Monday, 2 April 2018

She-Hulk, Volume 1: Deconstructed Review (Mariko Tamaki, Nico Leon)


She-Hulk, Volume 1: Deconstructed takes its premise from Civil War II so if you’ve not read that event and wanna avoid spoilsies, check that out before this.

Years ago I used to think indie comics creators would write better superhero comics if given the chance. I’m pretty much completely turned around on that idea now, especially as indie comics creator Mariko Tamaki has written such a fucking awful She-Hulk here! 

Jen Walters/She-Hulk was put into a coma by Thanos in the Civil War II lead-in, waking up to discover that her cousin, Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, was shot in the head and killed by Hawkeye. Deconstructed follows Jen as she deals with her grief, gets back to lawyering and helps out a new client whose landlord is trying to evict them. 

First off, basing a series concept around an event is a terrible idea. Superhero deaths are an absolute joke - they don’t stay dead. Ever. Maybe completely new readers to superhero comics don’t know this - and Tamaki might’ve brought over some of her indie audience with her to this title so this could conceivably be a few peoples’ first ever superhero comic - but I’ve been reading superhero comics for years so I didn’t buy into the grief angle at all. And, Jen, you’ve been a superhero how long? Come on girl, you know “dead” is shorthand for “napping until they’re needed for the next useless relaunch/reboot/whatever”. And guess what happened during the NEXT goddamn tiresome event, Secret Empire? Yup, Bruce Banner came back from the dead (although I think he’s gone back to being “dead” again - for now)! Fuuuuuck you, Marvel, you buncha assclowns! 

Setting aside the flimsy premise, Tamaki’s story is utter gahbage. Some rando lady who looks like a Grey alien says she’s being evicted and wants Jen’s help to stop it. Nothing - nada! - about this storyline makes a lick of sense. The landlord is evicting the Grey alien lady not because she’s a bad tenant who’s stopped paying the rent - she still is - but because she went from looking hot to not. We later find out that he’s sold the building to developers months ago. I’m not familiar with US Property Law but I doubt you could do that without telling any of the tenants. That’s ridiculous. Obviously we’re not meant to like the landlord but does he have to be such an absurd caricature of sleaze? It’s such amateurish writing. 

Here’s why the Grey alien lady looks so odd though: she’s an Inhuman. Are we told this in the story proper? Nope - that detail is buried in the story summary on the credits page! To be fair to Tamaki, the lady - Maise - does say in the first issue that she “changed” and now has “restorative powers” but that makes this book even less accessible than it already is for new readers or anyone who hasn’t been following the Inhumans/Terrigen Mist stuff that’s been going on elsewhere in the Marvel Universe. 

Tamaki’s obtuseness becomes more problematic later on when a gooey shadow monster appears to fight Jen. What the what? Where did it come from? Is Maise somehow manifesting it? She mentioned “restorative powers” but that’s a vague statement and doesn’t mean creating monster avatars. In an earlier scene, Jen visited Maise’s apartment building where we saw abandoned mannequin parts in the stairwell and zombified kids writing on the hallway walls. When the gooey shadow monster appears, a number of tenants show up too and say that they found the monster and used it to help protect them. So is it a creature separate from Maise? Nope, because in another summary paragraph we’re told that Maise made the golem monster. 

Having to find out basic plot points from issue summaries is shit writing. That the editor has to plug plot holes with these summaries shows how badly the writer has failed to put this information across to the audience in the actual comics. And if you don’t read the summaries, you’re gonna have some very fair questions! Even with the summaries, there’s still no explanation for why some of the building’s tenants were zombified and others weren’t. Not that it matters that much but still it highlights again the lack of care that went into the writing. 

And it doesn’t make sense but Maise and her golem turn on Jen at the end because that’s what happens at the end of superhero stories: hero punches monster, tie a bow on this sucka. Trite, unimaginative rubbish. Especially as the fear monster golem happens to mirror what’s going on in Jen’s life because she’s working through trauma/grief of her own. Honestly, this is some of the sloppiest, most contrived writing I’ve seen in a superhero comic in some time. 

It’s not even remotely fun either. Maybe Tamaki herself doesn’t read Marvel comics - it wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t - but Marvel comics usually shoot for light-hearted fun. It’s served them well in the past - you might even say that’s a big part of why they’re the world’s number one comics publisher! Certainly that’s what Charles Soule’s She-Hulk run went for, successfully too - if you want to see what a good She-Hulk comic looks like, check out Soule’s superb take on the character. There’s nothing fun about Tamaki’s She-Hulk. Depressing, gloomy, sad, miserable - beyond the bad writing and stupid story, it’s a downer the whole time. That’d be more acceptable if this were an indie comic but not so much as a Marvel comic. That’s not to say there aren’t any grim Marvel comics in existence but Tamaki isn’t nearly talented enough to maturely realise one convincingly - you’ll get zero insight into what it’s like to deal with trauma other than it sucks. 

She-Hulk, Volume 1: Deconstructed is the worst She-Hulk comic I’ve had the misfortune to read. Tamaki is an incompetent writer who fails to create even slightly believable characters and whose feeble story was dreary at best but was most of the time stunningly brain-dead, simplistic, banal, and unoriginal. Nico Leon’s art is, as always, barely even worth mentioning, it’s that bland, though I don’t know why Jen looks Asian in some panels. Pathetic across the board, avoid this steaming pile of drek if you can.

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