Avengers #20 Review

by Charles Martin on June 26, 2019

Avengers #20 Review
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Ed McGuinness
Inkers: Mark Morales with Ed McGuinness
Colourist: Jason Keith
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Don't let the cover and the solicit fool you. This is not an Avengers united issue or even a round-robin survey issue. 

This is all She-Hulk, all the time. It's a much-needed, well-crafted focus issue. And it's pretty dang great.

Jennifer is a long way from the fourth-wall-straddling jester of the Byrne days, the glamazon who beat the Pools (Dead and Gwen) to their medium-awareness punchlines decades in advance. But this issue does still have a touch of the meta-fictional about it. 

It starts with Smooth Lawyer She-Hulk bringing the current Roid Rage Hulk to court and arguing that judge Jennifer Walters should sentence her to be retconned out of existence. That scene is clearly imaginary, a vision conjured up during a Black Panther meditation session.

But Deadpool's brief drop-in to ask why She-Hulk isn't funny anymore is more ambiguous. And Jen's narration throughout the book is practically addressed to the reader.

Plotwise, Jen has important work to do here. The tide of the War of the Realms is turning, thanks in no small part to judicious Hulk-smashing around the globe. She pummels Ulik in Australia and helps Blade shut down Roxxon's budget basement plug-in Hulks in Antarctica.

"Doing important work" matches the tone of her introspection nicely. That's her core argument in favour of her current status quo: She's tired of being the sexy joke Hulk, the Hulk who can only smash after fielding some baddie banter that borders on sexual harassment. Better to be feared than laughed at, that's the new Hulk's motto.

I have to hand it to Jason Aaron's script: It tackles some advanced, potentially-contradictory soul-searching while also showing an outsized portion of heroic action. That calls for a lot of pages where the visuals and the narration are telling different stories, but Mr. Aaron's writing never fumbles the flow.

Ed McGuinness's art is on the same wavelength. It has plenty of space for his trademark gorgeous character renderings - there's a back-to-back shot of Captain Marvel and Jen that is begging to be made into digital wallpaper - but the panel-to-panel moves are butter-smooth and logical.

Jason Keith (and inker Mark Morales) light it all up with the sort of bold, high-intensity colours that scream "Avengers." There's a lot of good shading and shadow work here, too, fitting the generally-grim war-time setting. The talented use of black makes the colours pop that much more.

I appreciate all the attention this issue devotes to the perception of Jennifer Walters. How other people see her has always mattered to her, so that makes this angry celebration of her new-found strength very believable. Forget mystic Celestial power-ups, the sheer fury of the universe popping its collar at her and saying, "you were more fun when you were sexy and irrelevant, babe" is more than enough to explain her current smash-centric incarnation.

This volume of the Avengers hasn't won me over as a die-hard fan. But I've liked virtually all of the "hero spotlight" issues it's delivered, and this one is no exception. Jennifer Walters was in desperate need of the attention. Thoughtful words and powerful art deliver a nicely-balanced portrait of a hero struggling to find her balance. It's a decent tie-in to War of the Realms, but its top priority is exploring the evolution of the She-Hulk. And it does that job with superlative skill.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Jen likes that the baddies don't make "crass jokes" when fighting her now. But what does Ulik do just a few pages later? Yeah. "Introspective" doesn't necessarily mean Jen is being completely honest with herself.