Jeff Parker and Carlo Pagulayan launch a new series for Marvel Now, “Red She-Hulk” which, rather confusingly, starts at #58 as it takes over from a “Hulk” Volume 2 run.
Parker does an excellent introduction to the character in this “first” issue, giving readers that might not be familiar with the character some good backstory and details by weaving them nicely into the actual plot — a spoonful of sugar as it were — to help the exposition go down.
Unfortunately Red She-Hulk doesn’t have much agency in her own story. Betty gets discussed a lot in this book and it’s informative, but it’s all exterior commentary about the character, rather than letting her control the story herself. All we really come to understand in this first issue is that she’s definitely anti-“super soldier experiments” and she’s got some typically Hulk anger issues. There’s plenty of time for this approach to change of course, and for the book to begin to feel more like her book rather than just a book about her, but for this issue on its own, Betty Ross feels like a tourist in her own title.
Pagulayan draws a powerfully impressive Red She-Hulk, and with the exception of some unfortunately low zipper placements, she looks very much like the superhero she’s supposed to be. Pagulayan isn’t afraid to let her be a true Hulk and as a result she decimates nearly everything in her path. There’s not much emotion beyond Hulk-rage (and a few snappy comebacks) to test how he can handle more subtle character work. Then again, Hulk and subtle are not necessarily words that will ever go together. Most of the book is made up of action scenes — one very extended which gets better as the story progresses, and a separate scene that closes out the book and is very strong. But the inconsistency is a bit odd and the less gripping opening sequence feels weak in comparison.
With so few female led titles at Marvel these days, it’s especially exciting to have a “Red She-Hulk” series. Parker and Pagulayan have the skills to deliver a strong series and the set up has a lot of potential, but it’s not yet found its groove in this first issue.