She’s been stabbed in the back, she’s been misunderstood –
It’s a comfort to know her intentions are good –
She finds that surviving is an ongoing fight –
Smashing hoodlums and cars no matter who’s wrong or right –
And she like to be known as the angry woman!
Each one of us has our own methods of coping with the strains, stresses and anxieties which life throws at us. Whenever a client blows me off for an appointment, a semi truck cuts me off in traffic, or I miss half of my favorite show because the football game ran late, I enjoy a good, healthy scream to the heavens and then a binge eating spree to feel aright. Not many of us, however, get to transform into a raging green powerhouse thanks to a blood transfusion from our gamma-irradiated cousin, Bruce Banner. While she would later enjoy the adjectivally modified moniker of “sensational”, Jen Walters would first manifest her own inner rage to the world as The Savage She-Hulk! This emerald-skinned eye-catcher became one of the few members of the super-powered community on the East Coast, namely the sprawling metropolis known as Los Angeles (unlike most heroes, who reside in or near New York City). She not only has to contend with self-control over the anger within her heart, but also the county sheriff so intent on bringing She-Hulk to justice, who just happens to be her own father! Let’s see, green complexion… bad reputation… wardrobe malfunctions… daddy issues… gee, I sure don’t blame her for being so blasted mad!
Our first panel of this issue starts us off in a dynamic fashion, with The Invincible Iron Man flying across a full-page spread. He’s contemplating how busy he’s been as of late as a super hero while running Stark International, but also how he can’t afford to let down an individual who needs his help. “A single human life is at stake”, so the Golden Avenger has traveled all the way to the West Coast to provide his assistance. Artist Mike Vosburg does a serviceable job in this scene. Iron Man looks quite powerful and properly metallic, and has a nice “look” to him considering the artist can’t take too many liberties with the style of the Mark V Iron Man Armor. While the cityscape and clouds in the background are rather pretty, Vosburg does a lousy job of showing the Hollywood sign; not only is the design of the letters wrong but the perspective angles of the sign are way off. The next two pages are a big improvement, however, as we learn of Iron Man’s – aka Tony Stark – reason for the trip. He’s investigating the disappearance of a man who was transporting disposable technology from Stark International. The frames on this page move at an upward angle in alignment with Iron Man’s flight, which helps the reader “fly” through Stark’s memories of the last few days.
When Iron Man arrives at the Los Angeles County Courthouse, Sheriff Morris Walters does nothing to make him feel welcome, calling him a “kook in a crazy costume”. It appears there was a time when Iron Man and the other Avengers weren’t household names in the Marvel Universe. Sheriff Walters is incensed that Iron Man has the nerve to start asking questions, but things really get moving when Ol’ Shellhead learns of the existence of She-Hulk. “You mean there’s a … a FEMALE Hulk?”, he asks, and the sheriff shows him a photo of She-Hulk holding the body of Jacob Fox, the very man whom Iron Man is seeking! The twists just keep coming, however, when “Legal Eagle” Jennifer Walters arrives. She accuses Iron Man of showing up explicitly to put pressure on her dad, Sheriff Walters, in the face of a legal investigation of Stark International! Iron Man is dumbfounded, but has to continue the secret of his identity under the armor, blurting out “Stark is under investigation? Since when? Why?”. When Jen starts losing her temper, the green circles emanating from around her head (we assume that only the reader can see them) indicate that her alter-ego is only moments from emerging! Her inner anger too furious to contain, she races out of the room, down the stairs and out of the building just as her skin turns green and she grows too large for her clothes!
When Sheriff Walters sees She-Hulk outside the courthouse, he thinks she’s there entirely to make him look bad. Unfortunately for him, her appearance in the middle of the road has panicked a driver who careens right into his squad car. “That’s the last straw”, he declares, and then he announces out the window that She-Hulk has ten seconds to give herself up before he opens fire with his service revolver. Now, I have no idea whether he counted to ten while she just stood there waiting or if he just went right from one to ten, but in the very next panel, he’s firing several shots right at her! Between you and me, I think She-Hulk is way to angry to stand still for two seconds, much less ten, so I believe he started firing immediately. This page has some inconsistencies that are impossible to ignore. In one frame, they are observing She-Hulk from the second floor of the courthouse, but three frames later, they are on the first floor and further away from the front door. In three consecutive frames, Sheriff Walters goes from shooting straight ahead to shooting downward and then back again. As the Armored Avenger flies into the fray, we see scene after scene of him propelling himself upward and onward without the benefit of his boot jets. And so, simple physics be damned, the fight begins!
Iron Man dives headfirst without making a single inquiry to She-Hulk, assuming that she is running amuck without any discernable reason like her male counterpart. Stark has no idea she can speak, think or talk like a normal person, and that assumption brings these two together in an explosive manner. She-Hulk dodges his frontal attack and Iron Man recovers with a blast of his repulsor rays, sending She-Hulk flying away only to get catapulted back when she swings around a lamppost, feet-first into Iron Man’s chest! Stark thinks he can out-class her raw power by getting an aerial advantage, but She-Hulk can easily use her “talons” (that’s right, she calls them “talons”, as though she were a bird of prey) to claw into the brick wall of a building and climb toward him, leaping at Iron Man in mid-air! Each of them believing they have the upper hand, Stark finally realizes She-Hulk can speak English and lands below so they can have a conversation. Once Iron Man accuses her of the murder of Jacob Fox, however, she almost loses control of her temper. Instead, she tells him that it was a robot doppleganger who committed the murder, which is more than Stark can believe. She-Hulk offers to show him where the remains of the robot are, but sternly warns him away from any further insults or accusations, or else “you’ll see a side of me that you WON’T like!”.
She-Hulk claims that the murder was committed by a mobster named Nick Trask, with the help of Tony Stark, Iron Man’s “boss”. While he remains coy about his dual identity, Iron Man becomes very suspicious when She-Hulk can’t find the robot’s remains at Zuma Beach. However, when they look past the rising tide, she uncovers the robot’s head, still covered with its She-Hulk wig. While She-Hulk awaits Iron Man’s apology, Stark examines the head, realizing two things: 1) it is a robot he personally created years ago, and 2) Jake Fox was delivering this robot for disposal and must’ve sold it to someone who made it look like She-Hulk (meaning that Jake was a minor criminal). As Iron Man flies away, She-Hulk is most displeased with how she’s been treated this day, shouting after him “You’ll be sorry you ever heard of the She-Hulk!!”. The next day, Jennifer Walters gets some of her frustrations off her chest as she lays accusations upon Tony Stark that he and his company have ties to organized crime. As evidence, she points to some high-tech weaponry made by Stark International and found in one of Nick Trask’s criminal warehouses. With Jacob Fox’s widow in the courtroom, Stark withholds his explanation. For if she were to learn that those weapons got into Trask’s hands thanks to her husband, it would break her heart.
The hearing is quickly adjourned when the questions run out, since there are no witnesses. Jennifer points out how Trask can’t testify because he has disappeared, and we get an asterisk indicating that an editor’s note will explain further. The problem is that there is no editor’s note. This does nothing to discourage the reader, nor Jennifer Walters, as she uses the remainder of the day to find Trask’s abandoned warehouse near Ventura Boulevard. Peering inside, she eavesdrops on two of Trask’s henchmen playing cards while a third man sneaks up behind her and puts a gun to Jennifer’s head. She quickly loses her cool and transforms into She-Hulk, thrashing the hoodlums inside their own hideout! All it takes is a little “savage” coaxing and she convinces these guys to spill their guts to the district attorney. When Jennifer Walters shows up for work the next morning, those goons are making their way out of the assistant district attorney’s office. In a nutshell, they confessed that Jacob Fox sold Stark’s old technology to Trask, then Trask had him killed and tried to put the blame on She-Hulk. Jennifer Walters learns this, makes amends with Tony Stark and then helps Stark comfort Mrs. Fox, who has nothing left of her husband except her memories. So, instead of revealing that he was a criminal, Tony calls him a “good man”, which leads to the issue’s conclusion.
In addition to the whole boot jets problem, I had some other concerning thoughts while reading through this comic. The most prominent among them being the mob goons’ confession. They just strolled out of the assistant D.A.’s office as free men, but didn’t they just go in there to confess their status as criminals? I imagine it going like this: “Hello, Mister Assistant D.A. You should know that Stark didn’t not provide those weapons to Trask.” “Oh, I see. And just how do you know this?” “Well that’s because we work for Trask in his criminal endeavors. We put the squeeze on one of Stark’s truckers and got him to sell Stark’s old stuff to Trask, who then had him killed and put the blame on She-Hulk.” “Ah, that’s wonderful. Thank you so much for this information, my good fellows. By the way, you are both now under arrest.” But, instead, they both get to walk out as free men. Another thing that bothers me is the strange dichotomy between Jennifer and She-Hulk’s personas. Throughout most of the issue, She-Hulk seems to be mostly a very angry version of her smaller counterpart, all intelligence and memories of Jennifer’s life intact (unlike her cousin, Bruce Banner, who has not only his own personality, but also separat memories from his alter-ego, The Hulk). Yet, for some reason, Jennifer has trouble remembering Trask’s goons or what she said to them when she was in her mean, green state the previous day. I see no real reason why this should be the case, since they both seem to be essentially the same person.
The transformation from Bruce Banner into The Hulk is always one that has fascinated me, and it is no less the case with She-Hulk. When she changes, she does it in every physical way possible. Her short, straight, brown hair becomes long, curly and dark green. Also her lips become dark green, as though She-Hulk applies a little make-up before rampaging. And of course, there are the physical endowments; while Hulk gets muscles up the wazoo, She-Hulk gets super-strength while growing in stature. Her legs and arms get longer, her fingernails turn into sharp claws, and she benefits from other body parts which also become enlarged. All-in-all, the scenes of She-Hulk are really the only good part of the artwork in this comic. Not even Chic Stone’s inks can save the day when it comes to rendering Iron Man, the non-powered characters or She-Hulk’s alter-ego, but the plot has its moments. The idea that Stark would risk his reputation and the future of his company to save Mrs. Fox from learning of her husband’s illegal dealings is a touching notion, one that enhances the nobility inherent in a hero like Iron Man. Everything that happens in this comic can be easily understood and appreciated from cover to cover, with no prior reading required. That said, there is still a lot happening between the pages. On final thought: the cover by Bob Layton, where Iron Man’s face is reflecting the image of a pouncing She-Hulk, is absolutely gorgeous and full of energy. I’ll be looking at this cover while finishing off a second cup of java, true believers. Fare Thee Well!
The Savage She-Hulk #6 is written by David Anthony Kraft, penciled by Mike Vosburg, inked by Chic Stone, colored by Bob Sharen and edited by Jo Duffy and Al Milgrom, with a cover by Bob Layton. Today’s column title adapted from lyrics by Billy Joel with great respect and appreciation.
Rick “Smash” Hansen