December 30, 2016

The Pull List: 28 December 2016, Part 1

She-Hulk has always been one of Marvel's more entertaining characters, perhaps surprisingly so given her basic set-up. Jennifer Walters is the cousin of Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk, and when she needs a blood transfusion he provides it - only to accidentally bestow the Hulk's transformative powers and super-strength. Unlike the Hulk, however, She-Hulk has been a stable and responsible character. Her books have generally been on the lighter side, ranging from small-scale entertaining action to flat-out comedy. Her new series, however, is somewhat different. For one thing, this first issue isn't remotely funny. Secondly, it's simply titled Hulk.

During the Civil War II miniseries, Jennifer was badly injured and almost died. When she woke from a coma she learned that during the subsequent conflict her cousin Bruce was murdered by Clint Barton, one of her friends. Hulk sees Jennifer for once back in a fully human form, no green skin or extra height, and struggling to re-start her life. She's back working as a lawyer, working super-powered cases. She is also struggling badly with PTSD, only this time if she loses her temper she fears that - like Bruce before her - she will lose control.

Mariko Tamaki writes a smart, emotional script, and Nico Leon and Matt Milla provide excellent artwork to back it up. This is not the She-Hulk relaunch I was expecting, but so far it's one I am very happy to read. This is serious, heavy drama for a character who usually doesn't have to deal with it. I may hate Marvel's event series, but sometimes they really do lead to excellent new angles on pre-existing characters. (5/5)

Hulk #1. Marvel. Written by Mariko Tamaki. Art by Nico Leon. Colours by Matt Milla.

Under the cut: reviews Black Widow, Justice League vs Suicide Squad, Seven Against Eternity, and Spider-Man.

Black Widow #9
Marvel. Written by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Art by Chris Samnee.
Great art. Strong action beats. A likeable team-up between Black Widow and the Winter Soldier. Despite all of these factors, this current volume of Black Widow keeps failing to engage my interest. Once again Natasha is forced to deal with the events of her past, and her original career as a Soviet assassin. I feel we keep circling back to this, trapping the character and preventing her from going anywhere fresh or new. It's feeling tired, no matter how strong a creative team may be. There are only so many trips you can take to the same creative well, and I feel this one has long-since run dry. (2/5)

Justice League vs Suicide Squad #2
DC Comics. Written by Joshua Williamson. Art by Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea. Colours by Alex Sinclair.
I did not realise this was going to be a weekly series, which explains both the change in artist for issue #2 and the huge momentum this issue has so soon after the first. The League and the Squad engage in a knock-down fight, but the real interesting parts are elsewhere as Maxwell Lord assembles his own villainous super-team. What makes it interesting is that this team know that reality has been tampered with, and that the DC Universe they inhabit is not the correct one any more. Anybody who was intrigued by DC Rebirth #1 earlier this year should really check this book out as it's following up on several on the threads unravelled there. (4/5)

Seven to Eternity #4
Image. Written by Rick Remender. Art by Jerome Opena. Colours by Matt Hollingsworth.
This comic features jaw-droppingly good artwork by Jerome Opena. It's just so finely detailed and intricate. The end of this issue notes that there will be a three month delay before the release of issue #5. Not only am I not surprised, I don't have a problem waiting. Artwork this gorgeous is worth waiting for. Opena and writer Rick Remender have created an evocative fantasy world here, and with the Mud King captured and the Mosak Knights taking him cross-country to destroy his curse there's finally time to explore the characters and develop their backstory. (4/5)

Spider-Man #11
Marvel. Written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art by Sara Pichelli and Gaetano Carlucci. Colours by Marte Gracia.
Credit where it's due, Brian Michael Bendis has finally produced another great issue of Spider-Man. In the last few years this book has constantly had its momentum killed and its narrative direction thrown off by a succession of events, crossover and other disruptions. With Civil War II done and dusted, the book finally has space to return to one of its earlier developing storylines: Miles' father returning in secret to work for SHIELD. It's well characterised, smartly plotted and nicely illustrated by Sara Pichelli and Gaetano Carlucci. I really hope Marvel lets this book do its own thing for a year or two now: it deserves it. Its readers really deserve it. (4/5)

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