She-Hulk Annual #1 // Review
Just days after announcing an upcoming Disney Plus TV series starting Marvel’s jade giantess, the company releases a fun, new She-Hulk Annual #1. Written by Alexandra Petri, the story of a rather unfortunate mind transfer and the strings of events which follow is drawn by Andy MacDonald with color by Matt Milla. With a plot echoing elements from Copper Age Fantastic Four and the early ‘90s issues of The Sensational She-Hulk series, Petri and MacDonald deliver a story echoing some of the qualities of comic book great John Byrne’s pioneering work with the character. It’s an annual. Just a one-shot. With a solidly enjoyable story and a big-budget TV series on the way, is it too much to ask for She-Hulk to get her own comic book series again?
Set, “a few years ago,” the story opens the issue with She-Hulk/Jen Walters’ mind trapped in the body of some creakingly skeletal robot. A hero very in touch with her own magnificently mutated body, She-Hulk is forced to deal with a serious downgrade. As she falls into a flashback to the events that led her to her regrettable position. Reed Richards wants to keep mind scans of Avengers on file in case something went wrong. Jen finds herself getting lost engaging in a Buzzfeed-style quiz on her phone as her brain is scanned and invariably...things go wrong. The things that go wrong end up pitting Jen against Bullseye and the Machinesmith.
Petri’s sense of humor is on par with that of Byrne, both in dialogue and in the plot. It’s a pleasant throwback to an earlier era of the character. That stops just shy of having her break the fourth wall, by acknowledging the fact that she’s in a comic book. This is a relief as such humor can be very, very tricky to pull off well. Even Byrne didn’t quite manage it perfectly every single time. Petri’s story moves along quite well as She-Hulk tangled with a delightfully strange adventure.
Byrne’s rendering of She-Hulk back in the Copper Age allowed for a clever balance of whimsical, quirky nuance in dramatic comedy and superhuman power in action. MacDonald and Mika manage something. Way similar here with subtle bits of personality-laden characterization in She-Hilo’s more casual moments. The story opens with a REALLY tricky moment in which She-Hulk is introduced as a lumbering skeletal android trying to find its balance. It may look nothing like her, but the juxtaposition of the Android with green boxes of inner monologue makes it clear, without compromising the struggle. The art shows from the first page that something has gone very, very wrong. It’s an impressive visual hook for the opening.
The 2019 annual preserves the unique blend of comedy and weird action which made She-Hulk so endearing a few decades ago and I periodic flashes over the years since then. The story may seem a bit derivative of early adventures with Jen, but as it isn’t a flavor of narrative that makes it go the comics rack with any great frequency. It’s great to see a return of She-Hulk under her own cover. Too bad it’s just a one-shot.