Screen Time [HulkaMAYnia]: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law


Since his explosive debut in May 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s gamma-irradiated Jade Giant has been one of their most recognisable and successful characters thanks, in large part, to the Incredible Hulk television show (1977 to 1982) catapulting the Hulk into a mainstream, pop culture icon. The Hulk has been no slouch in the comics either, being a founding member of the Avengers and undergoing numerous changes that have made him one of their most versatile and enduring characters, so what better way to celebrate all things Big Green than by dedicating every Sunday in May to the Green Goliath?


Air Date: 17 August 2022 to 12 October 2022
Network: Disney+
Stars: Tatiana Maslany, Todd Phelps, Jameela Jamil, Josh Segarra, Ginger Gonzaga, Tim Roth, and Mark Ruffalo

The Background:
Following the incredible success of the Incredible Hulk television show, Marvel had Stan Lee create a female counterpart to the Green Goliath to beat Incredible Hulk producer Kenneth Johnson to the punch. A powerful feminist icon for Marvel who has been a member of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, She-Hulk shared the spotlight with her cousin in the Incredible Hulk cartoon from the nineties and very nearly got her own live-action movie back then, too; Brigitte Nielsen was even cast to bring the character to life at the time. Decades later, Marvel Studios announced that She-Hulk would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with a nine-episode series streaming exclusively on Disney+, with Kat Coiro placed as the guiding hand behind the series and Tatiana Maslany cast in the dual role. She-Hulk’s visual effects were the work of multiple effects studios and initially caused some premature backlash, and the show promised not only to feature Mark Ruffalo as Doctor Bruce Banner/The Hulk in a mentor role but also the long-awaited return of Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination. After being delayed due to COVID-19, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law released to largely positive reviews; critics praised the performances and interpersonal slant towards a legal drama, and the comedic aspects were particularly lauded. Others, however, were not so impressed; some criticised the pacing, the CGI effects were a massive point of contention, and the show was slandered by online trolls throughout its run. Regardless, She-Hulk was also praised as an empowering series for female viewers that tackled the subject toxic masculinity and was highly regarded if only for returning a beloved, seemingly forgotten MCU character to the franchise. Finally, unlike other Disney+ MCU shows, Kevin Feige stated that She-Hulk had the potential to not only gain additional seasons but to also cross over into the MCU’s big-budget feature films.

The Plot:
After a car crash sees her blood contaminated with the Gamma-irradiated blood of her cousin, Bruce Banner, lawyer Jennifer Walters (Maslany) finds herself able to transform into a superpowered hulk. As she tries to adapt to her new situation, she tackles a series of unique superhero court cases and finds herself targeted by a slanderous online smear campaign.

The Review:
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law begins in medias res; Jen is already capable of becoming She-Hulk, her best friend and paralegal Nikki Ramos (Gonzaga) is aware of her abilities, and she immediately showcases her additional ability to address the audience to catch us up with her origin story. Jen was on a road trip with Bruce and the two of them were involved in a car crash caused by the sudden appearance of a Sakaaran spacecraft. While rescuing Bruce from the wreckage, some of his blood drips into her wound, instantly transforming her into a savage hulk in the first of many call-backs to the pilot episode of The Incredible Hulk. Disoriented and dishevelled, she’s unquestionably supported and fixed up by a gaggle of helpful women at a bar but is triggered by a group of pushy guys before being tackled by the Hulk and brought to his secluded island laboratory for testing and training. Jen is distraught at the idea of being handicapped by such a life-destroying condition and immediately annoyed and critical of the Hulk’s attempts to mentor her; this ends up going both ways, however, as the Hulk’s lifelong syllabus on controlling his rage is rendered mute by Jen’s natural ability to retain her personality and intelligence in her Hulk form since she’s so used to managing her emotions, both in public and at work, to avoid lashing out at every creep or being branded as inferior because of her gender, which allows her to willingly transform at will because, essentially, she’s always angry.

Jen’s transformation into a Hulk causes some major changes to her personal and professional life.

This presents the unique dichotomy of She-Hulk; while the Hulk strived for years to master his abilities and to reconcile his two warring halves, Jen immediately has full control of not only her strength but also her transformations; though she’s physically smaller and less savage than the Hulk, she showcases all of his abilities with the added benefit of greater physical control. However, despite the Hulk’s best efforts, Jen has no desire to abandon her life and her career to be a superhero; after a brawl, he reluctantly agrees to let her live her own life, but things quickly become complicated for the superpowered lawyer when, during a session in court, she’s forced to reveal her dual identity in front of the world when “superpowered influencer” Mary Macpherran/Titania (Jamil) literally crashes in and threatens lives. It takes Jen some time to embrace her superhero identity; she regularly distances herself from the She-Hulk name and constantly downplays the appeal and benefits of being a superhero, and her condition comes to negatively affect her when she’s fired and unable to find work at a conventional law firm. Holden Holliway (Steve Coulter) throws her a lifeline by offering her the chance to join a superhero law division at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (GLK&H); though initially annoyed that she’s been hired to represent clients as She-Hulk and as more of a publicity stunt than for her legal skills, she’s won over by her new office and just being back at work. Unfortunately for Jen, her troubles only escalate; the press constantly hound her, reporting rumours as facts and often belittling her because of her gender, and she’s even forced to set aside her personal bias in order to represent Emil Blonsky/The Abomination (Roth) at his parole hearing. This all comes to a head when Titania releases a rage of beauty products using the She-Hulk name and sues her for misuse of the copyright, which ties into a central theme of the series, which revolves around Jen learning to embrace both sides of her personality, the meek and somewhat awkward Jen and the sexually confident and alluring She-Hulk; throughout the show, she takes great strides in reconciling both in the court room by embracing her moniker and even later donning a form-fitting superhero outfit to directly assist others.

Jen’s struggles at romance are compounded by an online group that targets and slanders She-Hulk.

This character growth is full of little stumbles, however. Not only is she faced with an overbearing family who clearly care for her but can’t help but interfere and put her down, her love life is a bit of a shambles. Even after she reluctantly changes her online dating profile to a She-Hulk one, Jen is forced to endure a series of disastrous dates with self-obsessed, disrespectful, and down-right creepy men who either disregard her entirely or care only about comparing her to her more famous cousin, such as the uncomfortably obsessed Todd Phelps (Jon Bass), who later forms an entire online movement, Intelligencia, designed to hate on She-Hulk. Because of this, and Jen’s low self-esteem and desire for attention, it doesn’t take much for Arthur (Michel Curiel) to make an impression; he seems genuinely interested in her and actually engages her in conversation, however he has no interest in Jen and thus isn’t interested in pursuing a serious relationship with her. While attending the wedding of her high school friend, Lulu (Patti Harrison), Jen is surprised to make a connection with the charming Josh Miller (Trevor Salter), especially as she’s forced to stay in her human form so as not to steal Lulu’s spotlight. Josh appears to be the opposite of Arthur; he’s only interested in Jen and never really asks about She-Hulk and they actually take the time to date rather than jumping into bed right away. Unfortunately, after they do sleep together, he ghosts her, driving her to distraction; while she finds a measure of closure and self-respect thanks to some unlikely advice from Blonsky and the gaggle of misfit, rehabilitated supervillains at his retreat, she’s driven into an uncontrollable fury when Josh leaks her personal information, including photos and videos of her, to Intelligencia, resulting in her briefly losing the support of the public and being imprisoned.

Of all the guest stars to feature, Daredevil undeniably steals the show with his long-awaited return.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news for Jen in the romance department. While he initially rubs her the wrong way by proving to be a competent lawyer, blind, flirtatiously charming Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) proves to be a suitable confidante and partner after not only encouraging Jen to help others with her powers when the law fails them but also being unmasked as the superpowered vigilante Daredevil. Together, they’re able to rescue a mutual acquaintance, eccentric superhero fashion guru Luke Jacobson (Griffin Matthews), from wannabe superhero-turned-supervillain Eugene Patilio/Leap-Frog (Brandon Stanley) and, in the process, She-Hulk learns a little bit about what it means to be a superhero. The chemistry between them boils over following their fight and the series ends with the suggestion that they’re going to be a regular thing going forward since he joins her and her family for a meal. Although he steals the show in every scene, Daredevil isn’t the only guest star to feature in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law; Wong (Benedict Wong) shows up a few times, first to help with Blonsky’s appeal and then to ask for She-Hulk’s aid in barring disgraced sorcerer Donny Blaze (Rhys Coiro) from threatening the fabric of reality with his reckless magic. Similarly, the Hulk also plays an important role in the first episode; initially appearing as Bruce Banner thanks to a convenient inhibitor, he assumes his “Smart Hulk” form and puts Jen’s abilities to the test. He’s frustrated by her not taking his lessons seriously and tries to emphasise the burden and responsibility of being a Hulk, but ultimately trusts her to live her life her own way and disappears into space for his own side story, one that we’re not privy to but see the results of in the finale when he returns from Sakarr with his son, Skaar (Wil Deusner). We even get a couple of celebrity cameos as David Otunga and rapper Megan Thee Stallion feature in the series but the show’s breakout original character is clearly the brazen Madisynn King (Patty Guggenheim), a career party animal who makes a shady deal with a demonic goat and ends up forming an unlikely bond with Wong over their shared love of television.

While spending a lot of time in court, She-Hulk also explores her duality and self-esteem.

At its core, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a superhero comedy with a fair amount of courtroom drama serving as the focal point or backdrop of each episode. Whether it’s Jen trying to find a job in her field, Nikki and their co-workers Augustus “Pug” Pugliese (Segarra) and Mallory Book (Renée Elise Goldsberry) working cases involving shapeshifting elves or immortal cuckolds, rogue sorcerers or bumbling heroes, superhero law is naturally a large focus of the show. Conjecture, hearsay, trademarks, and faulty manufacturing are all elements that need to be addressed in a court of law, just like in normal life, but the superhero slant definitely makes these aspects more entertaining to watch. She-Hulk is often representing or even defending individuals who have wronged her in the past; she puts her neck on the line to vouch for the rehabilitated Blonsky, is called to speak to misogynistic Dennis Bukowski’s (Drew Matthews) stupidity, and is even forced to parade her former dates in order to prove that she identifies as She-Hulk. That’s not to say that the show is without any action scenes; Jen may prefer to use her legal skills more than her fists to resolve conflicts but she gets into a number of scraps throughout the show, often for comedic effect. Her first fight with Titania, for example, is over in a single punch and Jen forgets herself for a moment when she’s jumped by Wrecking Crew – Dirk Garthwaite/The Wrecker (Nick Gomez), Eliot Franklin/Thunderball (Justin Eaton), Henry Camp/Bulldozer (Tennison Barry), and Brian Calusky/Piledriver (Kyle Murillo) – when they try to steal her blood using Asgardian-powered construction tools, before easily dispatching them as She-Hulk. She-Hulk is specifically recruited by Wong to fend off the goblin demons Donny unwittingly summons, and she throws down with Titania again at Lulu’s wedding, much to the delight of the guests, but she chooses to leave the violence to Daredevil when confronting Leap-Frog and instead offers him legal counsel. Indeed, She-Hulk largely subverts a lot of the usual expectations when it comes to action sequences; she openly criticises Daredevil’s reliance on stealth and denies him another fight in a hallway and even finds herself really opening up to Blonsky and the oddball guests at his retreat since they can relate to her identity crisis.

Jen’s so annoyed at the derivative nature of her narrative that she forces the show to change tack for the finale.

She-Hulk’s true enemy here isn’t the monstrous Abomination, who’s now repentant and committed to offering emotional support and spiritual guidance, or even Titania, who’s strength makes her almost as formidable a foe as her spiteful nature. Instead, She-Hulk’s greatest foe throughout the series is toxic masculinity. We get our first taste of this moments into the first episode when Dennis undermines Jen’s abilities and suggests he’s a more capable lawyer than her; he continues to talk down to her even when addressing She-Hulk and, later, refuses to have her or Mallory represent him as he’d rather have a man. A shallow, arrogant little man, he refers to women as “hot chick” and “it” but it’s this delusional nature which ends up winning him the case against catfisher Runa (Peg O’Keef). Although a small-time annoyance, Dennis is just one example of the persecution Jen faces, both as herself and as She-Hulk; when the Wrecking Crew confront her, they accuse her of flaunting herself when she’s simply living her life and the press are constantly using derogatory terms to label her. Very few males treat her as an equal or with the respect she deserves, allowing the likes of Pug, Murdock, and even Blonsky to stand out as they actually engage with her and don’t condescend her or try to undermine her intelligence and abilities. Male chauvinism isn’t limited to just She-Hulk either; Craig Hollis/Mr. Immortal (David Pasquesi) lands himself in hot water after abandoning his many marriages by faking his death, leading to him not only earning Mallory and Nikki’s ire but also being forced to agree to a fair settlement tailored for each of his slighted partners. No male is more troublesome to She-Hulk’s stature than Todd, however; using the online alias “HulkKing”, Todd forms Intelligencia specifically to slander her and create a following of likeminded assholes to steal a sample of her blood so they can take the power they feel she doesn’t deserve. Still, luckily for Todd and his vile followers, Jen herself takes issue with the redundant nature of their plot and literally demands that the show try something a little more original, tailoring the ending into something a little less derivative and seeing that the HulkKing and his cohorts are exposed for the toxic, petty-minded jerks they are.

The Summary:  
There’s a real nasty environment that’s brewed online in the last few years where any product that even dares to try something new or feature a strong female lead, or include any kind of diversity, is immediately labelled as “woke”. Personally, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean and find it extremely degrading as it’s just some catch-all term mindless, anonymous idiots use to slander anything they don’t like. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law deals very heavily in this topic; although she largely ignores her online haters (primarily because she knows they wouldn’t dare say anything to her face), Jen is constantly besmirched and belittled both subtly and explicitly throughout the show. It’s small wonder, then, that she goes on a rampage, one eerily reminiscent of Carrie (De Palma, 1976), when Intelligencia publicly slut shame her at an award ceremony. This ceremony is perhaps the best example of the struggles Jen faces in her career; multiple women are named Female Lawyer of the Year and they’re paraded on stage like it’s a Miss Universe pageant, and Jen even foreshadows this when she quite rightly rants to her cousin about how difficult it is for a women to succeed as she’s slandered the moment she shows any weakness.

She-Hulk’s CGI is admittedly dodgy but other characters fare much better in this regard.

But I know what you want to hear me really talk about: the special effects. First of all, the Hulk looks fantastic; his CGI model is on point, which is to be expected as they pretty much perfected the look in Avengers: Endgame (Russo and Russo, 2019), but still surprising for a television show, especially as a Hulk-centric show seems to me to be one of the more costly MCU projects. Similarly, the Abomination looks really good; I’m really digging his more comic-accurate redesign and even enjoyed seeing him as this rational pacifist rather than some mindless monster, though I will admit that his face was a little off and his transformation was a little too “clean”. She-Hulk suffers from this a bit as well; she simply grows larger or smaller, her custom-made clothes expanding to accommodate her, so we’re largely beyond the days of dramatic transformation sequences for these characters. As for She-Hulk…she mostly looks perfectly fine, but it does vary wildly. Given that she’s not as monstrous as the Hulk, I do wonder if it might’ve been better to use her on-set stand-ins, Maliah Arrayah and Devon Lewis, to actually portray the character and enhance her with CGI, imposing Maslany’s face onto the larger doubles as a modern take on the 1970’s show (something the show does actually do when it lovingly recreates The Incredible Hulk’s iconic opening sequence). I think the things that bother me the most is her hair, which looks like a bad wig most of the time, and her eyes and face, which are a little lifeless and blank at times. It definitely works but it does stick out quite a bit and I can see why people would be distracted by it; low lighting definitely aids the presentation, but I admire how often Jen is seen in broad daylight as She-Hulk. Thankfully, Daredevil is here to again make up for some of these effects; now garbed in a yellow and red number, this is a fantastic return to form for the character, who seems much more jovial and far less bleak than in his Netflix show, allowing him to kick ass and be intimidating but also be a fun and attractive prospect for Jen. Hell, I even enjoyed the Leap-Frog suit and the inclusion of small-time, ridiculous villains like William Taurens/Man-Bull (Nathan Hurd), Alejandro Montoya/El Águila (Joseph Castillo-Midyett), Saracen (Terrence Clowe), and Alexander Gentry/Porcupine (Jordan Aaron Ford). I always enjoy it when live-action adaptations turn to the more obscure and ludicrous characters, and they really worked in the context of this show and played a surprisingly poignant part in shaping Jen’s acceptance of herself and her duality.

She-Hulk’s ability to break the fourth wall results in a unique metatextual humour.

Of course, one major aspect that separates She-Hulk from most comic book characters is her ability to break the fourth wall, which is present right from the start and, while characters occasionally react to this, it’s mostly just played for laughs and ignored. Jen habitually addresses the camera, generally asking us not to judge her, addressing the abundance of cameos throughout the show, and questioning the plot at certain points. This metatextual approach extends to the title sequence, which changes a number of times to reflect what’s happening (such as Jen being out of work, Titania’s lawsuit, and Jen being barred from transforming into She-Hulk). The aforementioned recreation of the 1970’s intro was my favourite instance of this but all this metatextual commentary comes to a head in the finale; after being forced to wear an inhibitor after her rampage, Jen is at her lowest point when Todd transforms into a Hulk-like creature and even Titania and the Hulk show up at the last minute in a chaotic attempt to have all her separate storylines converge. She’s so unsatisfied with the conclusion that she literally escapes to the Marvel Studios: Assembled (Baruh, 2021) documentary to confront She-Hulk’s staff, who are amusingly non-plussed at a fictional character gate-crashing their meeting and direct her to “Kevin”, who turns out not to be MCU executive producer Kevin Feige but an artificial intelligence which makes all of the decisions about the MCU. Somewhat reminiscent of the divisive finale to The Matrix Reloaded (Wachowskis, 2003), Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus/K.E.V.I.N. (Brian T. Delaney) continues the metatextual narrative by asking that she transform back into Jen as she’s “very expensive” and the visual effects team has “moved on to another project” and explaining that it uses advanced algorithms to create “near perfect” products, the quality of which is left up to the internet. Using her legal skills, Jen’s able to argue for more originality in her show, criticising Todd’s plot and the entire finale and demanding that she get the ending she deserves rather than what’s expected. She then goes on to address many of the issues people have with the MCU and even asks about the X-Men before being denied such a boon in the future and left to enjoy her happy ending.

A fun show with some great humour, action, and an empowering message that nicely expands the MCU.

I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy She-Hulk: Attorney at Law as much as I did; like a lot of people, I was mainly watching it to witness the glorious official integration of Daredevil into the MCU but the whole show was really good from start to finish. At nine episodes, it’s longer than usual for a Marvel Disney+ show and there’s an argument that a couple of the episodes could’ve been trimmed down or had their plot points combined into other episodes, but I have no complaints about the length or the content. It was a great introduction to this fresh new Hulk character, one who’s fully capable of defending herself and having a successful career and yet as conflicted and full of doubts as anyone else. Jen’s ability to break the fourth wall helps her to stand out even more and enabled the show to have a fun, carefree vibe while still holding up a mirror to the online trolls and toxic masculinity that is so prevalent in this day and age. While they were only minor roles, I also enjoyed Jen’s supporting cast; her doting, if annoying, family, Nikki’s endless enthusiasm, and Pug’s awkwardness at being forced to integrate with Intelligencia all made for some compelling and entertaining side characters. The courtroom drama was also very enjoyable; I liked seeing She-Hulk coming up with legal loopholes, even if it meant embarrassing herself, to win cases and I’d like to see the second season spend a little more time in the courtroom with some of Marvel’s more colourful and obscure characters. Alterations to the Abomination and the continuation of the Hulk’s mini arc also landed well with me; it was great to see Blonsky back, and cast in a sympathetic light and elevated into something more than just a brutish solider/supervillain and I was left really intrigued to see what’s next for the Hulk family. Yes, She-Hulk’s special effects can be wonky but I fully expect to see this addressed in another season; they work and can be impressive but you will have to get over it to fully enjoy the show. Also, if you’re one of these “woke” crusaders it’s probably better you watch something else as She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is very much geared towards sending a positive message about rising above hate and valuing people based on their ability and merits rather than belittling them because a small-minded minority think of themselves as somehow “superior”.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think about She-Hulk: Attorney at Law? Did the CGI used to bring She-Hulk to life put you off? What did you think to her ability to break the fourth wall? Were you a fan of the legal drama and comedy aspects? What did you think to the Abomination’s character growth and the reintroduction of Daredevil? Did you enjoy the attack on toxic masculinity or was it too “woke” for you? Where would you like to see the character go in the future and are there any She-Hulk storylines or characters you’d like to see included in future seasons? Whatever you think about the show, or She-Hulk in general, leave a comment below or on my social media and be sure to check out my other Hulk content!

Back Issues [HulkaMAYnia]: Tales to Astonish #90/91


Since his explosive debut in May 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s gamma-irradiated Jade Giant has been one of their most recognisable and successful characters thanks, in large part, to the Incredible Hulk television show (1977 to 1982) catapulting the Hulk into a mainstream, pop culture icon. The Hulk has been no slouch in the comics either, being a founding member of the Avengers and undergoing numerous changes that have made him one of their most versatile and enduring characters, so what better way to celebrate all things Big Green than by dedicating every Sunday in May to the Green Goliath?


Writer: Stan Lee – Artist: Bill Everett

Story Titles: “The Abomination!”
Published: 10 January 1967 (cover-dated April 1967)

Story Titles: “Whosoever Harms the Hulk…!”
Published: 14 February 1967 (cover-dated May 1967)

The Background:
Created by Marvel legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Doctor Robert Bruce Banner’s monstrous alter ego, the Incredible Hulk, was inspired by the story of a hysterical mother using superhuman strength to rescue her child and classic screen monsters Frankenstein’s Monster and Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. Initially debuting as a stone-grey figure, the character soon gained his trademark green hue and became a fixture of Marvel Comics thanks to expansions of his lore and character and the popularity of the live-action television series. Stan Lee also had a hand in creating some of the Hulk’s most memorable enemies; having birthed the Hulk’s intellectual superior, Samuel Sterns/The Leader, alongside Steve Ditko about three years prior, Lee and artist Gil Kane introduced Marvel readers to one of the Hulk’s most persistent physical rivals, Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, in this two-part tale. Lee came up with monster’s unique name and reportedly instructed Kane to make the Abomination bigger and stronger than the Hulk to make for some fun conflicts. Over the years, the Abomination has been through almost as many changes as his lifelong rival, being a savage brute, a schemer, and a figure of redemption. His impact on the Hulk’s life has been so influential that he’s featured in numerous Marvel cartoons; although he made his live-action debut in the unfairly overlooked The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008), it would be some thirteen years before he would return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Review:
Our story begins with the Green Goliath embarking on an unstoppable rampage thanks to the manipulations of a cosmic being I’m personally unfamiliar with but who calls himself “The Stranger”; believing that humanity is a blight that needs to be eradicated, the Stranger has set the Hulk to work wiping the planet clean of humankind’s influence, and the Hulk is only too happy to give in to his anger. Already harbouring a resentment and animosity towards the “puny humans” who hate and fear him, the Hulk wrecks a suspension bridge and prepares to lay waste to a missile base when he’s suddenly hit with an intense pain in his head that not only causes him to fall, but also triggers his transformation back into cursed Gamma scientist Bruce Banner. This has the knock-on effect of severing the Stranger’s mind control, but Banner is terrified at the prospect of the Hulk resurfacing and continuing the Stranger’s work and resolve to destroy the Hulk (and himself, if necessary) once and for all using the “Gamma Ray Machine” he created and which just so happens to be at the very base he’s found himself at.

While Banner broods and Ross blusters, a foreign agent undergoes an incredible transformation!

Nearby, the cantankerous General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is determined to root out the man behind a recent assassination attempt on his daughter (and Banner’s flame), Betty Ross; also Major Glen Talbot assures Ross that it’s just a matter of time before the foreign agent is discovered, Ross explodes in anger and demands that they find the perpetrator before they can endanger the missile, giving his men orders to shoot to kill if necessary. Betty is distraught that there’s been no word from Banner for some days and fears for his life as long as he shares a body with the Hulk; she’s so devastated at the idea of losing him that she pays no mind to Talbot’s attempts to insert himself in Banner’s place. Meanwhile, in Banner’s lab, Ross’s spy (whom we know as Emil Blonsky but who isn’t named in this story), is snooping around in the guise of a soldier and trying to snap pictures of Banner’s vaulted Gamma Ray Machine. Although Banner returns at that very same moment, intending to use the machine on himself, he’s spotted and arrested by military police and the smug Talbot, who refuses to listen to his pleas. Amused by the turn of events, Blonsky comes out of hiding and investigates the machine, activating it out of sheer curiosity and bathing himself in an intense dose of Gamma radiation. The result is his instantaneous transformation into a hulking, green-skinned, lizard-like monstrosity; thanks to stepping out of the Gamma rays early, this Abomination is able to retain his intellect and revels in his newfound super strength, which he believes will make him “master of the world–of the whole universe!!” and promptly destroys the machine so that none will challenge his invincibility.

The Hulk is overwhelmed by the superior strength and intellect of his newest foe.

The Abomination’s subsequent rampage through the base catches the eye of the imprisoned Banner, who willingly transforms into the Hulk as only his alter ego has a chance of opposing this new Gamma monster. Ripping open his cell, the Hulk leaps into the fray but quickly finds that the Abomination is not only smarter thanks to not being a mindless brute, but also more powerful as he was conveniently subjected to a more powerful dose of Gamma radiation. Consequently, Ross, Talbot, and Betty can only watch on in horror as the Abomination asserts his dominance and brutally beats the Hulk into unconsciousness, clearly establishing himself as a formidable threat, and that Blonsky is oddly concerned that he wouldn’t survive the military’s counterattack so he kidnaps Betty and flees from the base. Driven to desperation by the events he’s witnessed, Ross has no choice but to order his physicians to try and save the Hulk’s life; while the surgeon is initially baffled by the half-dead creature’s physiology, perennial sidekick Rick Jones bursts into the facility to suggest using Gamma electrodes to revive the beast and, in panels that owe more than a debt to Frankenstein (Whale, 1931), the Hulk lives again! Believing the soldiers are trying to contain him, the Hulk refuses to listen to reason and even swats Rick aside, vehemently denying his tearful pleas for help, until the mention of Betty’s name causes him to calm down and revert back to Bruce Banner.

Although Banner devises a workable plan, the monster’s rematch is abruptly interrupted.

Cutting through Ross’s bluster and inconsolable babble and prejudice, Banner comes up with a plan to lure the Abomination back to them, rather than confront his great power directly, and reconfigure his “Infinite Weapon” to nullify Blonsky’s strength with “Infra-Gamma Beams”. Begrudgingly, Ross orders his technicians and soldiers to follow Banner’s every command as they race to perform the necessary adjustments, and the Abomination willingly returns to the site, drawn by the allure of the Gamma radiation, though everyone, even Rick, is unsure as to how Banner plans to oppose such a fearsome monstrosity. The Abomination bursts into the laboratory, setting down Betty and preparing to finish off Banner, but is surprised when the machine causes him incredible pain and saps his mighty strength. It’s at this key moment that Banner uncontrollable turns into the Hulk and the two Gamma Giants set about having a rematch. Although they bash each other through walls and promise to really go at each other, the Stranger chooses this moment to return to the story; watching from “a thousand galaxies away”, he begins to consider that humanity might not be beyond all hope if a brute such as the Hulk can be so valorous and chooses to take the Abomination for his own needs. He also completely removes the influence he had over the Hulk’s mind but, while he’s met with congratulations and a semblance of gratitude from even General Ross, the Hulk chooses to head back out into the world alone once more.

The Summary:
The Abomination’s debut is much more the type of Hulk story I’m used to; by this point, Bruce Banner’s dual identity is well known and his adventures follow a very simple formula of him wandering around the country, desperately trying to avoid conflict, all while the Hulk threatens anyone and everyone around him and lashes out at those he deems to be a threat. Unfortunately, I didn’t think much to Gil Kane’s artwork, especially on the Abomination and the Hulk’s face, both of which look to little too simplistic and goofy for my tastes. I did enjoy the twist of the normally unreasonably antagonistic General Ross absolutely snapping when the Abomination kidnaps Betty; he’s so traumatised by this that he’s forced to not only rely on the Hulk and Banner for help, but even revive the Green Goliath and order his men to follow Banner’s every instruction. It’s an interesting twist on his usually staunchly anti-Hulk/Banner mindset, kind of like whenever J. Jonah Jameson is forced to eat crow, though I was interested to see that Major Talbot was actually arguing in favour of Ross’s hated enemy on more than one occasion. Similarly, I liked that Banner got to do a little more than just wallow in despair and self-pity; he puts his genius mind to work creating a trap to lure in the Abomination and sap his strength, though it was a little too contrived that all of Banner’s machinery and work just happened to be at this military base. The Hulk is pretty much exactly as he’s always presented, with the added wrinkle that he’s suffering from the influence of the Stranger; this doesn’t really seem to change his character all that much, however, as it’s hardly an uncommon occurrence to see the Hulk going on an all-out rampage for the smallest of reasons.

The Abomination’s strength is so great that it takes brains, not brawn, to challenge him.

This is potentially the first time that the Hulk has ever faced a foe as physically imposing as him, however; he fought Groot (no, not that one) a few years earlier but as far as I can tell most of his more monstrous foes made their first appearances after this story. Consequently, the Abomination makes quite the impact; not only does he retain his intelligence, allowing him to out-think the Hulk, but he’s portrayed as being significantly more powerful, knocking the Hulk out and beating him almost to the point of death in their first encounter. However, the praise kind of stops there; the explanations behind Blonsky’s retained intelligence and greater strength and paper thin and it’s really weird that he would choose to flee after besting the Hulk as he would surely have even less reason to fear the military’s weapons than the Green Goliath. The Abomination’s greater intelligence also doesn’t really translate into any kind of impressive strategy either; immediately drunk on his newfound power, Blonsky sets his goals as lofty as conquering the entire universe, than smashes the place up a bit, and then resorts to kidnapping Betty. He doesn’t even use her as a means to give the Hulk pause to attack and abandons her the moment he arrives back at the base, but worst of all is the fact that this Stranger’s intervention cuts short his rematch with the Hulk simply to keep the Abomination’s threat unchallenged. Overall, this wasn’t a bad two-part story but it definitely wasted its potential; there was so much that could’ve been done with the duality of these monsters, the twist of Ross having to rely on his enemy, and seeing the Hulk and the Abomination tera up the base of the countryside but the story instead plays it very safe and simply hands the Hulk a decisive loss and has his newest (and presumable most powerful) villain left out in the world (well, cosmos) to no doubt hound him again at some point.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you enjoy the Abomination’s debut? Did you read it when it was first published and, if so, how did you think the Abomination compared to other Hulk villains? What did you think to the idea that the Abomination was not only smarter but stronger than the Hulk? Would you have liked to see a proper rematch between the two in the second part? What are some of your favourite fights or moments between the Hulk and the Abomination? Who is your favourite Hulk villain? Whatever you thoughts on the Abomination (and the Hulk), feel free to share them below or leave a comment on my social media and be sure to check in again next Sunday for more Hulk action!

Talking Movies: What If…? Thanos and the Masters of Evil

Talking Movies

In Avengers: Infinity War (Russo and Russo, 2018) the Mad Titan, Thanos (Josh Brolin), finally made a significant appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). When the idea of a two-film saga based on the Infinity Gauntlet comic book (Starlin, et al, 1991) was first announced, I, like many others, had many theories about what was going to happen, who was going to live and die, and how everything was )going to go down. For example, before Thor: Ragnarok (Waititi, 2017), I was certain that Thanos’ big entrance was going to immediately establish his threat by hanging him storm into Asgard kill Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins), and claim the Tesseract (and, obviously, the Space Stone it help). After all, how better to establish this big bad villain than by having him kill a God?

Thanos’ Black Order made their MCU debut in Avengers: Infinity War.

Instead, of course, Thanos wrecked Thor Odinson’s (Chris Hemsworth) ship and slaughtered half of the Asgardians onboard. Still an impressive feat, to be sure, but one that focused more on Thanos’ grandeur and pretentious philosophy rather than his actual physical strength thanks to the bulk of the work being undertaken by his underlings, the “Children of Thanos”. Headed by Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon/Monique Ganderton), and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw), the Children of Thanos didn’t actually appear in The Infinity Gauntlet and are, instead, relatively recent additions to Thanos’ ranks who first appeared (as the “Black Order”) in Infinity (Hickman, et al, 2013). In the film, we don’t really learn much about these guys at all except that they enforce Thanos’ will with unquestioning loyalty and that he trusts them to help him gather the remaining Infinity Stones and, while they certainly look visually interesting, they’re mostly disposable bad guys for the Avengers to fight in place of Thanos.

While Abomination is a good choice, I definitely think Ronan could’ve taken Cull’s place.

Now, I’ve never read Infinity; I have no emotional attachment to the Black Order or any of the characters and, as a result, they were merely nothing more than henchman to me and I only really recall one of them being referred to be name (“I take it the Maw is dead?”) While I enjoyed their inclusion in the film, I can’t help but feel like they could have been dropped and supplanted with some other, more recognisable MCU villains had some other films and events happened just a little differently. For example, take Cull Obsidian; he’s Thanos’ muscle who basically does nothing and is largely inconsequential. What if, instead of killing Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) in Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014), Ronan had been soundly defeated and humbled and, having seen the extent of Thanos’ power (he did destroy Xandar (offscreen), which was what Ronan wanted, after all, and would be enough to bring Ronan to heel, I would wager), he pledged himself fully to Thanos’ cause to get revenge against the Guardians of the Galaxy? I’m not massively familiar with Ronan but it seems to me like it was a bit of a miss-step to kill him off when he could have fulfilled a role in Thanos’ little gang at the very least, if not remain as a recurring antagonist for the Guardians. Another potential replacement for Corvus would be Emil Blonsky/Abomination (Tim Roth) who, at the time, had been conspicuous by his absence from the MCU. However, arguably, it wouldn’t make as much sense for Thanos to recruit the Abomination as he’s not exactly floating around in the depths of space for him to encounter.

What if Loki or the Red Skull had aligned themselves with Thanos in place of Ebony Maw…?

Intrigue was equally high in the build-up to The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Whedon, 2012); I was hoping to see a version of the Masters of Evil, with Loki Laufeyson (Tom Hiddleston) joining forces with Johann Schmidt/The Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) – who was clearly transported away from Earth by the Bifrost at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger (Johnston, 2011 – and either the Abomination or Doctor Samuel Sterns/The Leader (Tim Blake Nelson) once they got to Earth. While I was happy with the first Avengers team-up we got, I do feel this was another missed opportunity that we never saw this anti-Avengers team-up. Consequently, I feel like we could have swapped out Ebony Maw for either of these characters; in The Infinity Gauntly, Thanos was advised by Mephisto, a role many expected Loki to play in Infinity War given his mischievous and devious nature. Naturally, of course, you could argue that this wouldn’t really fit with Loki’s character arc by that point but remember how he feigned loyalty to Thanos and then tried to stab him in the neck? Well, imagine that but throughout a large portion of the movie. Loki pledges fealty, willingly hand shim the Tesseract, and spends the remainder of the film waiting for the perfect moment to strike and then he’s killed for his efforts. Obviously, the Red Skull finally showed up in Avengers: Endgame (Russo and Russo, 2019) in a slightly different role as the Stonekeeper (Ross Marquand), but again…what if the Red Skull had replaced Ebony Maw? How much more interesting and impactful would it have been to see the Red Skull empowered by Thanos and making a triumphant return as Thanos’ chief torturer? Sure, if his death was the same then you could argue that he would’ve been “wasted” or been killed off too easily but I still feel like this would have been a better use of the character than as the keeper of the Soul Stone (a role that could’ve been filled by character’s envisioning the Stonekeeper as someone close to them, perhaps?)

With some tweaks, nebula could have taken Corvus’ role as Thanos’ chief assassin.

Corvus Glaive is a trickier one to “replace” in this hypothetical alternate world, however I have one  suggestion: Nebula (Karen Gillan). Now, similar to Loki joining Thanos, this would require quite a few changes to Nebula’s character arc; in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Gunn, 2017), she finally buried the hatchet with her “sister”, Gamora (Zoey Saldana) and it was great seeing her grow as a character, put aside her hatred, and learn how to work alongside the Guardians and the Avengers. In The Infinity Gauntlet, Nebula spends most of her time as a mindless zombie thanks to Thanos’ wrath but plays a vital role in his downfall by stealing the Gauntlet for herself (and promptly being driven mad by its power). By tweaking her character arc, or having it so that Thanos either intimidates or reprograms her into subservice, you could replace Corvus with a more prominent and recognisable character and still find ways to weave her existing arc into the story. Like, what if, after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Nebula is forced into Thanos to serve him (maybe he threatens to kill Gamora/the Guardians or promises to “repair” her once he’s assemble the Gauntlet) in Corvus’ place; she could still have been ripped apart and tortured to force Gamora into revealing the Soul Stone’s location and would have even more motivation to turn against her “father” since he would have lied to and manipulated her once again.

If Hela wasn’t going to take Death’s place, she could’ve replaced Proxima Midnight.

Another character who I, like many, expected to play a prominent role in Infinity War was Hela Odindottir (Cate Blanchett), a character who a lot of people expected would take the role of Lady Death as the object of Thanos’ affections. Of course, this didn’t turn out to be true as Hela was killed in Thor: Ragnarok and Thanos’ motivations were changed from worshipping Death to wanting to bring a sense of balance to the galaxy. Still, how awesome would it have been if Hela had taken Proxima Midnight’s place in the Dark Order? If killing the Allfather didn’t show you that Thanos was a bad-ass, bringing the Goddess of Death to heel totally would have and could have made for a much more memorable female villain for the finale in Wakanda. Again, there’s the question of her being killed off but what better way to help showcase Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) sheer power than by having her shred a Goddess to pieces? Or you could rewrite her death to maybe come at the hands of her brother, Thor, and his new weapon, Stormbreaker, to sell the awesomeness of the weapon.

As cool as the Black Order were, would a version of the Masters of Evil have been better…?

Ultimately, I was more than happy with Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame, and the MCU’s portrayal of Thanos overall. His underlings were find cannon fodder for the film and helped to serve as extensions of the Mad Titan’s will but I do feel it would have been even more awesome to see these more recognisable villains swayed to Thanos’ cause so that we could see them interact with their rivals, and other heroes, in new and interesting ways. Sure, many have cropped up again since then and the potential of a Masters of Evil in the MCU is still there, I just think that maybe these huge movies could have been made even bigger if things had been slightly changed to accommodate these more familiar characters. Do you agree or disagree? Maybe you’re a big fan of the Black Order from the comics? Perhaps you’d have like to see a different route taken? Do you even want to see the Masters of Evil in the MCU? Either way, feel free to sound off in the comments below.