Hello everyone, and welcome back to COMFORT FOOD COMICS PRESENTS: SPECIAL INGREDIENT.
In every column, we look at a newer comic and the “Special Ingredient” that made it extra delicious. It could be a character, a location, a plot device, a callback to a previous issue… basically anything that jumped out to me and made me think “mmm, that really improved the taste of this comic.”
This week’s Special Ingredient is Jennifer Walters, the sensational She-Hulk, star of The Immortal She-Hulk #1 by Al Ewing, Jon Davis-Hunt, Marcio Menyz, and VC’s Cory Petit.
Why Jennifer Walters?
How can the star of the comic be the Special Ingredient? Her name’s on the freaking cover, right?
Well, sometimes your special ingredient is a really good cut of meat (or whatever you eat) that you just don’t get often enough.
At this point, that’s what Jen Walters is. It’s been over 2 years since her last solo comic ended, and in the meantime her only appearances have been in Jason Aaron’s Avengers series, where she does not get much time or space for character development (unless you count talking like silver-age “dumb” Hulk and having a sexual relationship with Thor while in that state as “development”).
But along come Al Ewing and Jon Davis-Hunt, serving me up the meal I didn’t know I had been craving, and perfectly prepared at that. And it even makes the Avengers stuff taste slightly better!
The Immortal She-Hulk #1 does an amazing job of telling a new story, summarizing recent events, revisiting key moments in the character’s history, and making important developments that will be relevant both for Jen Walters’s character and for the overall plot of Ewing’s Immortal Hulk.
It starts with the first death of Jen Walters, a re-telling of her origin story through the lens of “the green door” and the role it plays in the resurrection of gamma-charged individuals, and from there gets into the deeper questions of death, resurrection, and immortality that are currently weighing on Jen’s mind, and how they relate to her characterization and the way She-Hulk has changed from “then” to “now.”
Both of Jen’s other deaths – from Civil War II and the more recent Empyre – are revisited, but more consequential to them, her visit to the realm of “The One Below All” and her meetings there with “Brian Banner” and the Leader. Earlier in the issue, Jen talks to Wolverine about resurrection in response to the many he has been through and the X-Men’s new status quo, and chooses to do so in her Jennifer Walters form. Later, she talks to Thor about what it means to be Immortal, but stays in her She-Hulk form because it “felt too heavy for Jen. Needs Hulk to bear it.”
As the issue ends, we see what the Leader told her during their meeting, which she herself doesn’t remember, and she awakens from the nightmare and Hulks out. The three deaths of Jennifer Walters have taught her to be afraid of dying, and being She-Hulk is a security blanket that she wraps herself in.
I especially loved this because I thought it really filled in the blanks for changes in her characterization. It had previously been established in issues of Avengers by Geoff Johns (ugh, I know) that Jen Hulks out – in a classic, out of control Hulk form – when she is afraid, unlike her cousin Bruce who does so when he is angered. When Jen returned from her first death, after receiving a gamma-infused blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce, she almost immediately Hulks out. Was it in response to the attackers in her hospital room, or was she afraid of something else? When Jen returned from her death in Civil War II (portrayed as a coma at the time), she transformed even further into a gray She-Hulk, with less control over this form. Her current form was later brought about when she was imbued with more gamma energy, which she would subconsciously relate to the fear she feels of the realm of the one below all. “You bear my mark,” it bellowed at her, the first time she visited its realm, referring to the taint of gamma radiation.
In all of these cases, one can infer from The Immortal She-Hulk #1 that changes in She-Hulk’s character are brought about by the existential fear she is bringing with her upon returning from the dead. How will this fear affect her this time? I can’t wait to find out.
I would love to see Ewing explore these ideas more in Immortal Hulk or a regular She-Hulk series, but more than that I’d like to see Jon Davis-Hunt working on more books at Marvel. His artwork here would be perfect in the main Immortal Hulk book, but he would also be great on SWORD with Ewing or any number of other titles. The only other thing I really know him for was DC’s The Wild Storm, which was artistically amazing for its entire run and I highly recommend diving into for the art alone (although I can no longer endorse the writer of it).
Other than the above-mentioned The Wild Storm for more art by Jon Davis-Hunt (Editor Dave Shevlin Barging In Note: I’d recommend the 2015 Vertigo series Clean Room by Gail Simone and Davis-Hunt. Please don’t support Ellis anymore.), The Immortal Hulk is the other big, specific thing I recommend for more like The Immortal She-Hulk #1. Beyond that, pretty much any appearance of Jennifer Walters is worth your time. Compared to her cousin, she’s the better Avenger, the better member of the Fantastic Four (and FF), and quite possibly just the better character. All of her solo series can be fun at times, although between Byrne, Slott, and Peter David, you may have a rightful aversion to one or more of the writers who have penned said series. (Editor Dave Shevlin Barging In Note: The perfect She-Hulk story is in Solo Avengers #14. I featured it on the Podcast.)