People who love She-Hulk really love She-Hulk. A lot of these people are women. Lawyer when human, party-girl superhero when green, always funny, always feminist, occasionally cheesecake. Maybe not the worst fit for a funny
So Disney has apparently noticed that women like superheroines. Rock on, I say. And they decided to test the commercial waters in a cost-effective way, with a couple of
YA chick-lit women’s fiction novels from Hyperion coming this month. The lucky heroines? She-Hulk and Rogue. This, I thought, could go very wrong or very right. And then I got my hands on the actual books.
The genre category for these books is a little confused – are they YA, teen romance, romance novels, women’s fiction, what? One of the promo pieces that came with the books refers to them as “romance novels”, but as someone who reads romance novels, reading The She-Hulk Diaries, I would never have guessed. It’s more like (shh, whisper the name) chick-lit. I mean that in the fondest possible way – Jen spends more time concerned with her new job and case, being She-Hulk and having wacky adventures with her friends than she does with her designated love interest, and I like it that way.
So for now, let’s talk She-Hulk Diaries. More on Rogue Touch, which is a very different book, later.
This book is definitely set firmly in the main Marvel 616 universe. Marta Acosta did her research and it shows, everywhere from Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk’s personality to her professional and romantic history, and yet it’s not crowded with unnecessary continuity callbacks. All you need to know is that Jen Walters is a lawyer who’s quirky, friendly and doesn’t take herself too seriously, while She-Hulk is Jen green, seven feet tall, and turned up to 11.
Set at some point after Dan Slott’s hilarious run on She-Hulk, the story begins as Jen finds herself between jobs and between apartments at New Years, not to mention between relationships. She also has a bit of a PR problem due to She-Hulk’s hard partying habits. She signs on with the law firm QUIRC (Quintal, Ulrich, Iverson, Ride and Cooper), resolving to have fun in ways that won’t get her fired and actively start looking for love. Of course, because this is a She-Hulk book, this ends up involving clones, supervillains and LARPing.
Highlights include meeting an incompetent would-be pickup artist at a Game of Thrones meetup (he thought a topless Rogue t-shirt was a good way to pick up geek girls, he was wrong) and firmly teaching him the error of his ways, a sinisterly addicting smoothie chain and a hilariously random Doctor Doom eruption. Because really, when you have vague and shadowy villains, one of them is almost always going to turn out to be Doctor Doom, right?
The book falls down a bit when it tries to wedge in a few romance novel and chick-lit tropes regardless of whether or not they fit. Jennifer Walters, AKA She-Hulk, who has cheerfully dated an impressive swath of superheroes from Luke Cage to Tony Stark to Man-Wolf, has secretly never gotten over her college one-weekend stand… who we have never heard of before. But don’t worry, we will now, because just after she mentions him, guess who comes into her life! Yes, it seems even She-Hulk needs a One True Love she met an impressionable age, because apparently True Love never happens over thirty. Right. Also, Jen often comments enviously in her diary on how petite and cute other women are, unlike herself. When she meets her unpleasant new co-worker Amber, mere dislike is turned into roiling hatred by Amber’s smugly perfect beauty. Guess who’s Jen’s romantic rival? No, really, guess. Thank god there aren’t pages devoted to badly-researched shoe envy and shoe shopping. I survived the chick-lit boom, I know whereof I speak.
So how about that one true love? Or, as Jen calls it in her diary PFLOML – Potential Future Love Of My Life. Aside from an Alias Jennifer Jones-level retcon into Jen’s past, when he’s actually present, Ellis Quintal aka Ellis Tesla is a worthy enough love interest. Exciting enough for She-Hulk, sane enough not to drive Jen crazy. When Jen was in college, he was the lead singer of a science-themed indie band and they had a whirlwind weekend romance. Of course, through a drunken comedy of errors, he got her name wrong and wrote an entire song cycle dedicated to “Gin”, but never called her. Because apparently neither of them has ever heard of Facebook, Google or the phone book. What is it about romance plots that tends to make characters too stupid to live? They are, of course, so blatantly perfect for each other that an adorable dying child plays matchmaker for them. Yeah, that actually happens.
But what the heck. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s She-Hulk. Why not?