Reviews of Old Comics: Sensational She-Hulk #5

Sensational She-Hulk #5

September 1989

SensationalSheHulk0501Sitting on my computer desktop are two pages from an early issue of Sensational She-Hulk #5. I I briefly touched on them in my review for the issue where she joined the Fantastic Four.

SYNOPSIS:

She-Hulk is relaxing at home on a Saturday morning after a jog around Central Park. She turns on cartoons to find them changing into realistic displays on traditional cartoon violence and interactions. One click actually transports her into a prehistoric jungle where she rescues a young boy from a Tyrannosaur. The little boy relates that his situation is similar to hers and they deduce that they are in a realistic depiction of the prehistoric cartoon “The Stonesteins.” She-Hulk still has her remote control so she presses the button to change the channel and the pair find themselves in a sci-fi setting.

Observed by a duck-like assistant to the villainous Doctor Bong who is using a device called an “Educational Recalibration Field.” Doctor Bong is determined to locate the source of the disruption and begins scanning for She-Hulk.

She-Hulk and the little boy go inside one of the sci-fi dwellings to discover a couple being lectured on future society. They are part of a realistic portrayal of the “O’Rockets.” She-Hulk confirms that everyone she’s found was using their remote control just as a weird “bong” sounded. Doctor Bong has located her at that moment and decides to pursue her by matching the frequency of the chime when he strikes his bell-shaped head to his equipment.

She-Hulk and the people she’s found are now in a dystopic city setting patrolled by Robot-Cop, who destroys She-Hulk’s remote control with a well-placed shot. As she confronts the now realistic cartoon character, everything freezes at the appearance of Doctor Bong, which surprises and somewhat appalls She-Hulk. Bong explains that his invention reshapes the cartoon realities as he sees fit. He created it when the five infant clones of himself discovered television with its mind-numbing programming. He sought to shape what was being broadcast to save his children. He then strands She-Hulk in a cartoon reality.

She-Hulk makes an escape for herself and the people she’s found by ripping a hole in the comic book page and running through a double-page ad for back issue comics. When she emerges in Doctor Bong’s headquarters, she inadvertently bumps Bong’s  duck-like assistant into the emergency shut-off switch for Doctor Bong’s equipment, trapping Doctor Bong in the TV reality, leaving She-Hulk’s only predicament as to how to get back home from Doctor Bong’s remote lair in the Himalayas.

Back in the US, 3 weeks ago, Buford and Taryn are in a hotel and are making plans to use Buford’s mutant ability to drive anything to go into deep space and find Ulysses Solomon Archer.

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REVIEW:

John Byrne did here what was never successfully done before in making a super-hero comic humorous. It had been tried before with straight-up humor comics like Howard the Duck, but never with a super-hero from a mainstream comic book. In this issue, he experiments with a character that knows she’s in a comic book making use of the medium to thwart the villain. He would do it a couple of times in the future, but here he made use of it for the first and probably the most successful time.

It’s jarring to have characters like the Flintstones and the Jetsons be referred to by pseudonyms, but that’s always the hazard when cultural icons that you’re referring to are the property of someone else. The best way to do it is just to avoid mentioning them by name at all, and I think if Byrne had done that, the effect wouldn’t have been so jarring for me. Their presence is kind of integral to the story, so there’s no way to not use them, but there’s no need to make up another name for them, when just showing them is enough to get the point across.

The highlight of this issue is the scene where She-Hulk runs through the “advertisement” in between the pages of the comic. I recommend studying that two page spread carefully, because the best humor in the book is there. John Byrne makes jokes about the New Universe titles Marvel had done and that he had worked on, editor Bobbie Chase, the popularity of X-Men related books, and Shanna the She-Devil being pregnant for the longest time because the book was cancelled.

As for the art, it’s John Byrne at a period when his work was solid, but loose. Bob Wiacek is a good inker for John Byrne, but not the best. The real detriment to this comic is the coloring. It was the period right before computer coloring started becoming commonplace, but that does not excuse some of the choices made that simply muddy the artwork. The placing of shadows and highlights seem random at times and overall, rushed. Having reviewed some comics from much earlier than this one, I really feel like the best work was not done here, and large areas of color were placed where a more refined touch would have sufficed.

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NOTES:

This issue has been collected in the Sensational She-Hulk Vol. 1 (ISBN 0785153063) . You should be able to find a copy for no more than a couple of bucks, and given the relative lack of popularity John Byrne has with today’s comic fans, it shouldn’t be hard to find in bargain boxes.

FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10)

Start collecting John Byrne’s run on Sensational She-Hulk. Even the lackluster issues are worth reading and worth the price of today’s comics.