He's finally here, folks.
Yes, the day has finally come friends: we finally have the highly anticipated superhero appearance that has been on everyone's mouths and has been angrily demanding for weeks. The day has finally come and we can rejoice: LEAPFROG IS HERE! Everyone's favorite street-level bad boy has finally made his way to the MCU along with his signature catch-phrase of "ribbit and rip it," which I don't remember being in the comics but I've found my memory is a bit hazy on Leap-Frog lore, to be honest. Maybe it's just been a while since I've read any Leap-Frog books. Anyway, they did take some liberties with his character a bit. Instead of a down on his luck inventor, they've turned him into a stuck-up rich boy, using his father's money to purchase his suit from Luke Jacobson. Obviously, in the comics, Leap-Frog is talented enough to make his own frog-related super suit with which to do crimes. They also made him initially trying to be a hero, which threw me off a bit, but they corrected it by the end and had him being the antagonist. Gripes about the changes aside, I'm glad that this character has finally made his MCU debut. It will be interesting to see how his character is utilized in the future, or if he's just relegated to a one-and-done kind of thing.
Oh, Daredevil also pops up in this one, like anyone cares.
Episode 8 sees Jen get tasked with representing the Friendly Neighborhood Amphibian as he goes after Luke Jacobson for faulty merchandise. Apparently, his fire-proof suit caught fire and he suffered 3rd degree burns on his legs. They take this man to court and who should show up to represent him but the devilishly handsome Matthew Murdock himself. Long story short, turns out Leap-Frog was an idiot and that's what caused the burns, which Matt figures out using his Super Sniffer™, and the case is dropped. Matt and Jen meet at a bar, hit it off, flirt a little, both have to leave for urgent work-y things, and Jen is off to meet up with the creepy dude Todd who just keeps being creepier and more entitled as time goes by. He claims to have a legal issue, says some entitled white boy shit, makes a pass at She-Hulk, gets a table shoved into him, and Jen leaves to crash on her couch after her extremely busy day, wherein Leap-Frog calls her in a panic because he's being relentlessly pursued by somebody.
Wait, that "somebody" wasn't ominous and hinty enough...
He is being relentlessly pursued by
SOMEBODDY.Jen finally dons her super suit, which looks fantastic by the way, and is off to help the Spectacular Frogger Man, when who should she come face to face with but the Matthew-ish-ly handsome Daredevil himself! He flip flops his way around as the two banter, eventually getting the opportunity to explain that Leap-Frog is the real villain and has kidnap Luke Jacobson! The two head off to the Lilypad (yep) and punch, wham, smash rescue Luke. Cops show up, day is saved, Luke forgives Jen for suing him in the first place, credits roll.
Wait, no, first Matt and Jen flirt some more and then go back to her place to put the D in Defenders.
dNow credits roll.
Wait, no, the next morning, after a shot of Daredevil doing the walk of shame, Nikki shows up because it's time for the GALA! As mentioned last episode and the "last time on my show" bit in the beginning, Jen won "Female Lawyer of the Year" and is being honored at a gala. We pop over to the Gala and Jen, Nikki, Pug and Jen's parents grab their table. Jen's name gets announced as well as the names of a few other female lawyers, meaning the award is more of a group affair than lead on the believe. As Jen gives a little speech, the screen gets highjacked by the HulkKing Intelligencia community. They start flashing Jen's texts and photos from the phone Josh cloned in the previous episode as Jen and the audience panic. The whole thing culminates when it's revealed that Josh actually filmed the two of them having sex. As the video plays and gets more heated, Jen has her very first encounter with the Hulk rage that Bruce warned her about. The episode ends after a mini rampage and we are still in the dark as to who the HulkKing really is. A hefty episode setting up a very chaotic finale.
This episode was super cool. Jokes aside, it was absolutely great having Charlie Cox back, and he just seemed to be having so much FUN. My favorite thing in all these films and shows is when you can truly see the passion that the actor has for their character. You see it every time Ryan Reynolds dons his red suit, every time Vincent D'Onofrio clutches a jewel tipped cane, and it was super apparent here that Charlie was just happy to be back. If Daredevil's character here was any indication of what he'll be like in Born Again, than we are definitely in for a fairly different DD experience, which I'm sure will have plenty of people hot under the collar. However, Charlie Cox is incredible at having chemistry with whoever he is on screen with, so I'm not worried in the slightest. I'm glad that Daredevil got a whole episode and it wasn't just relegated to a cameo in the finale, a trick that Marvel has shown time and time again they are not above. Moreover, I'm glad that Daredevil acted as an accompaniment to Jen and the two worked well together on screen. It's nice seeing this character that we've only seen so far in a very limited capacity be able to hold his own in a new universe that is much faster and more bombastic than his old one. His fighting style felt familiar but more advanced and faster than that of his Netflix predecessor, which is where the character needs to be to work within the rules set by the MCU and to feel more tied to his comic counterpart.
Overall, this episode did a good job tying threads together from previous episodes to build to the finale. I'm excited to see how the whole thing culminates. While I feel the middle of this season could have been improved by at least one additional episode that allowed room for a bit more emotionality on Jen, I think this episode does a nice job rounding out the finishing touches on the main storyline of Jen figuring out how to live two lives at once, especially at the serious leg work put in by the previous episode. Sure, a mid-season episode that was very bottled and character focused would have made the message a bit clearer sooner, I still think we had enough happening throughout the season to keep things pushing forward. There's no love lost from me.
One episode left. October 13th. BE THERE!
You can smash everything, but can you smash your feelings
Let's face facts: the world of superheroes is majorly populated with people, good and bad, who need to receive proper help for managing their mental illness. Whether that be therapy, medication or a rigorous treatment program, many of the dangerous criminals and a good bit of the dangerous heroes in these worlds could benefit from someone just checking in with them and approaching their problems at the root. Honestly, that's what made Spider-Man: No Way Home so incredible. It approached supervillains form an angle of "how do we help them" instead of "how do we stop them." It presented a clear message of the need for healing, that people aren't damaged beyond repair if one tries hard enough, and that even the most challenging people don't need to be beat into a pulp as punishment for things not necessarily within their control. It was an incredibly progressive approach to the superhero genre, and I've been waiting for more content that approached things the same way.
In steps She Hulk Episode 7, wherein Jen is off to visit Emil Blonsky after she is contacted by his parole officer regarding a malfunction to his inhibitor. Parole officer is nervous about potential Abomination happenings and wants the comfort of a Hulk. Meanwhile, Jen is waiting on a text from Josh. The episode opened with a montage of the two of them sharing a few dates and becoming increasingly intimate before Jen finally decides to
wait for it
Anyway, Josh is ghosting her, which sucks and has her super stressed out. So off to Blonsky's ranch she goes, where she eventually meets Man-Bull and El Aguila, who promptly destroy Jen's car in a "fight." Turns out they're actually just working through some stuff, and Blonsky invites Jen to spend the day on his cell-receptionless ranch and maybe work through some stuff of her own. Jen scours the land looking for even the smallest bubble of reception before finding it in the woodhouse, where Blonsky is holding a group session. Here we again see Man-Bull and El Aguila, as well as meeting Porcupine and the Saracen for the first time. As Jen sits in the corner quietly obsessing on her phone, in walks Wrecker, who if we remember from episode 3 tried to steel Jen's blood. Jen goes Hulk and starts to fight, but Blonsky talks her down and invites her to join the group. From here, Jen not only confronts Wrecker on an emotional level, but also confronts herself. We see Jen say out loud what the show has been dancing around for the whole season so far: that she feels overshadowed by her green persona and just wants to be comfortable as Jen. While it took 7 episodes to get to this point, we do finally get a small bit of growth and resolution in Jen, as her new found friends give her some actually well constructed advice, both in regards to She-Hulk and to the whole Josh situation.
It's then revealed in a flashback that Josh (predictably) is tied to the whole HulkKing hate community. Gotta be real, saw it coming.
My favorite thing about this episode is how confined it was. There were two sequences of extremely brief action. The rest was very personal to Jen and let Tatiana Maslany really go to town on digging deeper into the character. It never got extremely emotive, but there was definite growth and healing shown. As I mentioned earlier, I LOVED the approach to supervillains in No Way Home and have been yearning for more. While done more comedically and a bit more superficially, this episode scratched that itch for me a bit. We saw Jen re-encounter a villain from a previous episode, who she accepted an apology from and moved past. We saw a Hulk confront themselves, which is typically a hyper-violent scenario, but was handled calmly and with love. It was cool, and the writers honestly did a solid job giving Jen good advice. Some of it was a bit cliched, but it was honestly decent advice for someone dealing with the issues Jen found herself in.
I do say, I find it amazing that we are only two episodes from the end here. I'm assuming the identity of HulkKing will probably be revealed toward the end and roll into season 2. Just seems like not a lot of space for an antagonist to come out of the fog. It's looking like the main villain of season 1 is just going to be Jen's own insecurity and acceptance of her new persona, which I'm good with on the whole. I think She-Hulk is doing a lot of legwork in establishing a new format for superhero content, and while it has some rough edges, I do feel like it's succeeding in breaking new ground. It feels different enough from the big set pieces and huge conflicts of most superhero media while still providing the occasional action piece to keep things feeling comic-y. I think as time goes by and we see more "sitcoms in superhero universes" be developed, we'll see the subgenre truly take form.
Episode 8 premieres October 6th. Just two more to go!
Many Funerals and A Wedding
I need to get something off my chest right off the jump here: I really am NOT a huge fan of humor derived out of everyone around the main character being a delusional asshole. It always just makes me cringe. It's just needless douche-baggery for the sake of making the protagonist have to navigate impossible hurdles, inevitably falter and then we all point and laugh. That said, this episode hit me right in the annoying bone fairly hard, but I still had a good time overall.
In this episode, Jen is invited to be a bridesmaid at a wedding of someone she went to highschool with. She is honored despite the whole thing being awkward since she has barely kept touch with the individual. Meanwhile, Nikki holds down the fort with Mallory in Jen's stead as the two tackle the case of Mr. Immortal, who likes to unalive himself instead of dealing with marital issues. At the wedding, Jen confronts Titania who has weaseled her way into the wedding specifically to mess with Jen, she meets a nice guy named Josh, she dances and drinks a lot, and she experiences a lot of horrible mistreatment at the hands of the bride and bridal party. The episode wraps with Nikki and Mallory discovering a thread called Hulk-King hosted on a terrible hate site where a bunch of people make death threats and dangerous comments about She-Hulk. We get a glimpse that this "Hulkking" person might be more than just an internet troll as scientists prepare something for probably episode 7.
The bride and bridesmaids characters were incredibly hard to deal with for me. I get that everyone hates weddings, like it's one of those "what is the deal with airline food" kind of jokes at this point. I myself have never really had a bad experience at a wedding, but I know plenty of people have, whether it's dealing with a bridezilla or difficult family members or some sort of complication in the event itself. It sucks, truly, but watching someone just get absolute battered back and forth by a wedding party consisting of some of the most grating characters ever committed to the screen does not make for entertainment for me. My biggest issue is that writing like this rarely leaves room for a point, which is ultimately what held this episode down as I'll explain later. When the people you're main character is challenged with are so delusional in their terrible nature, it presents little message at the end of the narrative beyond "avoid bad people," which isn't much of a message at all. I'm not saying all comedy needs to be preachy, but comedy built out of conflict should be able to have more of a resolve than just "hooray, the main character can leave now."
All that whining out of the way, there was a decent bit of clever writing that did revive the wedding segment for me a smidge, as well as the just continued charming performance that is Tatiana Maslany in every single episode. There was one moment where the bride asked Jen how she was doing, to which Jen laid out how great her new career is and having super powers. The bride responds that she doesn't care and meant more does Jen have a boyfriend, to which the answer is "no." The bride immediately jumps on the pity train, Jen says it doesn't bother her, and the bride responds with a backhanded "good, you've got a little bit of time left." While painful, it was the small subtle moments like this that changed the tone just enough to be palatable. Ironically, it's when these moments become more real that there is actually something to be gained from this. Moments like the bride being angry that Jen makes a big, green entrance or the bride chilling out after the wedding is over (and admittedly having a few drinks) ground the whole thing more in reality and honestly provide the message that was needed, which I suppose in this case is don't let people judging you or trying to treat you unfairly dictate how you choose to present yourself. I do think this episode could have been a good moment for Jen to gain more confidence as Jen, and it's possible that the runoff of this episode is still going to provide that, but overall it was a fun episode and felt less chaotic than the prior episode did. I hope we see more of Josh, as I think his teeny bit of screen time was a delight.
As for the "HulkKing" stuff, I do think it is very ballsy of the creators to constantly make their very IRL critics into the in-universe villains. A few episodes back, they had a bunch of people on the media complaining about "why do we NEED a girl hulk?" and the like. In this episode, we see that the website the HulkKing stuff is posted to has a STRIKING resemblance to reddit, where many and many pitchforks have been strewn about over the past few months. I've honestly avoided talking about it in previous write-ups out of an uneasiness that I just couldn't put my finger on. There was a part of me that worries about shaking up any beehives or invoking the ire of this group of shitty people, but honestly - I say go for it. I'm so very tired of irrationally hate-filled and bigoted fans, that I am fully on board with making them the enemies. Call them out. Make media exclusively against them. I don't mind if someone doesn't like this show, it truly doesn't bother me; but it's naive to think that 100% of that dislike is just casual distaste and then ignore the very clear misogyny and bigotry that does exist in these fandoms. So hoorah, She Hulk Team, you got my vote.
Just a very, very real quick shout-out to the inclusion of Mr. Immortal. Excellent choice. All of the Great Lakes Avengers should make an appearance on this show. They are absolutely perfect for it tonally and making Mr. Immortal into a grifter who fakes his death instead of dealing with marital conflict was just absolutely
Episode 7 of She-Hulk premieres on September 29th. Will we get more Josh? Will we find out who HulkKing is? Will Titania have new veneers? Stay tuned and find out!
Sometimes you gotta lose to win...
As I mentioned in last week's episode synopsis, the best thing She-Hulk brings to the table is balance. Having a super-powered person in an otherwise normal person space backdropped on the weirdness of the MCU provides an incredible bevvy of storytelling potential - and I feel this show has solidly tapped into that potential. That said, episode 5 is a bit of a lull in quality for me, wherein that balance goes a bit extreme and causes some pretty severe pacing issues.
After watching this week's episode, I was trying to reflect on why I felt like so much and yet so little occurred. The episode focuses primarily on She-Hulk's brand battle with Titania, who we learned in the previous episode had trademarked the "She-Hulk" name. Titania is using the name to sell less-than-legit cosmetic products and is making absolute bank while doing it. She-Hulk takes her to court and is forced to prove that despite not inventing the name "She-Hulk" and initially rejecting it, she has come to accept it and become one with the identity. How is she going to prove this? By parading out her failed dates from the previous episode as witnesses, a moment of incredible cringe and light chuckles. While this storyline is happening, we are also following Nikki and Pug as they hunt down a stylist who specializes in superhuman clothing, a connection that Pug gets through his hook up named "the Drip Broker." Jen eventually links up with designer Luke Jacobson and he fashions her some suits and "something special." The episode ends on a cheeky little Daredevil tease.
While I understand and appreciate the purpose of the stylist plot, this episode felt incredibly chaotic with very little gain at the end. We have already seen Jen come to terms with her new identity, more times than one would think necessary only five episodes in, and the trademark battle just seems like we're hulk-smashing a dead horse. I feel like I keep ending these episode reviews talking about my excitement for the greater push of this show, but at least at the moment it seems a bit stalled on rehashing situations wherein Jen accepts her hulkiness. That said, I still think this episode kept a lot of the charm that has been established, especially in the scenes of Nikki and Pug hunting down Luke. We have more examples of normal, everyday people being confronted by weird situations and just sort of accepting them. The idea that some guy is out there calling himself "the Drip Broker," a clear nod to the very real and very dangerous Power Broker, is just the kind of absurdism that would be commonplace for actual citizens of the MCU. Does the Drip Broker know of the existence of the Power Broker? Do Nikki and Pug get the reference? It's things like this that I love to think about, this sort of heavy air around certain references. I can only imagine as a normal MCU civilian there would just be this weird tingle around things like this. This biting "I feel like I'm supposed to know more about this and yet I don't, it's just a Drip Broker, right?" I love the idea that they exist in this swirling pool of references, crossovers and callbacks and are forced to just lay back and let the tide take them. I will never stop praising this show and any after it that let the absurdity of MCU life stand to the forefront. It's 2022; it's time people accept that superhero universes are freakin' weird...
So, you know, kind of a weak episode overall. I am glad that Jen got her wardrobe hookup, I am glad we got more time with Pug's handsome face, I am glad we got more MCU weirdness, but overall I am ready to either move on past the "Jen accepts the Hulk" arc or honestly give it more attention and time to actually have a message behind it. Currently, it's just "oh no, I have to accept the She-Hulk thing" and then either a green smirk or a Jen Walters shrug and the world moves on. I'm absolutely fine if that needs to be the main story. Jen's own internal battle with her identity being the main antagonist would be absolutely wonderful, and, hey, the Hulks have a long history of successful identity driven stories. It just hasn't been given enough time to feel strong enough to take center stage, and yet we are now five episodes in with probably 50% of screen time dedicated to the topic of Jen coming to terms with her Jolly Green second half. It's time to either move on or take some time fleshing it out.
No stinger this time around, so you guys will need to do your own twerking.
Our next episode premieres the 22nd of September. Catch you then!
Smoother than a vodka yak milk...
For better or worse, the MCU is tonally diverse. There have been serious moments, a la the fight between Tony, Steve and Bucky in Civil War. There have been funny moments, a la the fight between Peter, Bucky and Sam in Civil War. And there have been downright silly moments, a la basically everything that is Thor recently. It's been expected that every movie outing will have some variety of these across a spectrum, with different characters filling in needed tones to bounce things around as the filmmakers see fit. However, with the development of the MCU shows on Disney+, we've seen an interesting trend of each show having a more centralized tone. In recent examples, Ms. Marvel has presented more of the fun, direct comedy, while Moon Knight stuck to a darker, more serious tone.
And then in marches She-Hulk in glittery parachute pants holding a rubber chicken. (This doesn't actually happen in the show, I'm saying it's going for the silly tone...)
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was always going to be a goofier, more humorous show. Whether you knew this from the comics that were being used as source material, or you just paid attention to how the people behind the scenes were constantly saying "this is going to be a goofier show," it was expected basically from day one. While we've seen some of the tongue-in-cheekiness of the show, it had so many details that needed establishing in the first three episodes that it had yet to reach it's full sonic-clap power of silly. Episode 4, titled "Is This Not Real Magic?," finally hits the full tonal stride. The episode is festooned in 4th wall breaks, Wong being out of touch, hammy characters and chuckle-worthy gags. If this be the reservoir of silly, then the Megan Thee Stallion twerk stinger was the dam.
Short episode synopsis time! Wong is mad that a cheap magician named Donny Blaze (yes mhm uh-huh) keeps using things he learned at Kamar-taj to rake in that sweet-3-shows-a-week-at-4-different-venues-for-a-10-person-audience money. So, he's suing him. With the help of their key witness, perma-drunk Madisynn, Jen and Wong take Mr. Blaze to court to middling success. Blaze eventually releases some bat-demon things into the world, Jen and Wong fight them, and then Jen intimidates Blaze into agreeing to their cease and desist, which I don't think the Bar Association would appreciate, but whatever. Also, Jen dates in this episode, finding much more success in her green mommy-dommy form than in normal, attractive, successful lawyer form - a situation that we can only truly blame the internet and possibly Capcom for.
As I said earlier, the show has finally found it's true form. It feels incredibly traditional, as an episodic sitcom should. The humor and irreverence is amped up at this point, as we focus in on Jen moving through different wacky situations with the help of her wacky friends and wacky acquaintances and sometimes just wacky drunk ladies that like froyo. This episode provided more than a few laughs while keeping the pace fairly consistent, moving from scene to scene seamlessly. There was also a nice bit of action, with Wong and Shulky cleansing the Bat-Demon horde, which visually looked incredible, so props to the team for that.
The inclusion of a full action segment is where She-Hulk will truly shine against the backdrop of other sitcoms. Setting a show in a super hero world and featuring a super hero character gives the creators room to do things that other sitcoms can't. Jen as a protag can not only do things that most standard sitcom leads can't do, she can experience things that they can't either. With this in mind, the showrunners and Tatiana Maslany have given us a Jen that isn't phased by much of the Marvel Universe weirdness. She is an incredibly believable citizen of a world, where Gods and Monsters fly around daily. In fact, most of the characters react ho-hummedly to even the most fantastical things being presented around them. This show existing alongside the citizens of the MCU gives it an incredible stage to truly analyze just how strange being a normal person would be. What would life be like and how desensitized would John Q Public be in a world where billions of people were once poofed out of existence by a cosmic Grape Ape?
It's an amazing show so far with a lot of potential to explore a ton of stories there just isn't room for in other MCU titles. As we move into the next story that brings back Jameela Jamil's Titania, I hope we continue to see just as much of the world around these characters as we do the characters themselves.
She-Hulk episode 5 premieres September 15th. See you then.
(Also, when will we get "Wong: Multiverse of Madisynn?" I hope soon.)
Who'da thought that a healthy home life breeds quality heroes?
The long-standing trope in comics has always been the death or demise of family - from Spider-Man's tragic loss of Uncle Ben, to Superman's whole dang planet exploding, a lack of family has often been a crutch for plot development. But lately, superheros are not only situated within happy families, but those relationships help provide major forward momentum for their heroism. We are BIG fans of keeping it in the family.
The Savage-Classy-Bougie-Ratchet She-Hulk
I'll admit, I did find the "this isn't a cameo every week kinda show" 4th wall break in the same episode with a throwaway Megan Thee Stallion cameo to be kind of silly. I'm assuming it was an intentional juxtaposition, but who knows.
All in all, I feel like this episode is when we first see the actual show come together. We get a glimpse, albeit brief, of antagonists and a possible plan behind them as well as finally start to see the very beginning of Jen accepting her She-Hulk image and trying to live with it instead of in spite of it. It took a few episodes to get to this point, but it didn't feel like wasted time since the first two episode carried enough developmental content to keep things moving along.
The third episode, titled "the People vs Emil Blonsky," picks up with Jen confronting Blonsky as to the nature of his removal from his cell to participate in an underground fighting ring (as seen in Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). Blonsky explains that while he was removed against his will, he returned by his own choice. He then puts Jen on the track of Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme, who was responsible for the whole debacle. Legal-Darcy Nikki Ramos, Jen's paralegal, manages to set up a meeting with Wong, who confirms Blonsky's story and agrees to testify in his parole hearing. From there, we are introduced to plot B, which features hunky lawyer and former Arrow villain Pug being signed on to represent Dennis Bukowski, the douchebag lawyer and probable podcast host that Jen used to work with, who was defrauded by a magical elf pretending to be Megan Thee Stallion. Stories A & B intersect, much to the approval of Jen herself, when Jen is asked to testify that Bukowski is a delusional dillweed, thus helping Pug win the case. Throughout the whole episode, Jen receives advice from multiple characters that she needs to simply accept her lot in life as a She-Hulk and become part of the story in order to control the narrative. The episode ends with an appearance of the Wrecking Crew, who promptly get the absolute bejesus smacked out of them, before Jen reflects on her reflection and seems to like what she sees.
Then she twerks with Megan Thee Stallion in the stinger. Which was delightful.
This episode is definitely where a lot of threads get tied down, though they all happen quickly toward the end of the episode, meaning episode 4 is more than likely going to feel like a show officially out of it's developmental chrysalis and soaring into the overarching narrative of the season. Despite the writers claiming otherwise, I thought the courtroom elements were handled extremely well, which alleviated a lot of my worry from last week. That said, I can't really see much of a purpose to story B, the Bukowski trial. It's possible that Pug is going to become a bigger part of the show, something I definitely wouldn't mind because I overall enjoyed his time on screen andImeanlookathim, but it's a bit too early to tell. In a vacuum, the Bukowski stuff didn't feel entirely necessary. Sure, it was entertaining, but in a show with a fairly quick run time, it leaves me wondering if the time could have been better spent getting to the Wrecking Crew earlier than they did and maybe giving us a more detailed glimpse into whatever antagonist is behind them. Hey, at least we got our second cameo of the episode out of it.
Speaking of cameos, Benedict Wong needs to be in every show, every movie, all of it. Wong is a fun character, overall. The MCU did an incredible job taking a mostly offensive comic character and turning him into gold. I would love to see Wong make more appearances in this show or even more MCU content. Same can be said for Tim Roth's Blonsky/Abomination. You can tell that Roth is excited to be back in the role, as he has stated in the lead up to the series, and it would be such an incredible waste of that character to not have him pop up a bit more.
She-Hulk is running on all cylinders for me at this point. While there are definitely things to nitpick and poke fun at (sorry Nikki), the pacing of each episode has been spot on, the humor has been a delight, and overall the show feels like a very fresh story in a universe that has felt increasingly samey for a while now. We're finally getting content that reflects the narrative diversity that the comics have had for years, wherein not every super-powered tale has to be about high-stakes, world-ending problems, but can instead be about the person behind the powers. As this mini story arch comes to a close, I'm pumped to see what's next.
Episode 4 of She-Hulk premieres September 8th. Until then, keep on twerkin'.
Go forward to go backward, but also go unfunded because academia sucks.
Forever Forward #1 (w: Zack Kaplan, a: Arjuna Susini)
Publisher: Scout Comics
I feel like time travel has become another hot-button concept for comics recently, but because they come out so sporadically, we as readers feel less overwhelmed than by things like vampires or, Odin help us, Norse mythology. This book does its best to make time travel feel more grounded, more realistic, and more centered in today's world and timeline, but by doing so, they had to steep it in the miserable world of university-funded academia, and honestly, no one wants that.
The main character is an insufferable PhD-hunting prat who's knocking off all the tropes of being a bad friend, to the extent I was less surprised when everyone got yeeted into the future, and more surprised that any of his "friends" showed up for his birthday at all. I think the story could be interesting - rarely do we have a full group of mostly-unscientific normies fighting their way as a team through the war-torn future - but it's going to be a slog if our lead continues to be as pretentious as he was in this issue (and weird flex to have him call out a historical figure that had their science stolen in the same breath as revealing himself as an Edison-stan.... k, sure).
Thunderbolts #1 (w: Jim Zub, a: Sean Izaakse)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Whenever a new movie or show is revealed or picks up some steam in the MCU, you can bet your bottom that a similarly-titled comic is going to come out to milk that hype. What's nice about the new Thunderbolts book is that it has effectively nothing to do with the MCU Thunderbolts (US Agent is there, but not there) and is entirely about poor Luke Cage having to deal with a rebrand with an unstable Clint Barton as his leading show-pony. As someone who deals in brands every day, Luke is gonna need a stiff drink, stat.
They've already done a good job setting up some weird up-comings, like America Chavez spewing after a portal-making attempt and Gutsen Glory (not kidding) struggling to keep some strange energy/demon/spiritual awakening at bay. At the end of the day, I just really enjoy watching comic-based Clint be a hot-mess-express; makes me feel a lot better about what I've got going on in my own day-to-day, that's for sure.
Less "She-Hulk" and more "She-just-wants-to-live-her-life"
After a rapidly paced, action-filled first episode, She-Hulk's second entry slows things down a bit and takes a look at Jen as a person dealing with a sudden shift in the dynamic of her life. It was a welcome energy shift that not only did a lot of work developing Jen's character but also provided a lot of insight into the world of the MCU that we haven't been given by most of the previous shows and movies. We get to see what it's like for a super powered citizen of the MCU who doesn't have a government contract, isn't a villain or hero, and, most importantly, doesn't have a secret identity. It's a compelling angle that breathes a lot of much needed life and realism into the MCU.
Episode 2, titled "Superhuman Law," picks up right after the smash-tacular conclusion of it's predecessor. We are shown glimpses of news stories talking about the events of the trial, including one reporter who coins the term "She-Hulk" and definitely will never stop bringing that up for the rest of his career. Jen is now thrust into this new world of celebrity as a brand new superhero on the scene. However, her moderate annoyance at the attention quickly turns even more sour, as her boss informs her she no longer has a place at the DA's office, which makes sense. Imagine getting called in for jury duty and the prosecutor is Santa Claus. You're probably gonna be a bit biased in your decisions from there on.
Jen bounces from rejection to rejection at that point, constantly being told that she has too much attention to be hirable, succumbing to the fact that becoming a Hulk has potentially ruined her life (but sure tell me more about how changing the origin to an accident as opposed to Bruce willfully giving her Hulk blood was a bad thing). Begrudgingly, she makes a visit to her family, who all have questions about the Avengers (whom she's never met) and generally just treat her like families tend to, trying their darndest to connect but also being a bit awkward and condescending. Her father gives her some sage advice, and Jen leaves feeling maybe slightly better. It was a cute segment overall that didn't provide a ton for the story. However, it clearly separated this Jen even further from her comic counterpart, whose father was a tough Sheriff taking on the mob. Here we have a Jen that comes from fairly normal upbringing. An unexceptional, unsuper, loving family living out in the suburbs. I like it, honestly. As we'll discuss in an upcoming Key Issues episode, it's nice seeing characters with an uncomplicated family structure. Too often characters are forced into drama/conflict because a familial connection drags them into it, and while those stories aren't inherently bad, they can often be a bit stale. Having a super person be connected to just the most normal, basic people provides new opportunities for depth in the character themselves while also giving an easy outlet for grounding the character if things ever get a bit too larger-than-life-ish.
Toward the latter half of the episode, we get to the main hook of the show that was shown in many of the recent trailers: Jen gets hired to be a defense lawyer for a big firm that is setting up a super person division. It happens to be the same scummy defense lawyer she was going up against in episode one and who filed for a mistrial that subsequently got her fired, but hey, second chances are what Hulks are all about, yeah? Jen herself has mixed feelings about this arrangement, feeling as though she was hired for her green and not her mean. For her smash and not her flash. For her, uh.... tallage and not her knowledge? Because she's a Hulk. She is worried she got hired because she's a Hulk... Anyway, while being a fairly obvious commentary for being hired for reasons beyond one's merits (whether that be for diversity or nepotism or large green punchy hands), Jen's entry into the firm creates an interesting hook for the show, putting a prosecutor on the other side of the aisle and sending Jen face to face with the man who tried to kill her cousin - Emil Blonsky. Tim Roth returns as the Abomination and is Jen's first client. It's nice to finally have a solid connection to the original Norton Hulk and also provided a really fun joke regarding the actor change.
My only lingering worry from this whole thing is the direction the show is going to take. At this point, we've all seen the articles talking about how the writers discovered they couldn't do serious court room drama. Which, fine, it's definitely not an easy genre to write in. However, after the second episode I don't know if I truly WANT anything else. Tim Roth's return as a reformed abomination, Jen's navigating the law firm mine-field and the cavalcade of good and bad press shaking things up are all fun things, but I don't know how much life they'll truly have without court room sequences holding them down. Think of EVERY SVU episode you love and imagine it without the LAW portion. At that point it's just Stabler in tight pants, punching hoodlums and scowling. I'm exaggerating, obviously, but my point is just that I worry. I've liked both episodes so far and have the highest of hopes that I'll continue to enjoy the show. Tatiana Maslany is an incredible lead and makes every episode an absolute delight. I'm excited to find out the reasoning behind the 4th wall breaks, which has been said to have an in-universe explanation. I hope we find out what Bruce is up to as well, that sneaky ol' Hulk. All worries aside, I really do dig this show and am confident the showrunners are going to take it to incredible places.
She-Hulk Episode Three premieres September 1st. I'll see you then.
*Insert Smashing Pun Here*
It's no mystery that Marvel has had a hard go of things in their movies lately, but it has truly been their shows where they've found their new stride. While their movies are being repetitively judged for boring stories and tonal similarities, their Disney Plus productions have found legs as tonally varied productions with compelling characters and unique stories. After Moon Knight's completely isolated adventure and Ms. Marvel's heavily referential but very street level escapades, She-Hulk feels a little bit like coming home to the Avengers franchise that built the MCU from the ground up, featuring a highly powered character in New York and the return of OG Avenger Bruce Banner. However, despite existing in the Avengers bubble, She-Hulk quickly establishes itself as yet another unique and exciting outing. It was a SAVAGELY good start for the series.
Episode one is an origin story done in great haste. We actually open with a post-hulk Jen. As she rehearses her closing statements for an upcoming case, she deals with a male colleague condescending her and mansplaining and generally being a.... dude. He's all chafed because she's good at things, which is going to be a recurring theme in this episode and presumably the show (and definitely many of the super salty boy reviews out there). As her friend mentions that she can always just "hulk out" to earn some points, Jen turns on a heel and kicks in the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly. She then guides us to a flashback of her getting her powers, which I won't dwell on too much, since it's the entire episode. Here's the rundown in possibly the dumbest, most confusing way I could do it:
Overall, this was an incredibly fun first episode. I certainly have some qualms, namely the reason by which Jen gets her powers seems a bit odd. Ultimately, the blood swap just felt very quick and rushed. It felt weirdly "we need to figure this blood thing out and oops we forgot to figure it out and the show launches tomorrow!" See, for those unaware, in the comics Jen gets Bruce-blood from a transfusion after being shot and nearly dying. Sure, Bruce being the only person able to give her a transfusion is a hard nut to crack, especially with Ruffalo's very "afraid to be the Hulk" type of Hulk. I like the "you got red on me" kind of angle, but I just feel like they didn't linger on it enough. She touches him ONCE and then gets enough radiation to Hulk. So, Bruce's blood can dose people with lethal radiation that quickly and easily, but in all the absolutely insane fights Bruce got in as Hulk with the Avengers, he never bled? Didn't Iron Man make him bleed when he used the Hulk buster armor? Like he hits him and hulk wipes blood away and is all:
The chemistry between Tatiana Maslany and Mark Ruffalo is absolutely wonderful. The two do an amazing job working together and feeling like family, even when they are giant green computer monsters. The whole segment provides a lot of depth to Bruce that we were honestly missing, what with him being mostly a side character for much of the MCU. Here we see a Bruce that is a bit more boastful and arrogant, something that has been hinted on in other movies (like the wonderfully cringe selfie moment of Endgame). While I think they held back a bit from making him truly an arrogant butthead, it was a nice compliment to Maslany's Jen who also has her own flavor of arrogance, especially when she's showboating as she out-Hulks Bruce. Personally, I like the angle of She-Hulk being better at certain things than Bruce, I just feel as though the writers set up a slow pitch for the misogynists and silly salt bois to wail on. A female lawyer in a big city would absolutely have taken various fitness classes, self defense courses, done yoga, etc. etc. etc. So, Jen can balance better than Bruce, Jen can fight the Hulk successfully, during which the director did a fun job of showing Jen doing subtle self-defense moves. However, despite my acceptance of these issues, a lack of including them in the story either visually or through dialogue leaves room for the nastier males of the internet to sharpen their pitchforks and start off with all their "it's just not true" or "how unrealistic, chaps" kind of crap. It's sad that we live in this world, but I really need more writers to do better at helping us live in it.
To close out, let's address the giant elephant that an over-worked team of VFX artists were asked to edit into the room on a short deadline: Yes, Bruce and Jen are CGI for most of this. While I certainly don't agree with how Marvel treats their VFX people, and I hope they learn from the recent outcry, the VFX team did an incredible job making two large VFX characters feel natural and be able to hold the attention of a 30 minute episode. Are there uncanny moments? Sure, but that's the way CGI is. We want to pretend like we are, but we are NOT at a "CGI looks exactly like real people" place yet. CGI has improved exponentially over the years, but it is still very subjective. Some people get extremely uncanny valleyed, some don't. Not everyone is going to like how the Hulks look, but it shouldn't take away from the acting, direction, story and overall fun of the episode.
I am very excited for this series. I have been for a while and the first episode really delivered for me. I think Marvel has found their stride with their shows lately, and it's honestly made it easier to be fan after a series of very disappointing cinematic showings. I hope She-Hulk is able to keep up this level of energy and humor throughout, because episode one sonic-clapped its way into my heart.
She-Hulk airs on Disney Plus every Thursday. Look out for episode 2 on August 25th.
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.