Lost in Translation 451: She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law (2022)

Superhero comics tend to take themselves seriously, with dark knights patrolling the night and costumed heroes defending truth and justice from those who would subjugate humanity. Not all superheroes take their great responsibility seriously. Some will embrace their four-colour medium and refuse to acknowledge the fourth wall to talk to the readers directly. One even has argued with the writers – Jennifer Walters, She-Hulk.

Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema, She-Hulk debuted in 1979 in The Savage She-Hulk #1. Her origin is simple enough; after an injury that left her needing a blood transfusion, Jennifer received one from her cousin Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk. While Jennifer still has her moments where her anger gets the best of her, she does have more emotional control in her She-Hulk form than Bruce does as the Hulk. Jennifer’s work as a lawyer brings in questions about the law as it applies to superheroes.

Savage She-Hulk ran until 1982, running twenty-five issues. She-Hulk was created as a reaction to Universal Television introducing The Bionic Woman as the distaff side of The Six Million Dollar Man. Universal also produced The Incredible Hulk, starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferigno, so there was the possibility of a feminine version for the TV series. Stan Lee got ahead of the idea so that Marvel could retain the rights. However, it’s what Marvel did with the character afterwards. She-Hulk made guest appearances in other titles, including The Incredible Hulk, and became an Avenger, a Defender, a member of the Fantastic Four, and an agent of SHIELD.

Jennifer got her own title again in 1985 with The Sensational She-Hulk, mostly written and drawn by John Byrne, with Steve Gerber, Simon Furman, and Peter David writing issues. The Sensational She-Hulk ran for sixty issues, ending in 1994. During that run, She-Hulk picked up the ability to break the fourth wall to the point she spoke with Byrne and other writers, well before a certain merc with a mouth discovered that the wall existed even Later She-Hulk series would dial back the destruction of the fourth wall, but not completely remove the ability from her. The character would deny having the ability, but there were winks and nods to the audience.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has succeeded without the big names being immediately available. Spider-Man was licensed to Sony Pictures; The X-Men and the Fantastic Four were under Fox’s purview. That left Marvel Studios two well-known characters, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk, in their lineup. Yet Marvel Studios and, after the buy-out, Disney did well with lesser-known characters like Iron Man. The streaming series took other characters, established but unknown outside comic fans like the Scarlet Witch and Moon Knight, and newer characters like Kamala Khan/Ms Marvel and Kate Bishop/Hawkeye. Marvel has a large number of characters, hero, villain, or other, to use in a streaming series, so why not Jennifer?

In 2022, Disney released She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law starring Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, with Maliah Arrayah assisting with the Hulk-form, and co-starring Ginger Gonzaga as Nikki Ramos, Josh Segarra as “Pug” Pugliese”, Mark Linn-Baker as Jennifer’s dad Morris Walters, Tess Malls Kincaid as her mom Elaine, Jon Bass as Todd Phelps, and Jameela Jamil as Titania. Special guests include Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/the Hulk, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/the Abomination, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Spider-Man might not be available to establish She-Hulk as part of the continuity, but characters from prior movies can fulfill the same role.

The first episode covers She-Hulk’s origin. While not quite the same as the comics, the core idea is there Bruce’s blood gets into Jennifer’s bloodstream, turning her into the She-Hulk, though that name comes later. Bruce spends time with his cousin, teaching her how to control her abilities. Jennifer, though, has a few extra tricks he doesn’t have, like switching between her normal and her Hulk form as she wants. With a life waiting for her, Jennifer leaves Bruce and returns home.

The series itself plays out like L.A. Law or, especially, Ally MacBeal, focusing on Jennifer and her struggles as a lawyer, a single woman, and as She-Hulk. Her idea of pretending that she can keep her She-Hulk side under wraps is hurled out the window when Titania bursts into the courtroom and tries to attack the judge. Titania herself is surprised when Jen smacks her across the room. The hardest part for Jennifer is completing her closing arguments and dealing with the press

Few law firms want a potential liability like a random super-battle in a courtroom happening – insurance premiums However, some, including GLK&H, who are beginning their own superhero law department and want an actual superhero to be in it. Since GLK&H is a private firm, they take on anyone who can pay for their legal services. Jennifer’s first case at her new job is to argue for the parole of Emil Blonsky, the Abomination. Blonsky appears to have turned over a new leaf, even having planned out a New Age-style retreat for others. Part of the problem he faces is his disappearances from his maximum security cell. Jennifer figures out what’s going on and is able to win Blonksy’s parole.

With She-Hulk’s popularity comes a backlash, starting on the Internet. People, well, men not happy with her existence complaining that She-Hulk is popular. Take any Internet forum and find the perpetually miffed and that’s the sort of backlash that is building. Worse, Titania makes a move to prevent Jen from using the She-Hulk monicker by using and abusing trademark law. Jennifer’s life spirals out of control as her civilian life and her She-Hulk side demand different approaches, culminating in Jen losing her temper in public.

The key point to remember when watching She-Hulk that it was filmed in 2022, which is neither 1979 nor 1985. Things have changed over the intervening years – fashion, culture, societal norms, and technology. The idea that a woman can be a lawyer was somewhat new in the Seventies; today, it’s a given. What was popular in the Eighties is now a curiosity or passé. Wrestling was huge in the Eighties, deriving large revenue from Pay Per View. While the WWE, formerly the World Wrestling Federation, still exists, it’s not as pervasive as in the Eighties.

Thus, some changes. Titania, who gained her powers in the comics from Doc Doom after Denver got moved to Battleworld, is now a superpowered, super strong influencer, leading to a rivalry with She-Hulk, the new flavour of the month. The explanation for Jennifer’s wardrobe came about because the Fantastic Four, thus Mr. Fantastic, aren’t yet part of the MCU under Disney’s helm. No Mr. Fantastic, no unstable molecules that can adapt to someone’s powers. The MCU long since split from the main Marvel continuity, so differences will continue to build.

Emil Blonsky, who first appeared as the Abomination in the 2008 The Incredible Hulk, is one who has been in maximum security for fourteen years. He might be rehabilitated, but he can put up a good show to pass off as such. Yet, he does try, with his retreat to help people with powers get used to the idea of having them.

That said, the writers of She-Hulk are well aware of the character and her comics. The final episode includes an homage to the Universal Hulk TV series. The season finale, which may irk some members of the audience, works because of who She-Hulk is. Without getting into spoilers, all of Jen’s powers are used.

The series does play with expectations. While there are some superpowered fights, especially between She-Hulk and Titania, most conflicts are resolved in other manners. The fights cause more problems for Jen than they solve. It takes her intelligence, not physical strength, to resolve her issues.

She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law leans heavily into one of Marvel Comics’ strengths – characters who are more than just a heroic icon, superheroes who have lives outside being a hero where the two halves interfere. Spider-Man may be the exemplar here, but She-Hulk has her own baggage to deal with. Combining superhero drama with legal drama leads to a fun series that delivers on its promise. Jennifer Walters is recognizable, not just in appearance but in attitude, to her comic counterpart.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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