Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Made Me Quit... She-Hulk

SHE-HULK #21, Marvel Comics, November 1990
"MADE ME QUIT" Week barrels on with a series that has a couple things in common with yesterday's Alpha Flight. A) It was a very fun book written and drawn by John Byrne, and B) the direction it took after Byrne left made the Baby Jesus cry.

See, She-Hulk (or more properly, though they changed it, The Sensational She-Hulk) was really a comedy. And it was funny for two main reasons. 1) She-Hulk sorta knew she was in a comic, à la Ambush Bug, and 2) Byrne brought back all the silliest villains of the Marvel Universe for her to fight. After he left, (1) was pretty much dropped (except on the odd cover) and (2) was replaced with "original" parody villains. It all got quite lame indeed.

And it had such potential too! Steve Gerber came on, the very man who gave us the much lauded Howard the Duck in the 70s. Forget the George Lucas movie for a minute (this is both easy and difficult to do), and you might recall hearing some geek say that series was funny, sexy and seditious. But after the obligatory storyline where She-Hulk meets Howard, this series really peters out.

Exhibit A, your Honor: Issue #21, The Return of the Blonde Phantom Part 1 of 3 (uh-oh, I'm about to drop a series in the middle of an arc again).

Once again, the boob war fails us with a guest artist that's totally wrong for the comic. But if Howard the Duck was somehow sexy, this book tries too damn hard, with She-Hulk falling out of her clothes so often, it's embarrassing. I once said She-Hulk in a teddy could almost save a comic, but she's got to look good and classy doing it. Here, I'm afraid the art fails at the high wire act that is drawing her muscled enough you can she's a Hulkstress, and not so muscled that she looks like a man. And when you see her knickers, it's all very dirty and unnecessary. A plot point conversation turns into porn just as much as a fight does:
See what I mean? Even the setting tries to be smarmy. Just look at this statue in front of the casino where the action takes place:
Later, She-Hulk's opponent (we'll get to her in a minute) is sent flying over a billboard publicizing The Spurs and Garters Motor Lodge where they have a Gambler's Breakfast at 1.89 and Loose Slots. Before you ask, yes, this is all Comics Code Approved. I mean, even the former Blonde Phantom, now in her 60s, gets upskirted.
And how about those villains? There are two of them (aside from the non-costumed crooks): The gayer-than-gay Captain Rectitude who has been genetically engineered to resist temptation and destroy porn, and a female version of the Abomination called... the Abominatrix! It's basically a scaly Hulk with a blond wig, a huge bra and a skirt (for those inappropriate upskirt moments), complaining about missing her soap operas. This is funny? No. It's stupid. And unrealistic: She watches both "All my Children" AND "Guiding Light", which aren't on the same channel. Soap opera fans tend to have channel loyalty when watching their "stories". I only ever watched "Santa Barbara" because it was between "As the World Turns" and "Guiding Light", but... I've said too much.

Back to the comedy, or lack thereof. There was one moment I kinda liked, where the casino security guards always say "Check" after another one tells them something, even something like "Aww, sweet old gal". "Check. I'm gonna go patrolling." "Check." And then they run it into the ground like a Saturday Night Live sketch. You feel like there's a strident laugh track all the way through as She-Hulk dishes out wisecracks like "Your skin is like lumpy pea soup", waving her arms around rather than actually punching.
"She-Hulk: Sorceress Supreme." There is no worst crime than making She-Hulk look this bad, so I dropped the comic in the great Marvel Purge of 1990. (More to come!)

1 comment:

jayunderscorezero said...

I'm a HUGE fan of She-Hulk, and grabbed most of "Sensational..." out of back-issue boxes a few years ago (still looking for #50-60, grr), and yet the only story of hers that I just absolutely couldn't finish was this one, 'The Return of the Blonde Phantom'*. As you correctly point out, it's pretty much terrible on every level and is easily one of the worst She-Hulk stories ever written (and to be honest, as much as I love the gal, that's actually a pretty competitive category). I remember the comic got better after this nadir, but that's not really saying much, is it?

*And I even managed to get through both "Search for She-Hulk" and that one where she fights an "Adrenazon" (?!).