Why She-Hulk Breaks the Fourth Wall in Disney+ Series

The Marvel Cinematic Universe got a brand new heroine on Thursday in the form of Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), who made her onscreen debut in the first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. For years, fans have eagerly anticipated when Jen's live-action debut would look like, and what elements of her eclectic and storied comics canon would become a part of that. With the launch of this first episode, we started to get our answer — including the inclusion of one of her most iconic tropes from the comics. Spoilers for the series premiere of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law below! Only look if you want to know!

In the episode's early moments, we're introduced to Jen's life as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, as she is preparing for an upcoming legal battle. After her coworkers leave the room, Jen then turns to the camera and talks to the audience directly, acknowledging that they probably won't be able to focus on this "fun lawyer show" until she gets her backstory out of the way.

We then see that backstory — and how an accident led to her gaining a version of the superpowers held by her cousin, Bruce Banner / Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). While Bruce argues that Jen should use her abilities to become a superhero, Jen is adamant that she can and should return to her life as a lawyer, and Bruce eventually admits that he respects that. Jen then turns to the camera and jokes he "doesn't mean that", and seems surprised by what she just did. 

These are the first onscreen examples of Jen breaking the fourth wall, a trope she has been tied to since the Sensational She-Hulk run of the late 1980s. (Notably, several years before Deadpool, who is associated with breaking the fourth wall on a mainstream level, even debuted in comics.) Largely written and illustrated by John Byrne, Sensational She-Hulk often saw Jen openly acknowledging the fact that she was a superhero, often talking directly to the audience. As the Sensational era went along, these fourth-wall breaks only got more extravagant and absurd, including (but not limited to) her traveling great distances in between comic panels, making fun of and crossing paths with the various comic creators at Marvel, and even shutting down storylines she doesn't like by literally ripping through the comic.

Later She-Hulk solo comics did not have her break the fourth wall as outlandishly, but still played with the concept in some fun ways. In particular, the Dan Slott-penned She-Hulk run introduced Fourth Wall Enterprises, a mysterious cabal of shady businessmen who wanted to remake Jen in their image, and recruited her rival at work, Mallory Book, to help in the efforts.

We'll have to wait and see how further episodes of She-Hulk continue to break the fourth wall, and whether or not the efforts get more extravagant in the process. But either way, it appears as if the trope is here to stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and we're sure to be entertained a lot in the process.

New episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law will debut Thursdays exclusively on Disney+. If you haven't checked out Disney+ yet and you want to give it a go, you can do that here.

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