She-Hulk #21 Review
This issue marks the end of Dan Slott’s tenure on She-Hulk, and it finishes off with a cute, yet fairly mean-spirited “fix” for Marvel continuity, done with more metafictive elements than a dozen John Barth stories.
All in all, though, it was a good comic book, partially in spite of itself.
I don’t feel bad about spoiling the “fix,” because that’s really not the main point of the comic book – it’s just a backdrop to the main story. But if you really don’t want to know what the “fix” is, stop reading now!!!
Okay – still with me?
The “fix” is that there is a parallel universe to the Marvel Earth that has counterparts to the people on Marvel’s Earth. They figured out a way to travel to Marvel’s Earth, at which point they would then become that person on Marvel’s Earth. So if a fellow like Aleksei Sytsevich were to make the trip, he would leave as a normal person, but when he arrived on Marvel’s Earth, he would be his Marvel counterpart, which would be the Rhino.
The whole thing is a big vacation destination on the other Earth, but the trouble is, they’re all given “Handbooks” to read to explain what they are like on Marvel’s Earth. Some of the people don’t bother to read the handbooks, so they end up acting differently from what they are “supposed” to act like on Marvel’s Earth.
This, therefore, “explains” why some characters act out of character. Why The Absorbing Man is a normal villain in the pages of Thor, but a sociopathic murderer in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.
This would be fair enough. It’s a cute enough bit, and it’s clear that Slott is not writing this as some grand, “This is how it REALLY IS,” because he obviously realizes that the odds are strongly against any other comic book using this explanation. It’s not exactly the most clever idea in the world (it is basically the same idea Peter David came up in in the pages of Captain Marvel, where he introduced a temporal warp to similarly explain away characters acting differently – the warp would create short-lived duplicates of characters), but it is cute enough.
However, the mean-spirited part comes from some of the dialogue, as characters meta-critique other Marvel writers who “don’t bother to read the handbook,” and make characters act out of character. Some of the language would be way too harsh coming from a blogger or a poster on a message board (I know I would never call a writer an “idiot” for writing a character differently from how I think they should behave), so it was surprising to see it appear in a comic from Marvel Comics themselves. Didn’t seem very nice. “What idiot thought that would be a good idea?” Stuff like that. Uncool.
As I mentioned before, though, that silliness was just the backdrop for the true star of Slott’s work, which is his characterization work, as Jennifer Walters uses the existence of the other world’s She-Hulk (the one who did, indeed, sleep with the Juggernaut) to re-evaluate her life and her place on this Earth. It is some gripping work by Slott, and he likewise does some nice work with Mallory Book and Pug, as Pug talks Mallory out of making a bad decision (by the way, I personally highly appreciate Slott giving the “Poochie guarantee” regarding Pug’s romantic interest in She-Hulk – “I can no longer have feelings for her”).
Rick Burchett and Cliff Rathburn do an excellent job on the artwork, very lush and evocative, perfect for the character-heavy work of Slott.
There is a rather odd metafictive moment where, out of (seemingly, at least to me) nowhere, Stu Cicero becomes Slott’s avatar, and discusses Slott’s departure from the book in pretty plain terms. It could (and heck, it probably IS) be seen as a bit excessive, but I think it comes off pretty sweetly, as though Slott truly wanted to interact with his readers (who are a loyal breed) and say goodbye. So it was pretty cute.
There are a couple of amusing jokes about Peter David, alluding to him taking over next issue. That was nice.
And finally, the issue ends with a truly tender moment, as Slott uses the dual dimensions to create a striking, and touching, ending.
So yeah, other than the odd meanness with some of the dialogue, this was a very good issue, and if you are a big fan of this title, you probably share the disdain Slott shows for the writers in question, so you probably won’t have as much of a problem with the meanness as I did, so bear that in mind.