REVIEW: She-Hulk #163

SHE-HULK #163 / Writer: Mariko Tamaki / Artist: Diego Olortegui / Letterer : VC’s Travis Lanham / Publisher: Marvel Comics / March 7th, 2018

She-Hulk is back in green! After a long road from coma, trauma, and intense therapy, Jen Walters is starting over.

It’s hard not to be paranoid that Marvel is out to get me, personally, since pretty much all of the series (except Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur) I had subscribed too are coming to an end—including this one.  That being said, I’m glad it got to end this way. And, while I am annoyed at its being cancelled, at least it got to tell a complete arc and we got to see Jen Walters start afresh after dealing with loss and trauma. I was apprehensive about Jen, of all heroes, having to go through this—since she has been a fun, fourth-wall-breaking comedy staple since her inception in the seventies (way before Deadpool!). Seeing her sad, angry and struggling felt…wrong somehow. It felt like Gwenpool and Squirrel Girl had taken her crown, which looking back on it, was probably an unfounded fear from the start. And even if it was true—it was, at least for me, totally worth it.

This is a story of a woman struggling with her own inner demon—a literal demon that is triggered by daily reminders of her loss. She tries to ease this turmoil through helping others affected by similar afflictions (both voluntary and not) but avoids facing her own and becomes Grey She-Hulk. This Grey Hulk is everything she has feared and managed to avoid up until this point, and she is a danger to Jen and those around her. It’s a manifestation of her pain and it refuses to go away and it is angry at her weakness.

In the previous issue, one that, incidentally, made me cry, Jen gets a rather unorthodox kind of therapy that allows her to literally confront her feelings once and for all. It may come across as a rather heavy-handed way of showing the process of recovering from traumatic events or even the innumerable benefits of therapy—but I’m okay with that. It used to be rare to see this kind of exploration of mental health in superhero comics; now it’s way more common, and I hope it benefits readers. The only thing I would say is that it felt, at the time, a bit rushed. I feel like in real life, it wouldn’t be quite so quick, but to be fair this issue does address this. Perhaps it was because the series was coming to an end—maybe because the whole thing seemed to go by so quickly—but I would’ve liked the therapy sessions to have gone on for longer…but that’s hardly the fault of Tamaki. Besides, despite the one issue focused on such an important topic, it worked. It felt like a lived experience, it felt real and powerful and, most importantly, it felt like Jen finally got her life back.

Which brings us to the last issue. The final piece (the cover art to this is just so perfect—Jen putting herself back together and getting her old self back!) is fitting back into place and Jen is back to being a superhero lawyer. She may have lost a case, defending the mother of a mutant who fought an anti-mutant bigot in self defense, but she is keeping it together. She is attending the girl’s prom with Patsy Walker, shooting the breeze, enjoying the party, and contemplating all that has happened since she went green again. Grey She-Hulk is gone, and she can control her transformations again—which comes in handy when the same anti-mutant bigots attack the prom and set fire to a limo. All this, including the prison sentence for a woman defending her child from a hammer attack over the fact a mutant won Prom Queen, might have seemed over dramatic two years ago. Now? In 2018? Not even a little.

This is the kind of arc that feels both utterly satisfying and, yet, still a little disappointing that we couldn’t have had a little more of this. There are still some unresolved arcs that presumably aren’t going to be solved any time soon (particularly Oliver and Warren, I hope they’re okay…). Again, this is due to the cancellation rather than the writing, so all things considered it’s good we got this ending. I’m so glad to see Jen get to recover, to get her life on track. Though in this final issue, things are not perfect. Jen still has to confront that she still has some deep-seated anger and that the world around her is, shall we say, less than perfect. Despite her recovery, she has still lost a case. Is she still damaged? Still capable of the violence of Grey She-Hulk? Patsy has a good answer.

The issue of ‘savage’ vs ‘civilized’ is dealt with in an interesting, nuanced away as well. Jen’s hero/lawyer persona is so extroverted (contrasted with human Jen’s more introverted nature) that it begins to clash with the firm she is working for. Her specialty has always been superhero-related law (Dan Slott’s Superhuman Law and Single Green Female are some of my favorite trades of all time) and so, once again she strikes out on her own, with her awesome assistant in tow. It feels like a good place to start afresh. The artwork is bright and punchy. It’s a great way to portray a school prom and gives the more dramatic moments a dynamic, epic flare that benefits She-Hulk, but looks a little out of place in a small boardroom full of boring lawyers. It is at least worth it to see the art depicting Jen and Bradley triumphantly walking out.

As sad as I am to see this arc coming to an end, I am so glad to see Jen Walters back. It has been a worthwhile, if painful, ride to recovery for her and I can’t wait to see what’s next. This issue feels like a solid conclusion and a new beginning, which is exactly what we needed from this wonderful run.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

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I’m a thirty something British nerd-mum and wannabe author, fueled by tea, poor decision making and a need to be distracted. Cursed to watch favourite characters die and ships sink. Send help.

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