When I was in elementary school I would buy every first issue I saw... not because I thought it would be "worth something someday" but because I wanted to be in on the beginning of something. (I had grand visions of Skull the Slayer #200, for example, but the series didn't last quite that long.) By the time I was in junior high school, however, my philosophy had changed. By that time, having so many series "cancelled out from under me," I actively avoided first issues, concentrating instead on filling in gaps of established series. (Among the first I completed were Avengers, Captain America, Hulk, Justice League of America and Legion of Super-Heroes.) I would consider new series "safe to ignore" as long as they didn't cross over with a series I was reading. 

She-Hulk was one such series. I have often described the Incredible Hulk as "my first favorite character," but his female counter-part didn't have all that much to do with his regular title. When I did eventually read The Savage She-Hulk #1 some years later, I wasn't impressed. Eventually the character got to a point I could no longer ignore and I bought the whole series as backissues, but barely remember them (beyond the fact that I wasn't all that impressed with them, either), and I eventually culled them from my collection after having read them only once. Now I'm rereading them in a fancy-schmancy HC collection and it's like reading them for the first time.

Despite Bruce Banner's walk-on (or rather, walk-through) appearance in the first issue, She-Hulk's origin was rooted more in television than in comics. No "She-Hulk" spun out of The Incredible Hulk TV show but, concerned about The Bionic Woman (which had spun out of The Six Million Dollar Man), Stan Lee put together a "quickie" origin story lest the TV people introduce such a character, thereby gaining the rights instead of Marvel Comics.

The first issue was a perfunctory nothing of an origin. It introduced the main character (Jen Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner) but no supporting characters. A villain was mentioned but not shown. she gained her powers through a blood transfusion, but beyond that, Stan Lee (with artist John Buscema) provided no further character or plot development whatsoever before the whole thing was turned over to David Anthony Kraft for development. He was given pretty much a free hand to take the title in any direction he saw fit, based on Lee & Buscema's bare-bones origin story.

Kraft (a.k.a. "DAK") is probably best known for his long-running Comics Interview magazine but, as a writer, is also remembered for his own little section of the Marvel Universe including Defenders, Man-Wolf and She-Hulk, among others. He introduced supporting characters, among them Sheriff Morris Walters (Jen Walters' father), "Buck" Bukowski (her rival), Richard Rory (her boyfriend, as Jen) and Daniel "Zapper" Ridge (her boyfriend, as She-Hulk). Kraft brought Richard  Rory in from Man-Thing, Hellcat from Defenders, Man-Wolf from Marvel Premiere, and Morbius from Adventure into Fear.

Actually, Morbius was previously cured of being a "living vampire" in Peter Parker #38, and Man-Wolf would go on to be cured in Peter Parker Annual #3. The super-villains newly-created for the series include Man-Elephant, the Grappler, Shade, Brute, Seeker, Radius, Torque, Kyr and Earth-Lord (not exactly household names). Kraft likes using his initials as a sound effect in comics he writes ("DAK-KOOM" being a favorite). Michael Golden did a series of covers, #8-11.

Kraft's writing style is solid, but a bit too obvious for my taste. For example, in #22 She-Hulk is being attacked by Radius: "Unhh! Some sort of crystals pelting me... sticking... forming a rock-hard shell around me, holding me in place! NO! I can't let it solidify! I have to fight it! But the metaphor doesn't escape me! All my life I've felt this sort of constriction! I felt it freeze up my father, sealing him in a rock-hard exterior! Let this metaphor be my strength! I won't wear such a shell! I will break free--no matter how immobile my limbs feel! No matter how easy it might be to give up! I-- will-- fight!"

The series comes to a close in #25 leaving one plot thread left dangling. Her father's second wife has cheated him out of their family home and now plans to slap him with "an alimony suit that'll ruin [his] reputation forever!" After the series came to a close, he scripted one final She-Hulk story in Marvel Two-In-One #88, which he mentions twice in his introduction to the collection. First he simply implies that She-Hulk and the Thing slept together, then he comes right out and says it: "She also sleeps with the Thing, if you read between the lines." Uh, uh. Didn't happen.

He kind of takes credit for She-Hulk's later success. "Just when I'd gotten her there, totally differentiated from the Hulk, and the real fun was about to start... The Savage She-Hulk was canceled." He later goes on to say, "My final She-Hulk story, light and lively, got the character damn cose to where I was headed with her from the start. It was practically a done deal. Subsequent She-Hulk series and mini-series had the benefit of being able to pick it up and run with it, something I envy them.

"To their credit, those who came after me picked up pretty much where I left off. Her character trajectory held true to my defining course--from light, sexy humor to teaming up with super-heroes to an eventual romantic relationship with Man-Wolf's alter ego, John Jameson. And perhaps most important of all, a costume of her own--already hinted at by my sequence spoofing early Marvel romance comics, in which She-Hulk models various 'looks' in lieu of her signature tattered white dress. 'She-Hulk chic' teased the inevitable and long overdue costume still to come."

And DAK concludes: "The stage was set. My job was done."

Me, I don't know. If what came later was really what he had in mind all along, he should have taken fewer than 25 issues to set it up. Kudos to him for what he did do, but honestly? The only issue here worth reading is #1, and that only for curiosity's sake. I've read some She-Hulk beyond this (Avengers, Fantastic Four, the John Byrne series), but I don't recall ever seeing the original supporting cast (Zapper, Rory, Bukowski, her father) again. What She-Hulk needs is someone to do what Alan Moore did to Captain Britain. I'm hoping to see some of those characters again; seems like a no-brainer to me. I haven't yet read the Dan Slott or Peter David stuff, but I will.

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This was my jumping-off point for this run. Peter David, whose work I usually enjoy, decided he didn't know how to write stories about a lawyer, so he had Jen become a bounty hunter because that's sorta-kinda lawyer-adjacent. That wasn't good enough for me. (After all, Peter David isn't a rocket scientist, but he figured out how to write the Hulk.)

In his first issue, PAD wrote an introductory essay in which he said, "Dan's savvy sense of storytelling, his clever manipulation of the legal system... and his frankly frightening detailed knowledge of Marvel continuity created a body of work so comprehensively brilliant that, if I tried to write stories in the same vein, I would fail spectacularly. Best-case scenario: They'd read like watered-down Dan Slott stories. Come to think of it, that's the worst-case scenario as well." 

I you had stuck around until #29, you would have seen She-Hulk back in court in a story which explained how and why Jen Walters became disbarred and came to be working as a bounty hunter. PAD indicated in that editorial I mentioned that he would "probably" follow up on some of the plotlines left dangling "once I've got my feet more solidly planted." Now that I think about it, his decade-long tenure on the Incredible Hulk was punctuated by abrupt changes from one arc to the next which he would go back and smooth out later. 

Storywise, the PAD omnibus is interrupted by the "Invasion" storyline as well as a four-part crossover with X-Factor, which he was also writing at the time. Artistically, the volume is extremely uneven, especially those issues of X-Factor by artist Larry Stroman, whose style I have always considered to be, in a word, ugly. After the series was cancelled with #38, PAD was given a one-shot, Cosmic Collision, to tie off any loose ends. After that, he wrote She-Hulk Sensational, another one-shot, loosely based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Wrapping up the volume is a fill-in issue of Sensational She-Hulk, #12, which he wrote some 25 years before the run collected in the volume I am reading. The story is titled "She-Hulk, The Movie" and is oddly predictive of the current She-Hulk television show. 

SHE-HULK (Volume, uh... 5?):

We are now up to the 2014 "Marvel Now!" series by Charles Soule. Because She-Hulk has never been one of my favorite characters (and because I find "new number ones" to be a turn off, for the most part), I gave this series a pass eight years ago. That may have been a mistake. Soule is a lawyer, and returned She-Hulk to the courtroom where she belongs. (I did try his Daredevil based on that fact and someone's recommendation.) There is a discussion of this series elsewhere on this board, which I have just read in its entirety. This series lasted 12 issues, but unfortunately the discussion covers only the first four. I want to know what happened next! 

She-Hulk next returned in a series titled simply "Hulk", also under the "Marvel  Now!" brand.

VOLUME 6:

Because She-Hulk was never a favorite character of mine, I didn't follow this series, either, but I gather she became more bestial (and apparently grey). From what I've been able to ascertain about this series, she spoke in the vocabulary of the classic Hulk, although she retained some modicum of her intelligence. This series lasted eleven issues.

VOLUME 7:

If you've been keeping track of the number of issues of each series leading up to this point, you will notice that there are 158 of them. The next series appears under the "Marvel Legacy" brand, and lasted only five issues ("159" through "163"). Because She-Hulk was never a favorite character of mine, I didn't follow this series, either. 

VOLUME 8:

Although She-Hulk was never a favorite character of mine, the Hulk was my first favorite character. I dropped his title around the time the "Illuminati" sent him into space and stayed away due to "reboot fatigue" (seven series in eight years by my count). Although I did check in from time-to-time, it wasn't until The Immortal Hulk (2018) that a new direction caught my fancy. that series postulated that the gamma radiation which turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk also granted him immortality and, by extension, every gamma-spawned mutate mutant was similarly endowed: the Abomination, the Leader, Doc Samson... and She-Hulk. 

"The Three Deaths of Jennifer Walters" establishes not only that she was killed (and came back to life) way back in Savage She-Hulk #1, but also that she was killed by Thanos at one point, also died in Empyre, and perhaps other times as well. I don't know if The Immortal She-Hulk qualifies as a "volume" or not (because it's only a one-shot), but that's the way I'm counting it. 

Sorry about that. I'm not built for the issue-by-issue blow-by-blow of an ongoing series. I did follow this version of She-Hulk to the end and enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it ended rather abruptly, as I recall, just as it was beginning to get into the mystery of the blue file and just who Jen's office assistant Angie was and what her powers are any why she has them.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

SHE-HULK (Volume, uh... 5?):

We are now up to the 2014 "Marvel Now!" series by Charles Soule. Because She-Hulk has never been one of my favorite characters (and because I find "new number ones" to be a turn off, for the most part), I gave this series a pass eight years ago. That may have been a mistake. Soule is a lawyer, and returned She-Hulk to the courtroom where she belongs. (I did try his Daredevil based on that fact and someone's recommendation.) There is a discussion of this series elsewhere on this board, which I have just read in its entirety. This series lasted 12 issues, but unfortunately the discussion covers only the first four. I want to know what happened next! 

I read the first issue or two of this series and regretted wasting the money. Bestial rage-monster She-Hulk holds no appeal for me. Consequently, I never read either of the series that followed.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

She-Hulk next returned in a series titled simply "Hulk", also under the "Marvel  Now!" brand.

VOLUME 6:

Because She-Hulk was never a favorite character of mine, I didn't follow this series, either, but I gather she became more bestial (and apparently grey). From what I've been able to ascertain about this series, she spoke in the vocabulary of the classic Hulk, although she retained some modicum of her intelligence. This series lasted eleven issues.

It's some since I watched sales figures. When I did titles' sales usually dropped over time. Crossovers and restarts were used to bring about sales jumps. I owe this point to Chris Fluit, who wrote a column about it.

My dim recollection is when Peter David took over She-Hulk it wasn't a super-seller but wasn't yet at a cancellation level. I would think the bounty hunter makeover was implemented in the hope it would renew interest in the title, bring about the needed jump.

ClarkKent_DC said:

Jeff of Earth-J said:

SHE-HULK: I've been meaning to launch a comprehensive "She-Hulk" discussion for a while now, but knowing that Savage She-Hulk #1-25 was up first had been holding me back. With that series out of the way I should be able to proceed apace.

I've been wanting to talk about the current She-Hulk series. I'm enjoying it, but this is the first book I've read that made me notice the "decompressed" storytelling, or at least the first one that made me care about it and actively dislike it.

With the second issue, Jack of Hearts comes (back) into Jennifer Walters' life. We've learned that the last time his radiation built up to unsustainable levels, he flew into space and exploded. Being a somewhat alien, he survived and was captured by somebody or something that put him in a containment chamber and drained his energies. Jack busted out, made his way to Earth and to Jennifer ... 

... and , except Jack's energies aren't building up, thanks to a radiation meter helpfully provided by Reed Richards. Nothing about who captured him, or why. I wish there was some forward movement on that plotline.

This is the point at which I had originally intended to end this discussion. But then CK level the charge of "decompression" against the current She-Hulk series. (I had been enjoying it up until then.) So I thought I'd take the time to at least examine (if not defend) the current series in light of that charge. When I think of "decompressed storytelling," I think in terms of 1) How long does each issue take to read?, and 2) How much happens in each issue. To that end, yesterday I sat down and read the first eight issues in a single sitting. 

The first question is the easiest to answer: I timed myself reading each issue. The shortest time it took me to read one was 10 minutes, the longest 18. (MEAN: 15; MEDIAN: 16; MODE: 17.) That's about average for a modern comic book, I think. Comics I have leveled the charge of "decompression" against in the past I could read in five minutes. 

Before I get to the second question, let's take a look at what has happened in the first eight issues. #1 finds Jennifer Walters no longer an attorney and out of work with no apartment. She tussles with Titania for 13 pages and they end up agreeing to work out together in their own "fight club." Jennifer Walters' old rival, Mallory Book (who now has a scar on her cheek, BTW) gives her a job. Janet Van Dyne gives her the use of her penthouse, the same one she let her stay at back in the John Byrne series. It has been standing empty ever since, and the closets are still filled with She-Hulk's wardrobe. At the end of the issue, Jack of Hearts (long presumed dead) comes crashing in.

#2: Jack of Hearts has amnesia. He does not remember dying (or causing Ant-Man's death), and he has only vague memories of being held captive somewhere. He is unable to touch her because the last time he did (back in Avengers), his power nearly drained her dry. He has not needed to eat, drink or sleep ever since he gained his powers, but suddenly finds himself hungry, thirsty and tired. The last page shows a laboratory somewhere, the same one from Jack's flashback, and mysterious voices from off panel, one of them reciting a nursery rhyme.

#3: Jen discovers that Mallory has rehired Awesome Andy (and that the two are in a relationship). Jen's first client is the Thing, who is being sued for walking Lockjaw without a leash. That night, She-Hulk brings a pizza home and she and Jack spend eleven pages eating it and talking. He finds it increasingly difficult to access his powers. She-Hulk spends three pages on the phone with Patsy Walker, who is now in a romantic relationship with Tony Stark. She-Hulk asks Hellcat to secretly retrieve Jack of Hearts sealed file, but does not reveal why she wants it or that he's alive. Jack has also not been able to remove his costume since he gained his powers, but now he is. She-Hulk gives him some of her clothes to wear, including an oversize white shirt with a big red heart on it.

#4: The issue opens with four pages of She-Hulk and Titania fighting. Volcana is also there. when the Thing arrives, he and She-Hulk break for lunch to discuss his case. (Meta dialogue: "I'm used to starting over.") Back at work, the office is jam-packed with super-heroes. (Mallory wants only normal human clientele.) Reed Richards gives She-Hulk a radiation monitor which she will use going forward to monitor her own radiation level as well as Jack's. She-Hulk and Jack spend eleven pages having lunch in the park and discussing his situation. On the last page, a voice cries from off-panel, "Jack of Hearts! I found you!"

#5: The voice belongs to a hulking brute of a man who apparently is mentally challenged as well. They spent eight pages fighting until a small woman (with a big head) arrives and breaks it up. there was no real damage done, and the two depart. He had mistaken Jack for the "Jack of Hearts" from the nursery rhyme. He is obviously the source of the off-panel voice from the last page of #2, so this couple is also somehow tied to the Jack of Hearts' captivity. Then they go to dinner and talk some more, although she is still keeping secret the fact that he is responsible for Ant-Man's death. This issue is divided almost equally between action and talking. On the last page, Jennifer learns that the man and woman are Mark and April Booth, man and wife. 

#6: Patsy turns over the Avengers' file on Jack of Hearts to She-Hulk. At work, Jennifer meets with Nightcrawler and ends up being the lawyer for all of Krakoa. Mallory is ambivalent about this turn of events, but comes around when she realizes how much money is to be made. That night, Jen and Jack spend another eleven pages talking. His radiation level is now human normal. They risk a touch, then a kiss, then they become lovers.

#7: The next morning they spend another six pages talking befoe she has to leave for work. Jen's newest client is Victor Mancha, a teen cyborg, "the least villainous member of the Runaways." He is in possession of a "reformed" Doombot which was picked up on a routine traffic stop. In order to prove she's tough on crime, the new D.A. has decided to try the Doombot for the crimes of Dr. Doom. She agrees to take the case. After work she decides to stop by the Booth's townhouse to see if she can offer them any help... and falls right into their clutches. 

#8: This entire issue is given over the the origins of the Booths. They were both scientists who decided to give themselves super-powers. They decided on gamma, and obtained a sample of She-Hulk's (which was easier to obtain than one might think). They gave themselves simultaneous transfusions, which turned Mark into a dimwitted hulking monstrosity, and boosted April's intelligence. 

So, decompressed or not?

"...we're six issues in and haven't learned anything more than that."

Regarding that, we got a hint at the end of #2, found out for sure at the end of #7, and were provided details in #8. This issues leading up to it showed how Jack's powers were becoming weaker and weaker. The subplots, similarly, progressed from issue-to-issue as well. Writer Rainbow Rowell emphasizes characterization; her stories are the closest to Dan Slott's run since he left. Artist Roge Antonio excels at facial expressions, which is essential for the type of dialogue-heavy scenes Rowell specializes in. Finally, cover artist Jen Bartel's work looks like fashion plates from Vanity Fair (recalling the work of John Byrne). 

I have noted then length of action scenes and conversations only to illustrate the the plots contain a mix of both. the terms "talking heads" is pejorative, but that's really what it's all about (not comic books, maybe, but real life certainly). How many times does the average person get into a fist fight, let's say, or is involved in a high speed car chase? IMO these comics aren't so much "decompressed" as they are "leisurely." 

CHARGE: Decompressed storytelling

VERDICT: "Leisurely" storytelling

SENTENCE: Keep reading.

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