ONE AND DONE: ‘She-Hulk’ #5 and the Joy of Polite Comics

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she hulk5 197x300 ONE AND DONE: ‘She Hulk’ #5 and the Joy of Polite Comics

One of my favorite things about monthly comics is the intro page. It has taken on special significance in recent years–I’d say it’s thanks to the wild success of Hawkeye. But I can’t say that authoritatively, mostly because I’m the guy who only buys one comic per week. But it’s a good example.

Every issue of Hawkeye tells you that Clint Barton is the greatest sharpshooter alive, that he’s an Avenger, and that this book is about what he does when he isn’t an Avenger.

Then there’s a dumb joke. It’s the best part.

The practice is far from new–superhero comics have a long tradition of slapping  a boilerplate paragraph on the title page describing the hero’s whole deal in brief. But recently, with Marvel titles like Hawkeye and Moon Knight and All-New Ghost Rider, these pages have taken on a bigger role than just a reminder of who this book’s about.

They’re a mission statement. A reassurance that All You Need To Know can be summed up in a few lines above the credits. It’s very polite of them.

‘Polite’ really is the best word to describe it. See one of those intro pages in a comic book, and it’s easy to see that the book is doing you a courtesy, making a conscious effort to remain accessible and friendly to the curious (and cash-strapped). The hope is that you can jump right in and be ready to go.

With She-Hulk #5, I absolutely did.

She-Hulk’s intro page isn’t like any of the aforementioned ones. There’s little in the way of style or design to it. It’s mostly just She-Hulk, breaking the fourth wall and telling the reader everything they need to know to appreciate the story they’re about to read–The Blue File. She also says that the currently absent letters page will be back soon.

It’s not very striking at all. In fact, it feels like a throwback. But it gets the job done, and doesn’t tip it’s hand toward the biggest surprise: Ron Wimberly’s art.

Part of the fun of all this, of buying comics off the shelf one issue at a time, is the feeling of discovery you can get. Not of just worlds or stories or characters, but of all the wonderful and diverse work that all occupies the same shelf space. Until this week, I’ve never seen Wimberly’s art before. Now I wish I had.

It’s playful, vibrant, and doesn’t give a damn about what you think. Wimberly plays with perspective, making frequent use of the foreground in panels and rarely elects to settle at eye-level, instead framing his subjects from above or below. Anatomy and proportion are more suggestions than hard and fast rules, with limbs dynamically filling up space to highlight sound effects and make the action pop off the page.

And the color work from Rico Renzi is just as bold. Day-Glo pinks and purples and oranges fill the pages, adding to Wimberly’s visual dynamism. It’s all such cool stuff, and feels more akin to a punk indie comic than a mainstream title.

Charles Soule’s script isn’t as bold and ballsy as the art, unfortunately. That’s not to say it’s bad–it’s clever and funny, with only a few beats that seem to refer back to earlier events that a new reader would be in the dark about. There’s a cliffhanger, and it’s a smart and organic one that holds promise for the rest of the arc, whether it be two more issues or six.

But man, if only it had the stones the art did.

Now comes the tricky part–how do you decide if a book you picked up on a lark is one you’re going to keep picking up or just wait for other options. I’m not disappointed by She-Hulk #5 on the whole–I’m actually very satisfied (it’s also one of the few Marvel books still selling for $2.99, so maybe that helps). But the story isn’t really one I’ll be turning over in my head much–and now that I’ve seen Wimberly’s work, I’ll be inclined to seek it out more than I’ll probably want to reread this issue.

Or maybe I won’t really know for sure until #6 is on the stands and I find myself compelled to jump back in. Sometimes you don’t have an answer right away. That’s okay. I’ve got time.

As always, support your local comic shop if you can, patronize your local library if you have one, and say hi on Twitter if you like.

Be back in a week.

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