Reviews of Old Comics: Sensational She-Hulk #31

I’ve been reading comics for a long time, so I remember when comics were something you waited for and every week you were surprised. I remember when you trekked to the convenience store, or drug store, or grocery store, where ever you bought comics because there was no store that conveniently pulled your comics for you every week. I remember the one time a year you went to the closest comic book convention to you to get the issues that you missed because the other kids in town got there before you.

 

This is the ongoing story of recapturing that feeling by reading some comics that haven’t been cracked in some time. Perhaps they live in some long-neglected long box in your spare room. Perhaps they are discovered at the bottom of that last box you haven’t unpacked since your last move two years ago, and perhaps they’re just waiting in some comic shops back stock waiting for you to discover them the next time they drag them to some mini-convention in a hotel ballroom looking to score some quick cash with cheap back issues. Sometimes they’ll be gems, sometimes the memory is fonder than the reality, but my goal is to share with you my spoiler-ridden reviews of old comics.

SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #31

September 1991

She-Hulk got her own title again in 1989, done by John Byrne, the writer/artist that brought new life to her character in Fantastic Four. Within a year, however, Byrne had left the book in a dispute over his artwork being redrawn. Story quality suffered until he was brought back to continue her adventures in much the same vein as he used when he started the book. Namely, She-Hulk knew she was in a comic book, faced heroes and villains largely forgotten because “serious” writers thought that they were too stupid to be resurrected, and never took any of it too seriously.

SYNOPSIS:

She-Hulk wakes up from a bad dream (issues 9-30) and realizing how late it is by reading the legal text at the bottom of the first page, rushes to get ready, with a convenient white box provided by Byrne to keep the book approved by the Comics Code. She also asks him to give her the “fake McFarlane layouts” he’s using in Namor, and flies off to pick up Louise Mason in her flying green car for a trip to sunny Florida.

Meanwhile a jet transporting a disgraced rock star is caught in a bad storm and tries to avoid crashing into a mountain, but fails when it seems that the mountain moves to intercept them. She-Hulk and Louise hear the report and detour to investigate the mysterious moving mountain, which has vanished from the crash site. A scientist on the scene named Bob Robertson claims that it was the work of Spragg, the Living Hill.

He relates how he came across Spragg many years ago in Transylvania, after he had enslaved a small village in order to build a machine to increase his mental powers. Spragg was an evil member of a race of alien spores that had become trapped in the forming Earth and developed Mental powers that they used to create earthquakes. Bob Robertson was immune to Spragg’s powers because of the mining helmet he was wearing, and turned the machine into a rocket which sent Spragg into space. He discovered that Spragg had vaporized upon rentry into the atmosphere and became a force responsible for unexplained natural disasters.

Using a small device, Bob Robertson triggers the Spragg effect, inadvertantly causing a ridge of rock to endanger a nearby town. She-Hulk drops from her flying car onto the front of the ridge and places a device to stop the ridge in its tracks. However, the sudden stop sends her falling into a huge hole in the Earth that has opened up where the front of the ridge had been.

 REVIEW:

There was a time when comic publishers could put out a book that was tongue in cheek. This is not far removed from Giffen and DeMatteis’s Justice League International, which returned humorous comics to the mainstream. John Byrne had fun with the tropes of the comic book medium and the super-hero genre in general. In this issue alone he pokes fun at the all-encompassing aptitude of comic book scientists (i.e. an Etymologist building robots), the ego of creators (i.e his own) and the ever-looming presence of the Comics Code Authority.

Byrne’s art in this issue is probably at his peak, with very few blank backgrounds and a very believable rendering of a pre-Silver Age character like “The Living Hill.” His Bob Robertson isn’t as consistent as his She-Hulk or Louise Mason, but given the low number of characters with major roles in this issue, it’s not confusing. Writing-wise he has a tendency to be very verbose, but doesn’t seem to be falling into the trap of describing things that can clearly be seen.

The colors, as appropriate to the time, are flat, which works very well with John Byrne’s style. For an example of how bad modern colors can look on this artwork just look at the cover of  Sensational She-Hulk, Vol.1 collection, which collects the issues just before this one. Modern coloring over this would still need to retain the flatness needed to not take away from the awesome visuals of She-Hulk among normal people. I just don’t see how it could improve very much to have heavily rendered colors on this artwork.

NOTES:

To my knowledge, this issue has not been collected. In back issue bins, you should be able to find copies at a very reasonable price, perhaps even a bargain.

FINAL RATING: 8 (out of a possible 10)

The art is very good, but not great. The story is a refreshing pallet cleanser after the grimmer fare of most modern comics (I’m looking at you, DC), although the tone doesn’t switch well between comedy and the serious drama needed to initiate the story. It actually detracts from a jet full of people being killed, which is never fully established whether it’s a private jet or a commercial flight. Those distractions are probably more from Byrne’s sense of storytelling, which is very fast, benefiting his art style of using large panels.