Robot 6

Why you should be reading ‘Red She-Hulk’

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Things got a little unmanageable with the Hulk comics for a while: We had two Hulks running around, each with his own series (plus Son of Hulk) and I started losing track of the She-Hulks when Jennifer Walters was joined not only by Red She-Hulk, but also Thundra She-Hulk. It was too much and I checked out, even though Jeff Parker was writing some of those comics — and Jeff Parker comics are among my favorites.

In a roundabout way, his writing is why you should be reading Red She-Hulk (not that the gorgeous art by Carlo Pagulayan, Wellington Alves and Val Staples should be ignored), but I’m going to get more specific than that. My point is that I wouldn’t blame you for rolling your eyes at Red She-Hulk’s having her own series when the real She-Hulk doesn’t (not outside of FF anyway). I don’t think Parker would either, though. From the way Red She-Hulk is presented in the early issues of the series, it appears that Parker knows he has some work to do in making her a character that readers want to spend time with.

This is something that Red She-Hulk shares with Geoff Johns’ Aquaman, but Johns went meta with his story and all but included cameos of himself looking directly at the reader and screaming, “Aquaman doesn’t suck!” Parker uses more art. Specifically, he uses Machine Man, aka the Reason You Should Be Reading Red She-Hulk. Stay with me here, because I know Machine Man’s not usually much more of a draw than Red She-Hulk is.

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I gave Red She-Hulk a shot for two reasons: A lot of it is Parker, but a lot of it is also that the Hulk’s corner of Marvel is more under control now. If either of those was out of the equation, a story about angry Betty Banner wouldn’t appeal to me. I’m old enough that my Betty was the rock in Bruce Banner’s world, and it’s tough to get used to that rock getting all shaky and turning red.

Likewise, Machine Man has never been a character that interested me. The way I remember him, he’s Inspector Gadget with all the funny replaced by moping. I’m as shocked as anyone that I look forward each month to a Red She-Hulk/Machine Man buddy comic, but Parker made it happen by playing up the underdog angle.

As the series begins, Machine Man isn’t as much of an outsider as Betty Banner. She’s on the run and is attacking military installations, so nobody likes her. Machine Man is at least hanging out with the Avengers, even if he doesn’t get to sit at the cool kids’ table in the lunchroom. Because of Machine Man’s past interaction with Betty, Captain America calls in the robot to help figure out why she’s doing what she’s doing. Cap seems impatient with the mission, partially because he doesn’t like the military program Betty’s trying to destroy, but it also feels like he doesn’t take it all that seriously. He mostly hangs out in the quinjet, managing Machine Man’s operation more than directly participating in it.

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This isn’t a flaw, it’s a way that Parker emphasizes his main characters’ outsider status by keeping Captain America, the ultimate insider, disengaged from them. When things get out of control and Betty becomes a real threat, that’s the point where the insiders (in the form of additional Avengers Iron Man, Thor, and Captain Marvel) get involved and try to stop her. It’s fascinating though because they’re the heroes who are trying to stop Betty from hurting innocent people, but they kind of come off as jerks about it. Machine Man keeps ticking off the clues that Betty’s restraining herself, but the Avengers don’t really wanna listen. They’re focused on the job of taking her down. This is as it should be and they never feel out of character doing it, but Machine Man stays in the reader’s head, casting doubt about which side to root for.

There are seven issues of the series so far, including this week’s Red She-Hulk #64. Betty has escaped the Avengers (for now) and gone on to tangle with other adversaries like S.H.I.E.L.D., the temporally displaced “ghost” of Nicola Tesla, and the horrible (in a good way) Son of Mole Man. As she has, Machine Man has patiently tracked and teamed up with her to figure out the best way of dealing with a powerful, ancient machine that uses the Earth itself to predict the future. It’s a beautiful, pulpy plot, but the best part is Machine Man’s persistence in trying to figure Betty out; something she hasn’t really been able to do herself.

These guys aren’t outsiders or underdogs because they’re losers. In fact, they’re extremely powerful and capable. But they’re also rough around the edges and misunderstood, which makes them perfect characters for a Hulk comic. And speaking of which: Betty may not be a rock of strength and consistency anymore, but it’s sure nice to see that she has one of her own.

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Comments

30 Comments

Simon DelMonte

April 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

I just have a hard time feeling like turning Betty into a Hulk was a good idea. I will admit that I have not read any Hulk books of recent vintage. But I know the PAD era well, and I don’t see why “making Betty red and seven feet tall” was a necessary character move. She was a strong character without being physically strong.

But I tend to be the sort that thinks Marvel has made a number of mistakes in abandoning all the things PAD did with the Hulk and his nearest and dearest.

Also, while I am glad Jen Walters is still in the FF spotlight, I wish she was the She-Hulk getting a title.

Which isn’t to say that if I find a Red She-Hulk TPB in the library I won’t read it. Parker is usually quite reliable as a writer.

I agree, the Red She-Hulk comic is well worth the read and I never thought I would like the Machine Man so much. My only complaint, get a new cover artist that makes it pop on the stand. Would love to see a cover or two by Dale Keown.

This book unappealing. Betty written badly as she-hulk that continues that started stupidly written by Jeph Loeb. If betty was written better as she-hulk in a better story then maybe I would read it. PAD wrote betty better then this and probably would write better then this.

That’s funny, I just read a review a few weeks ago that said she was being treated like a “guest star character in her own book.” http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=5762

Let’s see a Comic Book Resources point vs. counterpoint debate! I’m inclined to give it a whirl–maybe pick up the run when the trade comes out.

@Chance, “My only complaint, get a new cover artist that makes it pop on the stand. Would love to see a cover or two by Dale Keown.”

WTF? That Francavilli cover is awesome! It’s more than enough to get me to buy it.

I met Red She-Hulk in Fraction’s Defenders and instantly wanted more. When I saw @jeffparker was writing a series with Betty as the star, how could I not check it out? The art has been gorgeous, the story entertaining, it is always at the top of my stack on weeks that it comes out. Top that off with beautiful @f_francavilla covers on the past two issues, and the 2.99 cover price, I just don’t see how anyone could have a problem with the book.

I dropped this after the first arc, and I need some convincing to go back. A few things have thrown me. One, I stuck through Parker’s spiritual predecessor, RED HULK, through the end, but even that was a struggle. The plots got a little dry and repetitive–I don’t know why, but I had a hard time caring about Aztec gods and a giant suit of armor from space. Two, although Parker writes decent dialogue, I’m grated by his lack of attention to detail on some items. Occasionally he twists continuity to serve his story needs (yeah, I know that everybody does that)–there was a story involving ZZAXX in RED HULK where he changed a lot of detail regarding Ross’ invovlement with the character. Similarly, Parker’s portrayal of the military in the book was way off; I honestly felt like he was throwing around general military terms (“battalion,” “yeoman”) without any sense of what they meant.

The biggest offender to me–and this isn’t Parker’s fault–is the fact that Betty has been lifted from supporting cast member to yet-another-superhero. Marvel’s doing a lot of this lately, of course. Betty’s dad is also a Hulk, Flash Thompson is Venom, Pepper Potts is Iron Woman. Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s not, but it feels like Marvel has very little room for supporting cast these days unless they have some kind of powers. It’s symptomatic of the fact that Marvel decreasingly resembles the universe I remember from when I grew up. The Hulk is wearing armor, Thor’s costume is wrong, X-Men are Avengers. Change may be necessary and appeal to some, but it’s throwing me as an older reader. It’s also throwing my enjoyment of the main HULK book–Waid is using Banner with a completely unfamiliar cast that I don’t give two hoots about, but it’s what he’s stuck with because Ross, Betty, and Rick are all Hulks. Betty’s current role may just be symptomatic of what I’m not enjoying right now.

@michael may:
hey,
whatever happened to food or comics? that was my favourite weekly cyber stop!
Thank you

allwillbemine

April 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I’ve flipped through this book every month and liked what I saw, but my budget was maxed. Now its free, and honestly, I’m afraid to jump on board. I did some research and saw that RSH is below 20k in sales (estimated).

I don’t want to start reading a book only for it to suddenly end.

However, its a fine looking book. I like Mole Monster (Parker, he needs a mini series!) and I enjoy Parker’s creativity. I also like how it looks like this is a pulp book, with the exotic locations and monsters that also made me like Parker’s run on Hulk.

But that threat of cancellation looms large for me. Any way I could get a reading from the grapevine about this books future? I know one person, myself, can’t save it, but I’d like to know there’s more stories to read down the road if I jump on this train now.

I enjoy the book but Adam nailed it with how Marvel is taking too many supporting cast members and making them superheroes. My problem with this title is that I can’t see Betty Ross written as she has been written over the years becoming this character. Love Machine Man though!

I believe this is more Parker’s pitch for a Machine Man series than doing anything meaningful with Betty Ross/Red She-Hulk.

Is there a reason these stories cannot be told for the regular She-Hulk and we need one with another color? I was counting for a regular Betty to be the human companion of Hulk. Then agan, what do I know about comics!

Nonobstant2000

April 6, 2013 at 8:55 am

.. if I tended to support previous comments about the supporting cast, fact is you can’t gravite around power house like there are in the MU without something to happen . Death meaning nothing, or being the easy way, all you have to do is mutating.

Wasn’t interested neither by RED HULK at first -excepted for Gabriel Hardman’ art – because I’ve never seen more ridiculous idea (if at last he kept the mustache) neither than I’ll never forgive Jeph Loeb to have waisting such a wonderful character Doc Samson was. Rick Jones has mutating, well why not Betty.. Times proved us even Bucky Barnes could be brought back to life and become an interesting player -though I’d prefer him as NOMAD than WS, just sayin’ – because it’s all about what the authors are doing with the character that only matter..

With RSH, I’m having a Marvel book as I like them : pulpy yes, with a supporting character I love.
Not sure Aaron Stack could support his own title for now or later, except if he’s throwing in such interesting quest , like Parker is actually doing with Betty, but I’m glad to see him around, and I hope there will be few more other B-Listers .. I think Parker knows his job enough to give more consistency soon to his main character at the same time

I liked having a bigger Hulk influence and more Hulk titles. When Skaar and Lyra dropped off the face of the Marvel Universe and Jen was sent back to a cameo character I dropped them all and though I love Red She-Hulk as a character I’m still skeptical of what they’re doing with the Hulk family of characters so I may not be ready to come back yet.

I’m still hoping for a Avengers of Atlas series by Parker. It seems the only way to keep Atlas viable is slapping Avengers on the title so I say go for it!

I don’t get why we need a Red She-Hulk, what’s wrong with the Green one we already have?

I think there being another color of She-Hulk is what makes this book such a hard sell. “Normal” She-Hulk is already a hard sell – and the fact she’s called She-Hulk at all (instead of under her own different name) can make the character feel like she’s just a derivative. (You don’t see Spider-Woman being called She-Spider-Man)

The last run of She-Hulk under Dan Slott was brilliant. If they needed to visit the She-Hulk idea, visit that one. Like others have said, it would’ve been nice if Betty Ross had stayed Betty Ross. It’s nice to have a human supporting cast to ground the Marvel heroes.

Red She-Hulk is a particular favorite book right now. I picked it up because I like Jeff Parker’s work, and I wanted to support a book with a female lead. What I found was a really fun adventure story that’s set squarely in the Marvel Universe, but takes place around the edges of that setting. Despite the story about trying to prevent future disaster caused by a military project, it doesn’t feel like a superhero story, as if she and Machine Man are fighting a super-villain plot. It feels more like an adventure story, and that’s why I’m really enjoying it as something separate and distinct from the other Marvel books I’m reading.

This title is on my short list to keep up with every month. I love machine Man in this book. The art is awesome. And the story is interesting. I hope Indestructible Hulk can be that way soon.

In Carlo’s hands, it’s rare for us to be disappointed! And to Parker, you deserve more recognition than ever!

Duff McWhalen

April 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

To the people complaining about supporting characters becoming super heroes: she’s not really a superhero, if that somehow makes you less cynical.

Beware Of Geek

April 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm

“Likewise, Machine Man has never been a character that interested me. The way I remember him, he’s Inspector Gadget with all the funny replaced by moping. ”

I have one word for you:

NEXTWAVE.

Jeff Parker is Awesome. Is there any other reason necessary? It’s the only book ballsy enough to take some of Hickman’s SHIELD ideals. You can’t get farther away from Loeb than Parker.

Love this title. Consistently entertaining… and it’s great to see someone doing something with Machine Man after Ellis used him to tremendous effect in Nextwave.

Kard, I loved Slott’s She-Hulk run too, but “Hulk-Woman” is a terrible name…

Peter Morningstar

April 7, 2013 at 3:53 am

Definitely not a book i’ll be picking up, no interest in the character whatsoever, and have to agree with previous comments about turning Betty into a Hulk, being a bad idea.
Never been a fan of Parker’s writing either, which i’ve previously found to be hard going at times.
Nothing about this book appeals, it just seems to be one of Marvels ‘Shelf Fillers’, as i think the poor sales indicate.
Bottomline: really don’t see the point of this book at all.

Potomac Ripper

April 7, 2013 at 4:24 am

You just did the impossible and got my to buy three issues of Red She Hulk

Supergirl's Pal

April 7, 2013 at 9:56 am

Machine Man is the perfect straight man for Betty. I have enjoyed this series from the very beginning and I look forward to Jen’s guest appearance shortly.

akkadiannumen

April 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm

“I don’t get why we need a Red She-Hulk, what’s wrong with the Green one we already have?”
“Is there a reason these stories cannot be told for the regular She-Hulk and we need one with another color?”

@Kard and @Ted: As Red She-Hulk, Betty is practically a brand new character. That gives her several advantages over Jennifer in terms of what can be done with her. Her behavior, her reactions, etc., all different from Jennifer’s. Consequently, the stories play out differently.

The only quibble I have with this title is that Parker has turned Machine Man into the straight man. What happened to all of his NEXTWAVE characterisation?

Matt Halteman

April 8, 2013 at 7:33 am

This is a book that I really, really want to like. I love Jeff Parker, Machine Man is awesome and I’m a big fan of the “adventure” feel that it brings. What ruins it for me is a lack of interest in the actual Red She-Hulk character and the artwork. Pagulayan and Alves are okay, but their stuff gets a bit too stiff and photo-referenced for my taste. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I read the first six issues and it just didn’t grab me like I wanted it to. If they could get a better artist with a quirkier, more distinctive stye, I would be much more inclined to keep following it.

Oddly enough, Machine is *exactly* the reason I’m reading this book. Well, he was the reason I gave it a shot, but the book itself has been enjoyable enough for me to keep going.

@Dean: I believe Machine Man made a comment about his recent upgrade at the beginning of the run and there was an implication that this was the reason for his change in demeanor. I like both versions, though it was maybe a bit too jokey for anything other than “Nextwave.” I wouldn’t mind if a little “robot brain needs beer” sneaks back in, but all-in-all I’m happy to see what Parker is doing with him. (though I still miss the finger-guns)

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