hulk’s disbarring. Exposition isn’t always pretty, but when a new writer creates a jumping on point, it’s a neccessary sin to get accross the pertinent information. I had absolutely no idea about the time jump or that there was a mystery around that she no longer practiced law. Because of this problem, as a new reader, the book loses me early on.
Beyond that problem, this issue is all set up for the new status quo, and it succeeds reasonably well. We are made to quickly understand what She-Hulk’s new role is and given reason to care about this mission. Peter David is a much bigger name than Dan Slott and thus will draw more attention and readers; it would have been nice if David spent less time on the villain and more on making us care about She-Hulk and explaining what the deal was. She-Hulk is left largely undeveloped, but since this is the opening issue of the arc, there’s plenty of time to remedy that if the reader is given enough reason to come back next issue. A cliffhanger ending makes that a bit easier, but changing the pacing so that less happens and that which does occur is given more time to breathe would have alleviated the characterization issue.
As for the new direction itself, it’s simple, but it works. Given the current registration-centric Marvel Universe, there isn’t a lot that can be done with She-Hulk as a straight hero without undoing other writers work, and the new writer means the lawyer aspect of the character must take a back seat. Making her a bounty hunter is a nice way around this that lets her have her own adventures without getting tied up in major events. It’s a clever set up and works really well in this issue, especially with how bad events end up quickly. Every story cannot work this way, of course, or it’ll become a bad clichÃ©, but with David at the helm, there isn’t much worry of that. This is a strong first issue and I look forward to seeing where it goes.