Marvel Comics Don’t Know What To Do With She-Hulk
Marvel Comics simply don’t know what to do with She-Hulk. The cousin of Bruce Banner, She-Hulk was granted super-powers when she received a blood transfusion from Bruce in order to save her life. She-Hulk was actually created for corporate reasons rather than creative ones, because The Incredible Hulk TV series was performing well for CBS, and the comic book publisher feared the network could beat them to it by creating their own Jade Giantess. It sounds absurd, but there was good reason for Marvel’s concern; ABC had just launched a Bionic Woman spinoff from The Six-Million Dollar Man using that very approach.
She-Hulk was traditionally a very different kind of superhero to Bruce Banner, though. Where Bruce tended to be ostracized from society, Jennifer Walters insisted on continuing her high-profile legal career. It helped that, unlike Bruce, she tended to retain most of her self-control while in her green, muscular form; in fact, Jennifer soon decided she rather liked being She-Hulk, and for some years gained an aversion to returning to her base human firn. Comics starring She-Hulk avoided all the tragedy of the Hulk books, with the Jennifer becoming an enjoyable and amusing character who blazed the trail for Deadpool’s routine breaking of the fourth wall.
And yet, sadly, the reality is that modern Marvel comics seem to have completely forgotten the differences between She-Hulk and her male counterpart. She’s “gained” a new look that emphasizes her muscles in the same manner as the Hulk, and when in Hulk form she’s lost most of her self-control and become a rage machine. Marvel’s kept the idea of She-Hulk as a sexual being – she’s actually in a relationship with Thor – but otherwise there’s now little difference between She-Hulk and the traditional Hulk. The point was stressed in Avengers #43, in which Jane Foster’s Valkyrie fought She-Hulk over the Phoenix Force and was horrified to see how out of control Jen was. “By the eye of Odin, what’s happened to you,” Jane asked. “Became a Hulk,” Jennifer replied, perfectly illustrating the complete loss of her own individuality and character. More recently, Marvel has teased an upcoming Avengers plot, “World War She-Hulk,” with the very title illustrating just how much poor Jennifer now exists only in Bruce’s shadow.
Making this even more frustrating, She-Hulk really ought to be flourishing right now. The Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) has signed up to play the MCU’s She-Hulk, who will make her debut in a ten-episode live-action TV series that – unlike the comics right now – embraces She-Hulk’s individuality. According to Kevin Feige, the MCU’s She-Hulk show will be a legal comedy, much more true to the character as she was originally created. Marvel Comics usually attempt to establish a synergy between the MCU and their comic books, but in this case, they’re diverging – and not for the better.
The sad truth is that Marvel Comics simply doesn’t seem to know what to do with She-Hulk. The problem is likely with the current writers and editors; while this new version fits well with Jason Aaron’s current vision for the Avengers as a whole, it simply doesn’t work for She-Hulk. Marvel needs to take stock and realize their current arc simply isn’t working, and they need to find a way to reset She-Hulk into a form that celebrates her individuality rather than simply turns her into a female Bruce Banner.