She-Hulk #4 Review
When I reviewed She-Hulk #3, I dubbed it “Style Over Substance” and that remains the case [...]
When I reviewed She-Hulk #3, I dubbed it "Style Over Substance" and that remains the case here. Fortunately though, the style is superlative enough to carry what plot is provided, and a bit more introspection and a quite intriguing cliffhanger are thankfully included. The best things I can say about this issue are that artist Javier Pulido is a revelation, cover artist Kevin Wada is amazing, and writer Charles Soule has occasional flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, the book is let down by a somewhat thin plot and an arguably trite ending to the Kristoff Vernard plot that was begun last issue. For more detail, let's go into the breakdown… SPOILERS!!!
The Good: Last issue, I gushed about Javier Pulido's art and I'm going to do it again. He is brilliant. There's a sense of fun and a definite style that jump off the page, only accentuated by Munsta Vincente's bright color palette. There are so many things that Pulido excels at that it's hard to know where to start. Perhaps his greatest strength is in his ability to render architectural detail. I referenced this last issue but it bears repeating. His line work is clean and precise with amazing detail rendered with geometric precision. There is no crosshatching, scribbling, or fudging to be seen. Everything is given maximum definition with a minimum of ink on the page. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Soule chose to have Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters consult with a San Francisco-based Matt "Daredevil" Murdock just so that there would be an excuse for Pulido to draw the Golden Gate Bridge which he does spectacularly. Every nut, bolt, and piece of hardware appears to be perfectly placed. Similarly beautiful is his depiction of the Latverian capital of Doomstadt with its Tudor-inspired architecture. On top of everything else, Pulido appears to be a master of perspective as well, lending added realism to certain angles and shots. Pulido's figures are spectacularly well-rendered as well with a shot of Daredevil balancing on one hand serving to illustrate that fact. Last issue, I commented that his rendering of female faces reminds me of Jack Kirby in their roundness and fullness, that is still true here but I'm reminded of Jack Kirby in other ways as well. It's hard to put into words but Kirby had a certain angularity to his work at times and I see touches of that in Pulido's work. Perhaps I'm reading too much into a small detail but there is something about the arm and hand that Daredevil is balancing on that particularly call The King to mind. Not being an artist, I make this statement with some trepidation; however, if I had to characterize Pulido overall, I would say that he has a Jack Kirby sensibility by way of Mike Allred's economy and sureness of line with a heaping helping of architectural and geometric mastery thrown into the bargain.
Finally, I would like call out Pulido's inventive and engaging panel layouts. I quite enjoy them on almost every page. He isn't constrained by the spine, mixes up panel size effectively, and makes great use of negative space. Less a complaint than a caution, at times he does try to be a bit too clever and sometimes the reading order of the panels is lost. The best example of that in this issue would be the third and second-to-last pages, the second-to-last one in particular throwing me off momentarily. Charles Soule does an admirable job at times in this book. In particular, his conversation between She-Hulk and Daredevil is an engaging enough meditation on the life of a superheroic lawyer. Additionally, I suspect that he is foreshadowing a legal showdown between Matt Murdock and Jennifer Walters which I would quite like to see. Also, his naming of the commercial Latverian airline is inspired. Coming up with "LatveriAir" has earned Soule a mountain of bonus points in my book. To be fair, Soule seems to be pretty talented at writing comedy as overall the jokes in this issue land really well. A particularly engaging moment is Shulkie's final interchange with Kristoff which I won't spoil here. Oddly enough, perhaps the best thing I can say about Soule is that he makes me really want to read the next issue. In the last pages of this book he sets up a mystery involving a number of heroes, villains, and an ex-lover of She-Hulk's. Apparently, Shulkie was named as a defendant in a case involving, among other people, Wyatt Wingfoot. The thing is that she has no idea what this is about and no memory of a possible incident that would have prompted it. That mystery coupled with the prospect of seeing her engage with longtime romantic interest and Fantastic Four supporting cast member Wyatt Wingfoot has me chomping at the bit for issue 5. Unfortunately, that doesn't help elevate one particular element of this issue…
The Bad: The resolution of the Kristoff Vernard plot comes in the form of an impassioned speech from Shulkie that feels more than a little trite. That isn't to say that it doesn't make sense in context, it does, but it feels a little too simplistic. In issue 3, we found out that Kristoff wanted to defect from Latveria and gain asylum in the U.S. because Doom won't let him be his own man. Rather, Doom wants to perpetuate his own rule through Kristoff. Regardless of whether Kristoff ever espoused this view previously, this makes perfect sense. In past continuity, Doom actually set up a contingency where in the event of his death, his memories would be downloaded into Kristoff effectively making him a carbon copy of Doom. This actually occurred at one time (at least partially) which lends credence to Kristoff feeling this way. In this issue, Shulkie smashes into Latveria just so that she can get Doom's attention and tell him that he smothering Kristoff. In her words, he's not "turning him into a ruler," he's "raising someone who only knows how to bow." This prompts Kristoff to essentially back up Shulkie's assertions and stand up to Doom. Doom then states that he will "consider these matters." This feels a little sitcom-y where the whole problem would have been solved from the beginning if people only spoke up and told the truth. Given the tone of this book, I have a hard time faulting it for going this route but it just makes the whole thing feel too easy. It would have been nice to get one more twist or have one more little complication just so there was a bit more meat in this story. On the art front, I won't complain that She-Hulk's face shape differs from past depictions as that's purely a matter of artistic license, but I will question her lower eyelids again. I truly do not understand why the artist insists on making them so dark. In my last review, I stated that it gives her the look of hot having slept after an all-night bender. On top of reiterating that, I'll note that it also gives her a semi-drugged look at times. The Questionable: Where we talk about things that are neither good nor necessarily bad, but at least are a little head-scratching. Honestly, I've got nothing. I could quibble about Kristoff's past representations not quite jiving with his depiction here, but I already covered that in my review of the last issue. Aside from his age and attitude, the Kristoff presented here is tied just enough to past continuity for him to work. He even ends up in a suit of Doom armor in this issue so that makes me happy. Conclusion: She-Hulk is an amusing bit of fluff with brilliant visuals. For a $2.99 book, there's plenty of value for money and I'd recommend a read. I'm really tempted to keep up with this book even though Doom and Kristoff appear to be out of the picture, and the cliffhanger-ish ending here might just ensure that I'll be back for more. Who knows? With the mystery that Soule is seemingly setting up, perhaps the substance will gain on the style over future installments.0comments