Earlier this week, Marvel Comics announced a “fresh start” for its upcoming slate of comics; beginning in May, the publisher kicks off its new era with Avengers #1 by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness, a series which features a rather eclectic team roster including the original trio of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, plus Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange and She-Hulk.
The inclusion of She-Hulk is perhaps the most interesting of them all. Like her cousin Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters has been a core Avenger in the past, though in recent years she’s more closely associated with being a member of the Mighty Avengers in 2013 and 2014, and 2016’s A-Force team. This will be her first time in decades as a member of the primary Avengers team, and it signals a much needed, well, fresh start for the Savage She-Hulk.
Jennifer has been primarily something of a supporting player in recent years. Though she’s had her own solo books, the biggest events to happen to her have occurred in larger Marvel events, such as Civil War II. There, she got blasted into a coma early on, and woke up only to learn her cousin Bruce had been killed by Hawkeye in a botched attempt to prevent him from going on a catastrophic rampage. But where Amadeus Cho, a fellow Hulk, sought vengeance against the purple archer, Jen could do nothing but weep for her fallen family member.
Since coming out of her coma, her solo book by Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon has explored the mental trauma that comes with being a superhero. Fighting with Thanos has damaged her psychologically to the point where the one thing that set her apart from the Hulk — maintaining control of her mental abilities instead of being a walking ball of rage — has begun to fail her. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the covers for each issue, which highlights the twisted monstrosity that is her now grey form.
Despite being called Hulk, the book is very much about Jen Walters grappling with her PTSD. Recovery isn’t an easy process, and the book has shown Jen at her worst as she attempts to get back to her best. With the book ending next month, Jen’s current arc will no doubt end at a spot where she’s back to her old green self, or at least on the cusp of it. Aaron has said that putting her on the Avengers instead of her recently resurrected cousin was an intentional choice, since it allows the team to “differentiate her more from Banner” and thus make her a more unique and interesting Hulk of her own.
Exactly what that means is unclear, but it may be worth looking at her fellow Avengers to glean Aaron’s intentions. For example, there’s Robbie Reyes, who has a beast inside him that’s just as deadly, if not more so, than hers. Robbie shares a body with the spirit of Satanic serial killing uncle Eli, so he knows a lot about a monster inside him threatening to take control. Eli and Robbie have since reached a happy balance, albeit one that involves killing anyone evil. Jen, on the other hand, took to self-help books and cooking videos. It would be fun, and even potential poignant, to see them find some common ground in self care.
Similarly, she can also find something of kindred spirits in both Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel. Strange may be a part time member of this Avengers group, but his solo book under Aaron’s direction dealt with the idea of power never coming without a cost. When he first began writing Strange, the cost of using magic came with humans absorbing all the physical damage meant for the mystical hero — a concept a Hulk is well acquainted with.
Jen’s new Hulk form is more muscular than how she originally was, which could be hinting that she’s yet to gain 100% control of her intelligence when Hulked out. And with both Tony Stark and Carol on the team with her, it’s more than possible that Jen will have to deal with some simmering anger between the two of them for both her condition and the death of her cousin.
If Marvel truly is committed to the idea of a “fresh start” this May, She-Hulk may be the right character to truly embody it. All the Avengers of this current team will have their own hangups, but none will really have a chance to start over in the way that Jen will. She won’t be magically cured of her trauma at the end of her solo book, but after spending so long fighting for some semblance of control, she deserves a win–and being part of the Avengers can give it to her.
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