A new issue, a new arc for Hulk! The Deconstructed arc took us on a journey with Jennifer Walters, formerly known as She-Hulk, while struggling to become the Hulk again amidst grief, loss, and PTSD. Overall I loved the arc and it ended with several interesting possibilities for Jen’s character development and further exploration of the book’s themes. Is the new arc Let Them Eat Cake the sequel it deserves?
Let’s see what we got
We open the new arc with Jen in a trauma peer support group. That’s quite a change for someone who so far consistently avoided talking about her trauma with other people. It’s not as easy as it seems, though. While Jennifer believes—or wants to believe—that the group will be good for her, she can barely convince herself this was a good idea. The scene is permeated with a certain contempt, with Jen’s inner monologue questioning the group’s purpose, their methods, and even mocking the way they’re dressed, something she admits to be “rude and uncalled for”.
Meanwhile, two dudes meet an intimidating woman to obtain something that I’m sure is a great idea, perfectly within the law, and in no way connected to the main plot of the this arc.
One of Jennifer’s group peers pushes her to open herself, but that only makes her angry. I’m a little uncomfortable with the group being presented as ineffective and almost silly. The thing about mental health is that strategies that work for some people don’t work for others and this clearly isn’t working for Jen at the moment. However, it can work for other people, and I’m not sure this distinction is clear in the narrative.
And what are Jen’s preferred methods? Well…
Soon she has company; it’s Hellcat, aka Patsy Walker. This is Patsy’s second appearance in the current Hulk run and we don’t know if they were in touch during this time. They have friendly conversation, with drinking and Hulk-themed puns.
Patsy says she wasn’t sure if her friend would want to be She-Hulk or Hulk again, with Jennifer correcting her to just “Hulk”. Jen explains she’s a different Hulk now, and not just the obvious physical difference. She’s not feeling completely herself in her Hulk form and even wonders if the gray form means she’s becoming like Bruce. There’s an unspoken tension surrounding that comment, because we all know what happened to Bruce.
It’s a meaningful moment for Jennifer, to voice her reclaiming of the Hulk identity—and not just any Hulk, but the Hulk, her beloved dead cousin Hulk. This deserves a bigger exploration than it got, but I’m glad it wasn’t entirely glossed over.
Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to the backstage of a baking webseries called “Only Cake”. Remember how one of Jen’s coping strategies presented in the Deconstructed arc were baking videos? The two dudes from a few scenes earlier are here too, they’re part of the show’s crew. They have nasty plans for today’s live-streamed episode and one of them puts a mysterious green powder in the already baked cake.
Jen is watching the episode when the host finally eats the baked cake, not knowing it was altered. He turns into a monster and begs for help. If only one of his fans was a superhero who also becomes a monster…
So how was that?
A fresh start
If you have to replace a member of your creative team, the start of a new arc is a good opportunity. From this issue on, Georges Duarte replaced Nico Leon as Hulk’s artist.
The transition is smoother because the colorist and letterer are still the same, but it will take me some time to get used to Duarte’s style. There’s something about the gestures and facial expressions that isn’t working that well for me, but perhaps I’m just missing Leon’s style.
A notable change in the art was the Hulk design, though possibly that was intentional. Last issue presented us with a dehumanized Hulk, one that put great emphasis on its animalesque aspects. Here, the Hulk doesn’t feel so monstrous, so out of control. This impression is reinforced by the narrative, but we’ll get there in a moment.
The credits page was very clever. I usually eye-roll at most attempts to connect to a younger and internet savvy audience, but this does make sense in the context of the arc, so well-played.
Once more we see a potential antagonist that reflects an aspect of our hero—the whole “turning into a monster” is a very Hulk theme, especially with Jen’s new Hulk form. If Tamaki can avoid rehashing the same story we had with Maise Brewn, this could be an interesting and meaningful choice.
Speaking of Maise, I miss a stronger connection to the previous arc. Not every arc needs that, but Deconstructed left us with loose ends and unanswered questions, such as Maise’s fate. Yet aside from the baking videos and a brief mention of Flo, there isn’t much reference to the events of the previous arc.
It’s clear those events changed Jennifer, but I miss seeing more of their consequences. She avoided Hulking out for so long and with good reason. But, we barely scratched the surface of what it means for her to be the Hulk again. We didn’t see a lot of Hulk this time so this may be a false impression, but I miss a scene between last issue’s violent transformation and this issue’s de-stressing Hulk times at the construction site.
This arc is just starting and the creative team has earned my trust with their previous work, so I’m happy to wait and see where they’ll lead the story. This issue may not have excited me as much as the previous arc, but it was overall a solid start.
Final score: 7/10
All images courtesy of Marvel Comics
Hulk (2016) #7 Credits
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Georges Duarte
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit