Shop officially licensed Star Wars apparel!

Review: Hulk #3

hulk__3WARNING: Minor Spoilers, Ahoy!

Content Warning: Discussion of violence against women

In my first review for the new Hulk series, I mentioned but never went in-depth a side character named Maise Brewn. She is Jen’s first client. She is under threat of being evicted by a scumbag landlord that doesn’t like the fact she is obviously a metahuman or that she is, as he puts it, “a nut bag.” While Jen is dealing with her trauma, she’s also trying to help Maise. Unfortunately, Jen’s trauma has gotten in the way of helping her, and Maise is forced to take matters into her own hands.

It seems that someone other than Jen is helping Maise, but who they are is a mystery; they might not even be human and their methods are…unsavory.

Issue #3 of the new ongoing series by Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon focuses on the backstory of Maise Brewn, revealing a dark, broken past that mirrors the favorite green giantess, plus a cameo from BFF Patsy Walker aka Hellcat that further explores the complexity of trauma and recovery.

Jeff Dekal again nails the cover with his impressive use of colors. I especially love how Jen is gray. For some reason, the gray Hulk has always fascinated me. Not necessarily because of his personality, but the color gray fits better into the character’s Frankenstein monster aesthetic. I love how Jen is reaching for and tearing off a letter from the title logo. I explained how the current storyline, “Deconstructed”, is possibly about Jen being inflicted with the traditional meaning of the character, and her recovery is an attempt to break down and reconstruct Hulk as something positive. Issue #3 perfectly illustrates this theme.

However, I will admit that the cover doesn’t advertise the story in this issue. So, while aesthetically pleasing, it might not be the best visual representation of the actual events that take place. The past two issues have done so because they were heavily Jen-centered. Now that the story is branching out to focus on another character, it might be time to show more than just Jen.

Artist Nico Leon and colorist Matt Milla continue to present modern New York in its paradox between dirty and colorful, a clash between the buildings of old and yuppie apartments brought upon by economic prosperity. Unique character designs continue to appear, this time it’s a lizard man (No, not THAT lizard man) that comes to Jen with a case about how he obviously does not need to wear a hairnet for his job. Making a guest appearance is Patsy Walker as Hellcat, and her design is top notch. One thing I’ve always had a problem with comics that feature jumpsuits is the idea they are perfectly form-fitting. Leon smartly shows creases, folds, and parts of the suit that stretch and have empty space between body and suit. And she simply looks fabulous. Just look at that heroic pose!

hellcat-be-awesome.jpg

A great thing I failed to notice from the first two issues is Leon’s facial expressions. He has a knack of showing them change organically from one scene to another. This is especially true on close ups of characters that show the transition from one expression to the next. I know my original criticism stated human characters were too simplistic, but I’m willing to overlook it for this feature of the art.

The story continues Jen’s recovery from her trauma of losing both Bruce and control of her Hulk form. In one scene, a news report discussing the aftermath of Civil War 2 causes her to get angry; her eyes glow green, she accidentally breaks a laptop, and calls New York “trigger city.” For some, this remark might be tasteless, but there is reason for it. Both in real life and the Marvel Comic Universe, people can’t stop talking (mostly negative) about the aftermath. It’s a big deal, people will constantly discuss, and Jen will continue to be triggered without them realizing. So, her “trigger city” comment isn’t an inappropriate joke but a justified expression of outrage toward a city, a world, that doesn’t understand how she feels. This is sadly a reality for some trauma victims, feeling alone and isolated. When you feel like that, it’s tempting to lash out either through words or worse.

Sometimes dealing with trauma can appear selfish. Another scene has Jen, after talking with the lizard man client, asks “are all my clients, today, all like this.” The line suggests that she wants to have a client that isn’t a meta human. She wants to try to distance herself as much as possible from the subject and to, or at least pretend, be normal. In the story, the self-care is both understandable and selfish at the same time because while Jen does take care of herself, there are needy people she can’t help them. It’s definitely not fair, but, again, trauma is complex.

A big part of Jen’s complex trauma is simultaneously wanting to be alone and needing help. This is where Hellcat’s guest appearance comes into play. Hellcat is worried about Jen and wants to help, but she insists on just working. Hellcat gives up and decides to give Jen her space, but not without promising that no matter how much she might act like isolation is best, Hellcat will not disappear from her life. As Hellcat leaves, Jen smiles and says “I’m counting on it.”

This scene is so important because it shows one of the most important things someone with a friend with trauma can do: Be patient and persistent. Again, trauma is complex. It puts a person through a whirlwind of emotions. They are both sure and unsure of what they need. A friend that wants to help has to give them what they want but also insist “I’m not going anywhere.” It’s strange, going back and forth between soft and tough love. Also, it’s not always like this. I’m simply speaking from personal experience. Jen’s comment acknowledges Hellcat’s patient/persistent approach is helping her out. There is hope for Jen to recovery and reach out to friends again. However, if she’s not careful, isolation will devour her like Maise Brewn.

Maise Brewn’s backstory revealed, providing pity for her character and a reflection of Jen Walters. Without giving away too much, Maise used to be a lot like Jen. Unfortunately, she was assaulted and deeply traumatized.

Now, hold on! Breathe. There is absolutely no rape or implied rape. It’s an attempted murder. However, I can understand how violence against women of any kind can be seen as insensitive. Lots of writers like to use it in ways that cheapens the violence to the point of exploitation, and not the good kind found in Troma films. I’m happy to say though that isn’t the case. Mariko Tamaki handles it with a lot of care, no grisly details or triggering imagery shown outside of Maise in her hospital bed.

The only issue that could be had is that Maise’s backstory further Jen’s plot. It has to. After all, she is Maise’s lawyer. However, this doesn’t mean Maise is reduced to a plot device. All three issues thus far spend a good chunk of time with the character to make the reader understand and pity her. The actions she commits are reprehensible but foreseeable given her situation.

Actually, Maise’s problem is isolation. She rarely leaves her house and has little contact to the outside world. Without a support system, her resorting to extreme measures is a consequence. She has lost her humanity. In this way, Maise is a dark reflection of Jen Walters, what she could potentially become if isolation and anger get the best of her. Hopefully, Jen will be able to help Maise and see how she herself needs to avoid these kind of mistakes less the Hulk comes out.

All of the other strong points from issues #1-2 are present: humor, emotional resonance, and enjoyable characters. The only negative criticism I have is that the pace of the comic is stretching itself. I love the gradual pace, but there is a point where it can be too much. Hopefully, the next two issues are about to rev up the drama and much-deserved action is going to happen.

One last thing I will touch on is the character Florida Mayer, an opportunistic “therapist” wanting to write a book about Jen’s trauma. She is extremely sleazy and a good warning to make sure you choose the right people to let into your life to help out. It’s still uncertain if she is going to have a bigger role other than annoying attention fly, but it will be interesting to see if she does.

Hulk #3 is yet another satisfying issue that proves this new approach to the beloved character is unique and enjoyable. Expressive art, strong storytelling, and exploration of serious topics take what could have been a stereotypical grim dark take on superheroes and give it substance.

Story: Mariko Tamaki Art: Nico Leon, Matt Milla, Cory Petit, and Jeff Dekal
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

General DC