Monday, October 10, 2016

MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #18

Written and Penciled by: John Byrne
Inked by: Kim DeMulder | Colored by: Petra Scotese | Lettered by: Janice Chiang
Editors: Michael Carlin & Michael Higgins | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nick Fury is instructed by his superiors to bring She-Hulk in for study. Fury takes a leave of absence to protest the order. Later, as She-Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot are out on a date, a pair of SHIELD Mandroids arrives to arrest her. Following a brief skirmish, the Mandroids, She-Hulk, Wyatt, and a group of bystanders are beamed up to the SHIELD Helicarrier. Aboard, She-Hulk is humiliated by an agent named Dooley before acting director Dum Dum Dugan arrives to confine him to quarters.

Later, as Dum Dum speaks with She-Hulk and Wyatt in his office, he receives a call summoning him to Washington and placing Dooley in charge. With Dum Dum gone, Dooley immediately locks up Wyatt and subjects She-Hulk to a battery of tests. Eventually, after being returned to her cell with Wyatt, She-Hulk changes to Jennifer Walters and slips free.

As Jen explores the helicarrier, Dooley is accosted by a decaying vagrant who wandered away from the teleported bystanders. Soon, the helicarrier begins listing. She-Hulk learns that Dooley cleared the bridge and took control of the craft, so she makes her way into the bridge from outside the ship, where she defeats Dooley. SHIELD agents attempt to retake control of the helicarrier but it crashes. With the vessel’s atomic pile in meltdown, She-Hulk heads inside and disables it.

Later, Mister Fantastic runs tests on She-Hulk and determines that, due to the additional radiation exposure from the pile, she can never again change back into Jennifer Walters.


Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: There are no footnotes in this stand-alone graphic novel, though we do get an oblique reference to the fact that Doctor Doom is dead, and Wyatt recalls leaving his tribe to return to the Fantastic Four back in FF #270.

In addition to Fury and Dum Dum, this story also features an appearance from SHIELD’s science officer, Sidney “Gaffer” Levine. There’s also a blond bespectacled agent barking orders who seems like he might be Jasper Sitwell, though the hairstyle isn't right and he’s never called by name.


Byrne features three SHIELD agents named Morelli, Mackie, and Harras, likely named for Marvel letterer Jack “Squid” Morelli, editor (and close friend of Byrne) Howard Mackie, and editor (and close friend of Mackie) Bob Harras. The characters also appear to be drawn to resemble the individuals upon whom they’re modeled (at any rate, that's definitely Mackie and Harras shown in the art).

Left: Morelli and Mackie. Right: Harras.

Byrne originally drew a different final page to this book; something a bit more risqué by the standards of the time. He says he used Jim Shooter’s own DAZZLER: THE MOVIE graphic novel as his example of what was permissible in the format. However, Byrne says Shooter ordered the “adult” page altered before printing. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of Photoshop, we can piece together what that final page would’ve looked like:

Left: The published version. Right: Approximation of Byrne's original intent.

This is especially glaring in light of the number of times Byrne draws She-Hulk unclothed throughout the story, not to mention the panel where inker Kim DeMulder (according to Byrne) delineated She-Hulk’s areolas beneath a shredded shirt.

As noted in the summary, effective with this story, She-Hulk can no longer revert to Jennifer Walters. It’s revealed in a sequence that always elicits a little chuckle from me. (At right.)

My Thoughts: Well, it’s a graphic novel, all right. Which is to say it’s a prestige quality, square-bound paperback volume containing a sequential art story. The story stars She-Hulk, and is written and drawn by John Byrne with inks from Kim Demulder.

(If you don’t have anything nice to say…)

I’m really disappointed in this one. I love She-Hulk; I love John Byrne on She-Hulk. But THE SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK is just, as the kids say, meh. It’s built on a flimsy premise — the government wants She-Hulk studied so they can be sure she won’t eventually become a rampaging monster like her cousin — and it relies on too many weird contrivances to really work.

Nick Fury is ordered to arrest She-Hulk so he… leaves? Just turns tail and washes his hands of the situation? Not the Fury I know. So Dum Dum, his second-in-command, takes charge and is promptly overthrown by Dooley, who we are informed has “friends in high places” (There’s never any indication of who those friends are).

And what about the “villain” of the piece? A mass of mutated cockroaches who live inside human bodies and control them for… some… reason? As She-Hulk indicates on the final page above, the roaches somehow (I guess) orchestrated this whole thing? They knew SHIELD would come for She-Hulk, so they positioned their vagrant host where he could be beamed aboard the helicarrier with her, all with the intention of crashing it?


I seriously don’t get this. Am I missing something? The story is incredibly unclear. It reads like the pilot episode of a TV show, setting up an overarching plot for the remainder of the season -- only this is it. The roaches are done-in-one, as far as I know -- and even if they weren't, I don't really think a standalone graphic novel is the best place to introduce plot kernels for future follow-up.

The story has some spectacular visuals, though. The helicarrier listing and crashing looks amazing in the oversized graphic novel format with its lush coloring. The letters from Janice Chiang are much less "Janice Chiang-ish" than normal (I typically don't like her very light, calligraphic work). And there’s a lot of She-Hulk cheesecake on display as well -- though it should be noted that most of it comes about by way of degrading our heroine, which really doesn’t sit well with me. (I do love the “nipple panel” mentioned above and depicted below, though — it’s a pretty great representation of everything I like about the character: cheesecake and attitude.)


But the art and production values aren't enough to salvage this thing Much as I want to like this graphic novel, and much as I do like the artwork, overall it’s a pretty forgettable mess.

No comments:

Post a Comment