Friday, January 02, 2009
The Lady Liberators vs. Myanmar
In She-Hulk #s 34-36, She-Hulk and the team she put together in Hulk #s 7-9 go up against a fictional version of a real-world issue. Things have slowed down in the bounty hunter business and She-Hulk has gotten enough confidence back about her calling as a super-hero that when she sees a news report about some people in need, she calls the Lady Liberators together and springs into action.
It's not the full team that appeared in Hulk, but it's a lot of them. Thundra and Valkyrie are back of course, and they're also joined by Invisible Woman. And She-Hulk's best friend Jazinda (who disguises herself so the other Liberators won't know she's one of those Secretly Invading Skrulls).
Spoiler for Jeph Loeb's Hulk series below
I don't know what to make of Thundra's being there. Over in Hulk, Thundra was invited by the Red Hulk to join him in whatever scheme he had going. We didn't get to hear her answer, but she sure didn't say "no" right away either. Writer Peter David gives nothing away in She-Hulk, but I'm not sure if he's being sneaky or if he just didn't know about the Hulk developments when he started this story. Continuity between Hulk and She-Hulk has been very loose and David's admitted that there hasn't been a lot of communication between the editors and creators of the two series.
Regardless of whatever's going on behind the scenes though, Thundra seems perfectly willing to continue working with the Liberators, which means one of two things. Either she turned down Red Hulk, or she's working with him in secret and wants to keep an eye on the Liberators. Though She-Hulk has been canceled after the next couple of issues, I expect we'll see more of the Liberators in Hulk and learn Thundra's answer over there. In the meantime, there's no reason for David not to use them here, and I'm glad he has. It's a cool team.
(By the way, he reveals that Valkyrie's horse is indeed still named Aragorn and not what She-Hulk called it in Hulk. Also, in spite of whatever other criticisms I'm about to offer, I've got none against David's portrayal of Valkyrie. She's awesome.)
End of spoiler.
I'm generally of the feeling that corporate-owned superhero comics should stay away from real-world problems like genocide. What's going on in this story is that there's been an earthquake in the fictional country of Marinmer, but the government is refusing to let foreign aid get to its citizens who need it. She-Hulk and the Liberators fly over to Marinmer to distribute the aid themselves, but Marinmer has ties with Russia who quickly sends in the Winter Guard to stop the effort.
What follows is a standard superhero fight only with lots of preaching by She-Hulk and some questioning amongst the Winter Guard about what's the right and moral thing to do. There's also preaching and frantic pleas for help by distraught earthquake victims. And if I sound kind of callous towards earthquake victims or those who would help them, I deeply apologize because that's not my intent. My heart aches for the real-world sufferers of the tragedies that this story is based on, but the She-Hulk comic fails to honor them in a meaningful way. It tries - it tries hard - but it's not up to the task and the endeavor ends up feeling kind of tasteless.
I don't know for sure what could have been done differently, which is a major reason I question whether this kind of thing should be attempted at all. I respect David's wanting to address it, and I understand that he's confined in his attempt by the genre he works in, so I actually rooted for him to succeed. Unfortunately, I was unmoved by the scenes of mothers crying over the corpses of their children. Crap, if anything should be able to move me, it's that.
Maybe if there had been a different art team. I like the anime-influenced work of Pasquale Qualano, Vincenzo Acunzo, and Barbara Ciardo in principle. I think it's a cool, different look for the book. And they're not inept at depicting emotions through facial expressions and body language. Yet, for most of the story, Valkyrie has all the expression of a Barbie doll, even when she's weeping.
And on the other end of the pendulum, the grieving mother is so melodramatic that she seems unreal. We're not watching a grieving mother; we're watching a bad actress portray a grieving mother.
Likewise, She-Hulk's posture doesn't always match up with what she's saying. Her words may be calmly accepting an invitation to dinner, but her pose looks like she's about to leap into battle. I get that she's angry, but wouldn't an upright pose with balled fists and a defiant, dangerous stare be just as effective and more appropriate given the dialogue? Because of all that, I'm really reluctant to blame David's script for the failure here.
I'd like to forget about the "ripped-from-the-headline" part of the story and judge it based just on the superhero aspects, but that's actually pretty mediocre too. The villain is a good one in the sense that he's smart, despicably evil, and has powerful weapons, but his master plan is essentially to kill some innocents in the most passive way imaginable and to rape some Liberators along the way. That triggers an interesting conflict in She-Hulk, but the resolution of that conflict is rather lame.
Another spoiler warning
She-Hulk really wants to kill this guy and I don't blame her. For all the story's flaws, portraying She-Hulk's anger at the villain is not one of them. I was absolutely convinced that she wanted him dead and I was rooting for her to do it. I don't know if it's because "superheroes don't kill" or what, but she ends up not killing him. Instead, she and Jazinda fake his death and exile him to the Australian outback. Meanwhile, the new leader of Marinmer promises to be just as corrupt as his predecessor.
End spoiler warning.
The point being that nothing changes and that superheroes are ineffectual in real-world crises. Which a) I already knew, and b) is a pretty bleak message for a superhero book. Leaving me once again to wonder what the reason for this exercise was. The only real lesson I've learned from it is that it shouldn't be tried again.