• Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

She-Hulk finds humor in the pedantic parts of superhero life

ByRandall B. Phelps

Sep 3, 2022

Over a decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe content and nearly a century of superhero source material, there are plenty of questions and jokes fans have had. The MCU has certainly told a lot of jokes in its films and series, but, with its new series, the franchise can look at itself with humor.

She-Hulk: Lawyer is the long-awaited adaptation of the comic book adventures of Jennifer Walters. Unlike her cousin, from whom she takes her name and powers, her stories have often taken on a comedic tone, filled with plenty of self-criticism of the comic book empire.


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She-Hulk is a superhero sitcom combined with a legal procedural. It follows Walters as his sudden affliction with Hulk powers turns his otherwise normal life upside down. In the midst of a jury trial, she is forced to use her power to save lives and ends up being fired for her troubles. Thanks to the immense publicity she receives for her superhuman gifts, no other law firm is interested in hiring her. This leaves her desperate until she is approached by a high profile lawyer with an offer she cannot afford to refuse. Before long, she finds herself in the superhero legal division of the first major law firm as a representative for those with abnormal abilities. Throughout her career, Walters is constantly confronted with the same question. People keep asking why she doesn’t just follow in her cousin’s footsteps and use his powers to become a superhero. His answers vary, but the sentiment behind them is mostly that the superhero business is not a good career.

One of the most common themes in superhero stories is responsibility. Spider-Man is the most memorable example, but nearly every hero encounters a moment when they realize they need to use their superpowers to help others. They don’t have to, they take a lot of risk in exchange, they only have advantages in choosing to leave others to their fate, but they don’t. If there’s one essential lesson that applies to superhero stories at all levels, it’s that those with power have a duty to those without and must be paid, whatever whatever the cost. Walters will likely learn that lesson in two or three more episodes. However, anyone with a normal life would identify that throwing that life away or massively complicating it to save people with powers they didn’t ask for would be a massive imposition. She-Hulk takes this concept and plays it for laughs, often with very direct reference.

The most on-the-nose gag about this comes when Walters goes out for a drink with her friend and paralegal Nikki after she loses her job. Like everyone else in her life, Nikki asks her why she doesn’t just ditch the bureaucratic world that rejected her, put on a spandex suit, and join The Avengers. His response is to wonder what the iconic superhero team pays for and if it offers any benefits. For her, an ordinary person leading a normal life until recently, superheroism is not a calling she feels in her soul. This is another option in his ongoing job search. She probably weighed the options as fairly as she did in the “10 Jobs for a Fresh Start” article she happened to be reading. These questions of pay and benefits, material conditions and real life, are exactly the kinds of things fans are likely to ask in a pedantic gag at the expense of a comic book story.

There is a disposable line in Avengers: Age of Ultron in which Steve Rogers tells Sam Wilson he can’t afford a place in Brooklyn. It’s a joke, mostly aimed at gentrification and criminally raising rent prices over Steve’s decades in the ice. He would remember it as a very different realm, his fish-out-of-water behavior is funny. But, the more pedantic voices in the audience would raise their finger and offer a “uh, actually” at the idea. Why doesn’t Steve have any money? The work of superheroes should be extremely well paid, or at least the people who do the hard work of saving lives should be able to support themselves. She-Hulk addresses ideas like that, but instead of offering explanations, it makes a joke about the idea.

Obviously, Disney won’t allow people to point out huge issues with their intellectual properties. However, they will let them laugh at the exaggerated gags that some fans posted. The everyday life of superheroes doesn’t always make it to the screen or to the page, but Jennifer Walter’s life finds the absurdity in those little issues. From Avengers benefits gags to Steve Rogers love life, She-Hulk: Lawyer pulled some solid jokes from MCU history. Disney still stifles life from even the lightest criticism, lest anyone remind the public what they’ve done to art, but at least they’re having fun doing it.

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