Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Today we’re taking a side trip to the land of prestige comics for Marvel Graphic Novel #18: The Sensational She-Hulk.
The Marvel Graphic Novel line was a mixed bag. They weren’t what we consider graphic novels today, but were oversized comics at about 70-80 pages each. Some were tied into the Marvel universe, such as The Death of Captain Marvel, The New Mutants, Cloak and Dagger, and Revenge of the Living Monolith. Others were creator-driven, such as The Futurians, Swords of the Swashbucklers, Void Indigo, and Marada the She-Wolf. Amid these came Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk, which ties into her time as a member of the Fantastic Four.
We begin with Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., addressing the shadowy Council that bosses him around (surprisingly similar to Nick Fury addressing the Council in the Avengers movie). We get a short retelling of She-Hulk’s origin, and the council expresses concern that She-Hulk is just as dangerous as her big green cousin the Hulk, who had recently lost all his humanity, becoming a total monster. Fury disagrees, putting his trust in Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four.
At She-Hulk luxurious NYC apartment, Wyatt Wingfoot shows up for a date, but she is feeling down, worried about the Hulk. Wyatt cheers her up by saying that without the Hulk, there would be no She-Hulk. In better spirits, she promises him a fun night out on the town. She dresses up an outfit that’s… interesting. From the waist up, it’s an all-white tuxedo. From the waist down, it’s a one-piece swimsuit. I guess when you’re a 7-foot-tall superhuman green woman, you can get away with this.
She-Hulk and Wyatt head to the East Village to see a show at the Orpheum Theater, when they are attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in gold mech armor. There’s several pages of fighting, in which She-Hulk overpowers the agents. Knowing they’re defeated, the agents call for a full-quadrant teleport. Everyone is beamed, Star Trek-like, aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, including Wyatt and some pedestrian onlookers. She-Hulk keeps fighting, smashing her way into a side corridor looking for an escape. One of the pedestrians removes a fake beard, secretly revealing a zombie-like face.
She-Hulk and the others find an exit, only to realize that this helicarrier is in outer space, so there’s nowhere to escape to. An especially thuggish S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Dooley says She-Hulk must be strip-searched and threatens to shoot Wyatt if she doesn’t comply. She goes ahead and gets naked in front of everyone, while making a speech about how S.H.I.E.L.D. used to be the good guys, but have now become villains. Dum Dum Dugan, who is Nick Fury’s right hand man, comes in and is shocked at the public nudity.
Dum Dum sends Dooley off to quarters and meets with She-Hulk and Wyatt. He says S.H.I.E.L.D. is concerned about She-Hulk going savage like her cousin, while she continues to criticize S.H.I.E.L.D. for acting outside of the law. Dum Dum gets a phone call from Washington, saying he’s been reassigned and that Dooley is in charge of the helicarrier. Dooley takes She-Hulk to a lab, where she’s forced to undress again, and is experimented on. She and Wyatt are then locked up in a cell.
She-Hulk can’t bust out of the cell without security devices filling the room with cyanide gas. Instead, she transforms back into human Jennifer Walters, and easily fits through the bars. Elsewhere, Dooley encounters the zombie-like man who kisses him on the mouth, and then dies. Dooley gains a similar zombie-like complexion and demeanor, plus he hears a voice in his head telling him to go to the control room. Jen transforms back into She-Hulk and destroys the footage of her being experimented on. Dooley spins the helicarrier out of control, sending into Earth’s atmosphere. A bunch of aircraft fall from the helicarrier and crash down on the surface so we can have action movie explosions.
She-Hulk fights her way to the bridge, where she encounters Dooley. Turns out his body had been taken over by super-intelligent cockroaches. They want to inhabit She-Hulk next. She throws Dooley against a wall, where he explodes into a small army of roaches. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents manage to crash land the ship away from a population center while She-Hulk goes back for Wyatt. It’s not over yet, because the carrier’s atomic core is about to blow, vaporizing the area for hundreds of miles. She-Hulk must enter the core and absorb the radiation to prevent this from happening. Inside the core, She-Hulk is attacked by the cockroaches. We don’t see the battle, because instead it cuts to later, where she emerges from the now-safe core, covered with dead roaches. “I’d say we won,” she says.
Three days later, in the Avengers Mansion science lab, Reed says She-Hulk shows no signs of roach infestation, which is good. He theorizes the roaches are some sort of mutant life form. The he delivers what he says is the bad news: She-Hulk absorbed so much radiation that she’ll never transform back into human Jennifer Walters again. There’s a long pause, and She-Hulk responds, “So what’s the bad news?” She-Hulk later hangs out with Wyatt some more, where she admits she’s always preferred being She-Hulk. She then speculates that it was no coincidence that the roaches ended up aboard the carrier. She says they must have known what S.H.I.E.L.D. was up to and when, and she wonders if there are more of them out there.
Unstable molecule: Reed and She-Hulk have worked together long enough now that she can tell when he’s about to deliver bad news.
Fantastic fifth wheel: The big deal here is that She-Hulk loses the ability to turn human. While the Thing always mopes about this, She-Hulk is glad for it. We also learn She-Hulk weighs 650 pounds.
Trivia time: The whole “S.H.I.E.L.D. are the villains now” thing comes from the pages of Incredible Hulk, where they were aggressively pursuing ol’ greenskin.
The last time She-Hulk turned into Jennifer before this was in Fantastic Four issue #275, about 10 issues back.
A lot of Marvel fan sites call the cockroaches’ human host “the Bag-Man.” To my knowledge, he/they never appear again.
Fantastic or frightful? This is a nice romp, with a lot of action and terrific art. Plus it really shows off She-Hulk’s fun-loving adventurous nature. Unfortunately, it’s also really exploitative, with her being either nude or semi-nude throughout the whole book. Sexiness is good, but this is just too much. The good outweighs the bad, though, so this is a lot of fun.
Next week: All about the stats.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.