Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review # 82: "The Sensational She-Hulk by John Byrne Vol. 1"

Several years before Joe Kelly made Deadpool famous by having the title character break the fourth wall, John Byrne did the same with She-Hulk in the 1989 relaunch of her title. The result is more quirky than funny, but it's very, very smart.

"The Sensational She-Hulk" mainly pokes fun at comic book cliches, touching on everything from editor's notes to issue-by-issue storytelling tropes to character age. For example, a golden age hero (who is also strangely self-aware) has become a senior citizen because she disappeared from strips. She-Hulk, meanwhile, is 31 years old and will stay that way until she goes out of print. Jennifer Walters' ability to call out Byrne for narrative decisions is never really explained, but who cares?

The fifth issue in this set stands apart as truly excellent. Byrne had been utilizing a rogue's gallery of Marvel's quirkier characters, and the greatest of them all emerges here in Howard the Duck adversary Dr. Bong. Ringing his bell head with his brass fist, Bong is trying to uncensor TV violence. This gives us twisted parodies of Mighty Mouse where a cat eats the tiny hero and The Three Stooges where Moe takes a chainsaw to Curly's head. We don't actually see this, thanks to the Comics Code (which Jennifer mocks in another issue as a way to explain why her clothes don't rip,) but the effect is noted.

She-Hulk ends up trapped in a vicious dinosaur-filled version of the Flintstones and flips channels with a group of helpless citizens. Eventually they end up in Doctor Bong's layer and are seemingly trapped. She-Hulk's solution? Ripping the pages of the comic, ending up in a fake ad for back-issues. This is the funniest part of the trade as Byrne tears nearly the entire Marvel catalogue to shreds, except for those written by his own editor which he glowingly praises. It's clever work. Unfortunately, Byrne's initial run on "She-Hulk" was short-lived as he had yet another blow-up with someone-or-other over something-or-other and walked out. That's a sadly common event for him.

While Byrne did return later, self-aware She-Hulk never caught fire the way Deadpool eventually did. It would have been interesting to see him get a longer, uninterrupted run but what's here is good even if it feels cut short.

Rating: 7.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment