Book Review: The She-Hulk Diaries By Marta Acosta

she-hulk-diaries When I was a kid and had fallen hard for comics, I went all in. I was reading all the comics I could afford, watching every cartoon and comic-based show I could and reading books based on comic characters. At the time, Marvel ruled the roost when it came to most of these comic book subcategories. I might have been a hardcore DC comic book fan, but I could enjoyed all things comic related outside that specific format. I remember reading books about Spider-Man, the X-Men and even one by longtime Incredible Hulk scribe Peter David.

When I got an email asking if I’d be interested in reading a pair of new Marvel books from Hyperion aimed at female readers, I was certainly intrigued. I responded and the very nice woman I talked to asked if I could get both books read and reviewed by June 18th. I did really well with Marta Acosta’s The She-Hulk Diaries, but wound up hitting a series of roadblocks with Christine Woodward’s Rogue Touch, all of which revolved around work and family obligations, but I hope to get that review up on the site early next week.

I chose She-Hulk to read first not because I’m more familiar with the charcter, but because it was longer and I figured I’d knock out the biggest challenge first. Before reading much about the story or diving into the book I assumed it was going to be a Sex And The City type thing following Shulky’s wild adventures as a superheroine, city girl and big time lawyer. That’s not the case, though, which came as a relief to this review who has cringed every single time Carrie Bradshaw has appeared on his screen.

Instead the book is a first person autobiographical account of She-Hulk’s alter ego Jennifer Walters, the other side of the Jade Giantess who also happens to be a lawyer, but one with a lot more inhibitions. The concept behind this book is that Jennifer has decided to make Valentine’s Day resolutions as opposed to New Year’s ones in an effort to actually get them done. She’s writing about them in a diary because her PR woman at the Avengers gave it to her. So there you have it. Part of her list involves finding a job, finding a boyfriend, meeting new people and being more outgoing. As someone who deals with many of the insecurities revolving around those things, I could relate even though I am not a single woman in the city.

As Jennifer winds up getting a job she finds herself face to face with the lead singer of a band she had a wild weekend of passion with when she was in college. Now he’s a scientist engaged to a fellow attorney who happens to be awful. Her firm is representing a handsome guy scientist who claims that a company creating artificial organs did so knowing the organs would only last for a short time. Meanwhile, a few other masked and super powered people are hanging around though not ones anyone’s familiar with. That’s all part of the story which impressively features everything from superhero and lawyer elements to medical ones and even LARPing.

I really enjoyed all those elements, but being a longtime comic fan, I figure it makes sense that I comment on that part of the story. First and foremost, I have very little experience with She-Hulk. I have a vague understanding of what happened in the run of her book by Dan Slott that everyone loves and think there are some elements of that in here. I think it might be easier to jump into this book if you know almost nothing about Shulky or the Marvel Universe. As it is, I kept trying to figure out how everything fit together, which is not easy because the newest Marvel comic I’ve read is about a year old. However, I thought they did some really interesting things with the Avengers as an organization. Again, I’m not sure if these elements are in the comics right now, but the version of the group in this book is a massive organization where the superheroes are the main team, but there’s a gigantic bureaucracy working underneath dealing with everything from PR to vehicle rental. In addition, the group pays for the damage that its members do and also has all kinds of tunnels and hideouts throughout the city that its members — even ones like She-Hulk who aren’t officially part of the A-team anymore thanks to her hard partying ways — can use. I dug all that. I did not dig the big reveal at the end which seemed broadcast very early on, but it’s not like figuring the gist out in advance derails the rest of the ride.

greg-horn-she-hulk-2So, the question is whether a new person with little to no experience with She-Hulk as a character woud enjoy this book. As I mentioned above, I do think you could hand this book to a fresh reader and they can enjoy it (assuming you know the kinds of books they enjoy and this sounds somewhat in that vein). Acosta does a wonderful job explaining the more unusual elements while also keeping things fun and light for most of the story, dipping into melodrama and legit drama when it makes sense. Sure, some elements of Jennifer’s speech/writing patterns can get annoying, like her constant listing of items in a 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C format or using the word “ooky” or relaying the advice she gives to clients the exact same way every time, but I’m sure if you looked back at my diaries, they’d be similarly repetitive  People tend to fall back on routine when explaining and talking, so it fits for the format.

While I think that anyone CAN read this book, I’m not quite sure who will read it. I would assume some population of the superhero comic book audience will seek it out, but who else? This and Rogue Touch seem aimed at women, but is your average lady reader going to see these books on display and want to commit to reading them? I mean, people loved Hulk in Avengers, but She-Hulk’s main exposure to a wide audience came during a 90s animated series on UPN. My wife wondered the same thing, even suggesting that they could have more slyly introduced the superhero or comic elements instead of putting them right on front street. Not sure if that would work, but it could have been interesting. If these books do well, it could even point to more interesting ways of presenting these characters in television and film. An action packed romantic comedy featuring She-Hulk could be pretty awesome and bring in a whole new kind of audience (you know, for the 10 or 12 people who didn’t see Avengers).

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