In “She-Hulk” #5 by Charles Soule and Ron Wimberly, She-Hulk and her crack legal team of Angie Huang and Hellcat investigate leads about the Blue File and a lawsuit that no one remembers, and it soon becomes clear that an unknown antagonist is serious about that knowledge remaining buried.
Soule structures his exposition by scattering the characters for information gathering. The rate of disclosure is slow, since readers don’t learn that much about the Blue File, but there’s a lot of action and thus the pacing doesn’t feel too leisurely. She-Hulk visits The Shocker, a minor supervillain, hoping that his memory is intact, while Hellcat does the same with the friendlier Tigra and Angie takes a trip to North Dakota to dig up paperwork. Of the three tasks, the expectation is that She-Hulk’s lot would be the most dangerous, which is why she’s chosen to tackle it herself. In a twist of dramatic irony, Jennifer isn’t even scratched while Patsy and Angie manage to trigger reactions meant to be lethal. The final page of She-Hulk is a writer’s joke about cliffhangers. The real cliffhanger is several pages back and off-panel.
Soule writes friendly conversations that build characterization at a leisurely pace for all the characters involved. Not every reader will buy Tigra’s lipstick feminist speech to Hellcat, but it helps that the art isn’t fan service, because Wimberly doesn’t draw Tigra’s bikini costume in a sexualized style. Soule’s dialogue is confident as usual, and his characters maintain their distinctive voices, which is a huge plus to link the story to what has come before, given the change in the art team.
The new art team has a jarringly different look than Javier Pulido and Muntsa Vicente, who defined the first arch of “She-Hulk” with bright poster colors and a bouncy Pop Art sensibility. Wimberly and Renzi’s style takes some getting used to, but it has clear strong points. Wimberly’s line is more delicate and boxy. She-Hulk herself and her supporting cast are elongated and muscular. Wimberly’s style doesn’t aim for exact anatomical accuracy, but instead has Egon Schiele-like distortions and exaggerations in foreshortening, in sharp contrast to Pulido’s curves. It’s interesting to look at, but his style feels grittier and more ominous in mood than the same characters and events would feel drawn by Pulido. The linework alone gives the events of “She-Hulk” #5 a more serious and anxious charge.
Wimberly’s facial expressions are subtle in the quiet and contemplative landscape with Angie and Hei Hei, but in the other two scenes, faces are distractingly angular, with crazy cheekbones. Both in the opening scene with She-Hulk and in the scene with Hellcat and Tigra, the art fights the script. Wimberly uses camera angles that are overdramatic, and Renzi’s colors are muddily neon. Both draw attention to the art in a way that doesn’t support Soule’s script.
Renzi’s colors are more muted than Vicente’s were, even for She-Hulk’s green skin, but he is creative with his choices and uses an impressive range of hues throughout “She-Hulk” #5. Wimberly clearly delights in laying out a page, and Renzi goes above and beyond the challenge of making these compositions and background details pop. The page in which Angie and Hei Hei are in a storm is beautiful. The snow becomes a sash across the window of the panel, and Renzi colors the swirl in the iris of Angie’s eyes green over aqua sclera.
As a whole, Wimberly and Renzi’s doesn’t yet feel as strong or as Pulido and Vicente’s work, but it’s only their first issue on the title and the high points are promising. “She-Hulk” continues to be a great take on Jennifer Walters and her calling as both lawyer and superhero.