Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on October 27, 2009
The distaff counterpart occupies a somewhat unique place in comics. They are created, as often as not, at the insistence of the company in order to prevent someone else from taking the trademark and profiting off of a more famous character - better that the owners do that, if nothing else (this was the thinking behind the creation of the various Spider-Women, for example). The original She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, was created by Stan Lee (his last notable new character) in 1981 as a fairly straight knockoff of the Hulk, which didn't take especially well. John Byrne retooled her into the more controlled and comedic character readers are familiar with today. Two-and-a-half decades after Jen first appeared, following the end of her latest series, Marvel decided to forgo a revamp and introduce a newer She-Hulk character. This is her story, as written by Fred Van Lente (who now rivals Ed Brubaker as Marvel's best current writer), and illustrated by Peter Vale, Robert Atkins, and Michael Ryan. Some spoilers follow.

Lyra has a rather complicated genesis. She was originally an afterthought in a one-shot written by Jeff Parker to tie in to the 2008 "Incredible Hulk" movie, the daughter of the Hulk and an alternate universe version of Thundra, a character from a future dominated by the militant "Femizons" (one of many strange fictional reactions to Second Wave Feminism). The character snowballed from there, and now she has a miniseries, arriving in the present-day with an urgent mission to save her future world, where all children apart from herself are born because of cloning, and now the technology that allows her race to reproduce is in jeopardy. She runs a gauntlet of Marvel Universe characters, principally Norman Osborn (Iron Patriot) and his Dark Avengers, and the original She-Hulk. An appearance by Jen might send many fans into a state of alarm, given that appearances by originals in series introducing a "replacement" are often designed to give the old character the brush-off, but that is not the case here. Van Lente's too good a writer, and, indeed, this mini provides some of Jen's best material in quite a while. Van Lente also brings in one of his concepts from the "Marvel Zombies 3" miniseries, the alternate reality-monitoring agency ARMOR (sister agency to SHIELD and SWORD). The plot cuts back and forth between the present-day sequences and some slowly-revealed incidents from the future that reveal more of Lyra's goals.

As readers of Van Lente's "Incredible Hercules" know, he is one of the funniest men currently working in comics, which makes him a good fit for Jen in particular, and he integrates humour into his story extremely well, without losing seriousness. Apart from Jen, some notable supporting turns are done by Marvel Boy (in an appearance featuring more linkage to his original miniseries than anything Brian Michael Bendis has done with him) and Norman Osborn. Further comic relief is supplied by Lyra's sentient computer guide (based on a jury-rigged Tamagotchi toy) Boudicca. Lyra herself gets some decent fleshing-out here, enough to make her a believable and sympathetic character, including a neat twist on the traditional ideas of the Hulk's powers. At times her noble-warrior personality seems a bit generic (especially up against a well-written Jen), but she's likeable. I would say that Lyra doesn't overly-influence the resolution of her own story, though; Van Lente is mainly concerned with putting her in a position for future adventures, which, thanks to a backup strip in "The Incredible Hulk", he'll get a chance to write.

One of the best surprises of 2009.
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