Different color unitards! Anything else? Look closer.
Do you see it?
Nope, me neither.
Based on the cover, you might think that the two She-Hulks are going to fight each other in this issue. No, it's just foreshadowing of some other story. It has nothing to do with the contents of this issue, as much as I can tell.
Motivation: I haven't read the Hulk series directly preceding this, but apparently some Hulks (Banner/Jennifer/Lyra/others?) fought a group of bad guys called "The Intelligencia". Although the Hulks won, some of the bad guys are still at large. This arc covers the She-Hulks gathering them up.
Jennifer and Lyra are acting as The Hulk's muscle, while he ponders computer screens in the Hulk-Cave.
If you would like back-story or jokes about Jennifer/Lyra, you can find them in my previous post: She-Hulks #0. If you'd like back stories on the other Hulks or the Intelligencia, I recommend a subscription to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited and a two-week vacation.
Act 1: Trapster in the Casino
I know enough about the Hulk to know that in the early days, during the Dr. Banner / Hulk battle for dominance, there was a Grey Hulk personality that was dominant, and the Grey Hulk worked in a Las Vegas casino for a while. The first page was reminiscent of this, and I thought perhaps this was a call-back to that. It's not.
Jennifer and Lyra search out Trapster in a casino and fight him. We learn quickly that Lyra is no stranger to violence. Considering her background (which I’ll leave to you), it's not surprising. Jennifer keeps a cool head. She doesn't mind the violence, but doesn't seem to have the blood-lust that Lyra has. The Trapster has an arsenal of gadgets (hence his name?) that are tucked up his sleeves for a chance encounter with a superhero.
One is a, um, glue gun that he likes to, er, shoot in sexy Lyra's face. Splat! Maybe my mind is in the wrong place (more on this later), but to keep the "T" rating, maybe it should have shot glitter glue. Otherwise someone might, you know, get the wrong idea.
The She-Hulks capture him and bring him back to the Hulk's lair, strip him to his tighty-whities, and throw him into a cell, where he meets the boss. The boss is big, green, and calm. Calm? Perhaps you are wondering: In which comic do I find the back-story that turns Rampaging Mindless Hulk into Wise Contemplative Hulk?
It appears that Banner's personality is now dominant in the giant Hulk body. Also, it seems he can change freely from Banner to the Hulk. If you're thinking "Hulk Smash", this scene will feel odd. Get used to it.
Act 2: High School
It's decided (by Banner?) that Lyra needs to go to high school. If you've haven't watched a single movie about high school since 1982 (the Hollywood era that starts with John Hughes and goes to present), you're going to find this section of the book absolutely riveting. Otherwise, it might seem a tad familiar.
You will be spared the "ugly girl gets made over to be beautiful by removing glasses and letting down hair" cliche. Lyra's human form is a hot teenager: we can dispense with all of that ugly stuff.
Lyra starts her first day and, in 20 frames, she's pissed off the popular girls, threatened the dumb jocks, and be-friended the hunky guy who's actually smart, charming, and hates his popular teen life.
SPOILER ALERT: I think it might be love-at-first-sight.
While engaging in overly scripted if not mildly dated teenage dialog, we learn more about Lyra's past. These double entendres, we learn, have a third entendre as Lyra calls to mind some interesting images from her savage past, which of course she keeps secret from Hunky. What's teen romance without a few secrets?
While Lyra is meeting her soul-mate, there's a creepy sort of "Pretty Woman" scene, playing out elsewhere Dr. Banner, secure in the Hulk-Lair has set up Jennifer (his cousin) with a fancy condo in New York.
The mood is set by her muttering (moaning?) "Oh, Bruce!" into the phone. She at least has the decency to hang up the phone before getting naked in the tub with champagne and strawberries. Certainly, she deserves it. (Don't we all?)
It's possible I'm reading too much into this. I've watched this video (She-Hulk grows muscular and kicks Dr. Doom's butt, from "The Incredible Hulk" cartoon). This video is about as NSFW as a Rihanna video (or Lita Ford, as the case may be). The moaning sounds juxtaposed with the sexy banter definitely make me pay attention, and I don't want to be critical of them. But, it does makes her come across kind of slutty.
There's another explanation for the bathtub scene, of course. Jennifer is known for breaking the third wall and talking to the comic reader in an in-character way, which implies she has some power to see into our dimension.
Is it possible she's coming on to me? With the champagne and all? Or is this an even creepier explanation?
Marvel does document this fourth-wall breaking as one of Jennifer’s “cosmic” powers. I like that she hides it to not make others uncomfortable. Even if she’s not hitting on me, this bathtub scene at least is tipping its hat to this special power.
I'm very flattered, Jennifer, but I'm also very much in love with my wife.
On an unrelated note, I think there was a artist/editor battle about this bathtub scene. How low the bubbles should be vs. how high Jennifer’s nipples should be. I think the "lower the bubbles" side won, but the "T" rating pulled rank. That, or the gamma radiation from Dr. Banner's blood has made her nipples disappear altogether.
Act 3: On a Boat
Emergency! Another bad guy has to be brought in! It's the Wizard this time. He's on a boat, and the boat is full of girls in bikinis. If he's hiding out, he's not trying very hard. Our heroines go undercover (as it were) in their bikinis.
Three frames later, they're in costume. Why put on the bikinis in the first place? I assume it's some sort of tax write-off, though I am not an accountant and this should not be considered good tax advice.
There's really little difference: their costumes are so tight that even though they cover up more than their bikinis, it doesn't matter much. Especially when you weigh in how much larger their breasts are when their green. (They probably wouldn’t fit in even a She-Hulk Bikini.)
The violence doesn't feel very real, here. Despite the dangerous/savage nature of all of these Hulks, no one ever appears to be in any real danger of getting hurt. The worse injury I expect someone to get is the kind that makes cartoon birds fly in a circle over one's head.
As a casualty of the fight, the yacht full of partying bikini girls crashes and sinks Everyone appears on shore happy, perky, and soaking wet (suspension of disbelief, indeed).
Then, they take the Wizard back to the Hulk Lair, strip him to his tighty-whities (herein referred to as the Hulk Prison Uniform), and he has to meet the boss as well. He’s the same Hulk as before: still big, green, and calm.
Summary: The plot's a little shallow, the jokes are sometimes funny, and everyone is likeable. Why am I so critical, then?
I think I just don't like my art dumbed-down, even if it's intended for children. A good book can be a good book, even if it happens to be a children's book.
One thing that has drawn me to comic books and graphic novels is the stories: Those I enjoy the most are gritty, daring, relavant, and belief-challenging. This doesn't have to be compromised to address a teen/tween/children's audience. I want these characters to have real flaws despite their superpowers: lack of flaws is not an interesting superpower. Issue #1 disappoints on this level.
Would my girls like it? Possibly. But that doesn't mean I want to present Jennifer or Lyra as a role model from whom something can be learned. I don't care about the sexual stuff (which would probably pass over their heads like a Warner Brothers Peter Lorre caricature), I'm just concerned there's not much of value here.
I'll keep reading, though, if you'll do the same. (We can't stop now anyway: She-Hulks #2 has monkeys with superpowers.)