Best of 2014 - "She-Hulk"
I think it's safe to say that, despite some setbacks, comics have gotten a lot better for women in the past few years. For the most part, we're out of the Liefeld era of ridiculously proportioned women with skintight clothes and impossible poses. Not to say that things are perfect. No, not by any means. But better? Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
But is there something on the market that's the very embodiment of that positive shift? Well, ladies, gentlemen, everyone else, I would fairly say yes. And that embodiment is Charles Soule's sensational She-Hulk.
Without a doubt, She-Hulk is one of the very best things I had the sheer delight of experiencing this year. See, Shulkie has always been a favorite of mine. I mean, she's a lawyer, a woman in control of her own sexuality, and oh yeah, a badass lady with amazing superhuman strength. What's not to like? Not only that, but her series are always top-notch. More specifically, John Byrne and Dan Slott's runs. The former is a self-aware pastiche of comic books that's riotously funny and innovative even by today's standards, and the latter is a firm balance between thrilling and sly satire.
But we're not talking about them. We're talking about Soule. And Soule, a man who has actually worked in law before, gives even the greats a run for their money. His Shulkie is not only a confident, sassy, brilliant lawyer able to bench-press just about anything, but also a complex, nuanced and flawed character. More so than any other run, I really got in touch with just what makes Jen Walters (Shulkie's real name) tick. The way she interacts with other characters isn't the way you'd expect a big green woman to behave, but everything she does feels distinctly... well, human. This is a character who is a human lawyer first, and an ass-kicking superhero second. Her dialogue is very eloquent and down-to-earth, and her methods of problem-solving very rarely end in fistfights.
|Soule's witty writing is constantly complemented by Pulido's pacing.|
This isn't a series interested in showing this character constantly breaking the fourth wall or breaking somebody's face. Instead, it's interested in showing how Walters manages to navigate her life as a tall, Amazonian presence with both style and grace. She's fashionable. She's flawed. She's crafty. Quite honestly, Soule's She-Hulk is probably my favorite female character in anything this year. Yes, that includes other comics, games, movies... whatever. She's just that good.
And so is everything else, really. The art remains consistently good throughout the series, with special attention being paid to the ingenious and often elaborate panel layouts. Divisive as Javier Pulido (who does most of the art here) is as an artist, I think he's a one-of-a-kind gem and his work here is among his best. And the covers? God. The covers. The covers are some of the most beautiful comic art I've seen, period. Writing, penciling, outward appearance... She-Hulk is a complete package.
A complete package that showcases a strong, badass woman who is pretty much never made into a sexual object throughout the entire run. As unfortunate as it is that this series will be ending in January at 12 issues, I'm sort of grateful. Soule's run of She-Hulk will, in that case, stand alone as a small, self-contained arc that sets an example of comics need more of. It's a fun, fresh series with surprising depth, and it's one of my favorite things to happen this year.