Saturday, July 12, 2014

Editorial Critique: She-Hulk #3 by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido

Overall Rating: 4/10 (Last Issue: 6)
Jennifer's character continues to stagnate with glacial growth and unclear motivations.  Jennifer's latest client, Kristoff Vernard (son of Victor Von Doom), seems hastily developed as a character and despite the roller-coaster nature of his plot line, reader empathy for him is minimal.  Soule continues to produce great raw material for a compelling series, but seems to squander opportunities to develop and heighten drama.

Writing Technique: 8/10 (Last Issue: 8)
Continued demonstration of excellent clarity and economy.

Story Telling: 4/10 (Last Issue: 5)
Cause and effect still logical drives the plot, albeit with wacky comics hi-jinks license.  Character driven drama is minimal, thus the reduction in score from last issue.

Characters: 3/10 (Last Issue: 6)
Glaring failure to develop and expose Vernard's emotional stake in his asylum effort.  Jennifer's motivation to zealously help Vernard is vague, and she seems increasingly bland.  As discussed below, squandered opportunities to heighten character drama.

Art: 8/10 (Last Issue: 8)
Pulido continues to shine, capturing the plot's sense of urgency in the faces and body language of the characters.

Scene Analysis
Scene 0
Jennifer directly addresses the reader with a recap of the prior issues events.

It's a little early in the series to know whether we should be taking soliloquy as Jennifer's voice, or Soule's or a Marvel editor's.  Interestingly, as an aside Jennifer mentions Hellcat's emotional turmoil and that employing her might be providing some grounding.  This develops Jennifer's character somewhat, portraying her as both empathetic to people with "issues," and perhaps a bit maternal or sisterly.  

Scene 1
Robots surround Jennifer (not green) and someone, presumably Vernard but wearing a hoody to hide his face.

As foreshadowing, res ipsa loquitor.
Scene 2
Jennifer conducts a client interview of Vernard in her office.  He explains she is his lawyer of last-resort, having been rejected by other firms out of fear of his father.  They continue their conversation out of the office to a coffee shop and stroll, ultimately returning to the office.  While on their stroll Vernard explains he is seeking asylum in the US because his father's grooming to be heir to the dictatorship makes him file like "puppet".

The scene feels like its primary purpose is to introduce Vernard's character.  He comes off as an arrogant, spoiled playboy type, but with some thoughtfulness about his father's work.  That said, he doesn't reject his father's evilness per se, he only rejects his father's control over him personally.  Thus the character appears shallow.

The in-office setting features both Jennifer's paralegal Huang and her monkey Hei Hei taking notes of Jennifer's conversation.  The monkey's notes turn out to be scribbles, but are praised by Ms.Huang.  It's not entirely clear to me whether Soule is taking a clever jab at law office personnel by way of subtle analogy, or if the joke goes no further than the absurdity of a monkey taking notes and Ms. Huang's relationship with the monkey.

Scene 3
After being informed by Doom in the last scene that he had arrived one year ago to the day in the US, Jennifer must rush him to the courthouse for an asylum hearing.  They are at first driven in Vernard's chauffeured car.  In transport Jennifer call a friendly judge for the favor of an immediate hearing, while Vernard on his cell phone calls a paramour to arrange a date, but is depicted leering at Jennifer.  Vernard's chauffeur turns out to be a doom bot and takes them to a small  airport with the intent of forcefully returning Vernard home on a small jet.  Jennifer defeats the doom bot, and borrows a Fantastic Four jet car that luckily is hangered at that airport.  Vernard advises the chauffeur bot probably arranged for more bots to inhibit their efforts to reach the courthouse, to which Jennifer reveals she already has a plan.

The scene's action and plot are very simple, serving the purpose of developing a farcical cat-and-mouse game between Jennifer and Doom bots as she tries to get Doom to the courthouse.  Jennifer's character develops only slightly, as her friendly relationship with the judge (revealed by the tone of her call requesting an emergency hearing) continues the portrayal of Jennifer having "connections," and an ability to get things done through relationships she's built over time.  I suppose the scene also reveals Jennifer's stubborn persistence (but what super hero lacks that?).   It is not clear whether Doom's leering at Jennifer foreshadows some kind of relationship between the two, or is merely to amplify the lecherous playboy archetype.  Only this development of Vernard, if it ever materializes, saves the scene from feeling like filler.

Scene 4
Tying back to Scene 1, Jennifer and a hooded person we initially assume to be Vernard, are on courthouse steps surrounded by Doom bots.  A fight ensues, revealing the hooded person was actually Hellcat acting as a decoy to allow Vernard to sneak into the courthouse.

The decoy twist speaks for itself, economically well executed.  Jennifer's character develops by adding cleverness to the mix.  Hellcat's portrayal as a brawler continues.

Scene 5
Jennifer rushes into the court room, a brief hearing is held and asylum granted.  Instantly Victor Von Doom crashes through the ceiling and absconds with his son.  Before leaving, a brief exchange is had between Von Doom, Vernard, and Jennifer.  Von Doom expresses his disappointment in his son, who acknowledges his father's sentiment and seems to resign himself to his fate.  Jennifer urges Vernard to resist, and vows to rescue him.

The closing scene is perhaps the most dramatic thus far, but misses a few beats.  With excellent economy, the relationship between Doom and Vernard is portrayed, Vernard's resignation to his fate is revealed, as well and Jennifer's empathy and resolve for her client.  There does strike me as a bit of a hole in how quickly Vernard resigns to his fate.  He had, after all, somehow left Latervia in the first place, persisted after rejections by a dozen lawyers before finding Jenifer, seen Jennifer outwit the doom bots in the race to the courthouse, and just been granted immunity.  Why give up hope so easily now?  Also, the scene could have been even more powerful if the issue had built up the stakes in Vernard's hopes for asylum as a sort of finish line.  Even if he is the aloof sort, and always suspected his father would win out in the end, spiking his hopes somehow right before the finale might have made the scene more powerful, and his resignation all the more powerful.

Also, Jennifer's resolve to rescue him lacks a defined motivation that would help her character along.  Does she want to rescue him simply because she's a super hero and that's her job?  Unfortunately, that's what it seems like.  But if it was clearer that Jennifer really empathizes with his situation and really wants to see him live his own life from out of his father's shadow, wouldn't that make her resolve more powerful?  Or if maybe there had been some hint of attraction, i.e. the cliche lure of the bad boy?

But as it stands, the personal stakes aren't there.  Sure, there is the personal stake of a lawyer and her client, and the lead for next issue's title is "The Zealous Advocate," but that's hard to empathize with and at the end of the day, is just business.  Indeed, if the motivation is purely lawyer/client, Jennifer's last case undermines that "zealous advocate" aspect of her character, because she almost dropped that case but for a reminder that her client was a struggling widow with orphaned children.

So again, why should she care so much about Vernard?  Why should we?

No comments:

Post a Comment