Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters's personality is an understatement. When she hasn't morphed into a 650-pound, crime-fighting, hard-partying superhero, she's a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles her intense legal career by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can have a real social life and even meet a guy who isn't trying to take over the universe. (from Goodreads)
She-Hulk is probably my FAVORITE Marvel heroine (besides Spider-girl), mostly because she’s upbeat and funny and can kick everybody’s ass. I found The She-Hulk Diaries on the shelf at my library and immediately grabbed it. I was a little worried it’d be more Sex and the City and less “adventures of a superhero”– and I wanted the superhero story. However, it actually has a chunk of She-Hulk superhero comic stuff along with the more mundane Jennifer-has-a-life stuff.
The best part, I think, is that it’s not just a story about mundane Jennifer and super She-Hulk. It’s a story about Jennifer accepting that she is, in fact, mundane Jennifer AND super She-Hulk. She spends a lot of time denying that she has anything to do with She-Hulk’s actions/decisions/wardrobe choices, and so it’s very satisfying when she finally acknowledges that she is She-Hulk and She-Hulk is her. (Though the actual development into that revelation could have been more explicit. As in, it happened.)
It’s kind of a weird book, though. I was never sure where I stood with it: I liked it (because She-Hulk! ♥), but I was also extremely frustrated. Part of my frustration is that it tried to please everyone, both old fan and new. There’s tons of insider comic fan sidebits, little things like certain characters getting a name drop, or Jennifer mentioning some aspect of her solo title. But it’s ALSO still pretty newbie-friendly, so even people who haven’t read the comics could supposedly pick it up and enjoy it.
The book’s balancing act between hardcore comics fan stuff and general everybody-join-in stuff made me feel very unsatisfied, because I haven’t actually read a She-Hulk comic– or even a comic with She-Hulk IN it– for years and years, so I didn’t get a lot of the insider stuff. BUT the more general life things weren’t all that exciting to me, either: I mean, Jennifer gets a new job. Woohoo? I wanted more meaty storylines, I guess.
Part of my problem was that I was EXTREMELY miffed that She-Hulk got kicked out of the Avengers, and that everyone hated her and nobody wanted her around. She’s a superhero! Superheroes should stick together! True, it let Jennifer spread her wings as a non-hero person, but still. It felt more like a convenient plot device to force Jennifer into going out on her own, instead of an actual thing that would happen in the comic world.1
But maybe it is a thing! Maybe it actually happened in the comics and so I’m complaining about nothing. The problem with not having READ the comics is that I don’t have a good idea of the overall political/social environment of the current She-Hulk franchise. But on the other hand, I shouldn’t need to because this book is like a sideline thing and thus not overly dependent on previous comic stories, right? But it never felt that way! It very much felt like it was building on previous stories and that, by not knowing those stories, I missed out on a good amount of plot. But then it tried to console me by pretending to be friendly to everyone, including those who haven’t read the comics? It was VERY CONFUSING, okay, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that whole thing.
Maybe other people wouldn’t be bothered as much by not being in the “insider club” as I was– they can focus on the romance and the Jennifer-getting-a-job story instead of the defeating-the-super-villain story. But for me, the Jennifer-getting-a-job story wasn’t as compelling as it should have been.2 Jennifer searches for a new apartment! Jennifer runs into her old boyfriend! Jennifer makes new friends at work! It SHOULD have been interesting, or at least humorous, but it was neither. The writing didn’t add anything to the story, and it didn’t cover up the boring bits with witticism or whatever; in fact, if this book had been a comic, I’d probably have liked it more! Art can make a mundane story extraordinary, and I think that’s probably what The She-Hulk Diaries needed. (Or maybe it just needed a better story.)
Read: August 28-30, 2013
Okay, so: I understand that not every thing can cater to newbies and I don’t think they HAVE to, but at the same time you can’t be so far into your meta-history or whatever that people have no idea wtf you’re talking about. For example! Look at the Iron Man movies! It includes things from the comics in such a way that those in the know feel cool for knowing it, but those NOT in the know still understand it and/or think it’s cool and/or don’t notice anyway AND they aren’t made to feel stupid for not noticing/knowing/etc. Everyone’s happy. What this book needed was an Iron Man kick in the butt.
- They keep HULK around, don’t they? Right? (Maybe I need to read some more comics.) ↩
- I think also I may have been thinking that The She-Hulk Diaries was a kind of super-texty Hawkeye, that comic all about Hawkeye when he’s not part of a team (I think). ↩
- some parts were very charming! Mostly the parts with She-Hulk, which…weren’t that many. ↩
- the hero was a science geek which was cool but he was also completely alpha male in a bad way. ↩