With the colorful, engaging half-hour comedy She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (★★★☆☆), Marvel bumps another beloved comic book B-lister up to series headliner.
Tatiana Maslany stars as Jennifer Walters, a successful L.A. lawyer and cousin to Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), known throughout the universe by his mighty, green alter ego, the Incredible Hulk.
The sometimes raging behemoth appears here strictly in his Smart Hulk iteration — meaning that, even though hulked out, Banner retains his genius intelligence and mild-mannered personality.
All the better for Jen, who needs Bruce to act as her guide to Hulkdom after a freak accident results in his gamma-irradiated blood mingling with hers, turning the petite litigator into six-foot-seven-inch, super-strong She-Hulk.
Series creator-showrunner Jessica Gao doesn’t launch She-Hulk into super-heroics right away, or much at all, in the show’s first four episodes that were available for review.
Outside of testing her strength and skills against the Hulk, and tussling with some street thugs, She-Hulk fights most of her battles inside a courtroom, as Jennifer struggles to balance being her human self and learning to inhabit her superhuman persona.
As for potential rivals, the show introduces Jameela Jamil as Titania, a long-time She-Hulk nemesis in the comics. Portrayed here as a super-powered social media influencer, she crashes in out of nowhere, then vanishes from the plot for episodes at a time.
Seeing so little of her or her purpose so far, one can only hope that Jamil follows through on the first impression of Titania as a badass, camp villainess befitting the tongue-in-cheek comedy the show is targeting.
She-Hulk is known for quipping and cracking wise — not unlike practically every hero in the MCU these days — and Maslany rolls with the punchlines like a smooth comedic operator.
The character also frequently breaks the fourth wall to comment on the action, or the show itself, asides which don’t always break in with the best timing or the best-written jokes.
But the device does help keep the focus on She-Hulk, who shares the screen with several other superheroes in the MCU, from the aforementioned Hulk, to the current Sorcerer Supreme, Wong (Benedict Wong), and, later in the season, Daredevil, once again portrayed by Netflix series star Charlie Cox.
Myriad paths in the Marvel universe seem to meet at Jennifer Walters’ law practice, which is a big part of the show’s fun. It’s an existential kick to consider the legal ramifications of a super-powered life.
Also, She-Hulk’s prolific use of established MCU characters and events provides the world-building interconnectedness that Marvel does so well, along with satisfying pay-offs to beats from previous films — as with the redemptive return of the Abomination.
Introduced as a villain in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, and last seen grappling in an underground fight club in last year’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the Abomination — or, in his human form, ex-special forces soldier Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth — is in need of a good lawyer and, of course, seeks out Jen. But should she represent the creature who tried to kill her cousin Bruce?
Rather than saving the planet from other-worldly foes, She-Hulk faces the superhero version of daily dilemmas around keeping her job, doing her best for her clients, or trying to find a date. Just deciding whether to sign up for Tinder as Jennifer or as She-Hulk is one amusing conundrum she has to solve.
Hopefully, her creators can solve the conundrum of rendering this towering CGI character with a better sense of weight and texture. Next to the consistently convincing corporeal presence of the Hulk, the preternaturally smooth-skinned She-Hulk can appear cartoonishly lightweight, like she’s been photoshopped into some scenes. That’s a fourth wall it’s better she didn’t break, especially if the series smashes into a second season.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is available for streaming weekly on DisneyPlus. Visit www.disneyplus.com.
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