Poor She-Hulk. She can’t hang onto a solo series for more than a few years, despite being one of the more recognizable female characters in the Marvel Universe. With no current series, Marvel’s obligingly given her “She-Hulk Sensational,” a one-shot in time for her 30th anniversary. Or at least, that’s the sales pitch. The reality? Well, that’s another story.
The lead story by Peter David and Jonboy Meyers is actually the only one that has to do with the anniversary. David has a lot of fun with it, from lampooning the old days of She-Hulk breaking the “fourth wall” with the reader back in John Byrne’s days, to dragging a protesting She-Hulk through a “Christmas Carol”-themed story even as she keeps pointing out that she already gets the joke and could it please end now. It’s also a pointed look at the numerous attempts to get the character to be commercially successful, as well as the general lack of originality in comics and how everything always circles back to something that was a hit the last time. For people just looking for a good laugh, of course, they’ll appreciate captions like, “This story takes place after the last comic you read and just before the next one.” Meyers draws the comic with slightly exaggerated features, with sharp edges and bulbous spheres. It skirts the edge between “superdeformed” and regular anatomy, and it’s an interesting take on the characters. Sometimes it works in better spots than others. I can’t say I was fond, for instance, of what looked like two balloons shoved down She-Hulk’s tank top, but her chest seemed much more normal when she’s dressed as a lawyer.
On the other hand, Brian Reed and Iban Coello’s story feels more like an inventory “Ms. Marvel” script that was dusted off since it also co-starred She-Hulk. (The fact that it needed a footnote placing it before “Secret Invasion,” several years ago makes me think this is almost certainly the case.) It’s a fairly dull story which has HYDRA needing to rob banks, a plot point that sinks like a lead balloon despite its attempts to act like this makes sense. Coello’s art is all right, although as this is a She-Hulk special it’s hard to ignore that Coelle might be drawing a big green woman but she doesn’t actually look like She-Hulk at all.
The special is rounded out with a reprint of Byrne’s “Sensational She-Hulk” #40, which I can only imagine was chosen because of its infamous first five pages involving She-Hulk skipping rope nude with only the blur lines to protect her decency. The thing is, it’s not a moment to be proud of, with the book having clearly gone on autopilot while Byrne filled up entire pages with increasingly obvious stalling tactics rather than telling a story. As this is also the first part of a multi-part story (and of course, those other parts aren’t reprinted here) it gives the reader the impression that someone at the publishing end didn’t even bother to skip to the end and make sure it would be a satisfying reading experience. I can understand wanting to have Byrne’s run represented in the special, but why not use one of his issues that told a complete story?
“She-Hulk Sensational” is unfortunately not even remotely sensational. At five dollars, getting an old inventory story and an incomplete reprint taking up 60 of the 80 pages of this comic is an insult, pure and simple. I appreciate that David and Meyers gave it their all, but getting shoehorned into an 80-page story is a big disappointment. Their story on its own would’ve garnered a higher rating, but it’s impossible to ignore its company.