‘She Hulk: Attorney at Law’ empowers Marvel comedy

When I started editing for The Campus, I never expected that keeping up with all Marvel content in order to be fully prepared for massive manifesto-reviews by the late, great opinion editor Kaleigh White, ’22 — may she labor in peace — would be part of the job. Lower on my list of expectations was the fact that one day, I’d place myself in the very position Kaleigh herself held for so long.
Alas, here we are, and I have never been more thankful for my training to consume massive amounts of overproduced superhero content.
When the first episode of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” dropped, I was rather unimpressed. It was just another Marvel show that I could use as a distraction while I folded my laundry or rode a stationary bike at the gym. Something about the show was off-kilter, though. I chalked it up to Mark Ruffalo’s performance — his depiction of the Hulk has always been like a weird guy the age of your parents who married your oldest cousin whom you now call “Uncle Mark” solely because there is no possible way you can consider him your cousin.
But it wasn’t just Ruffalo — the show was moving too fast. Before I knew it, Jen Walters had her powers, spent some time training on Bruce’s weird island and made her way back to civilization with her green-yet-not-too-mean alter ego. The show’s pace never faltered, and soon enough, the Abomination was out of prison and off galavanting with his seven soulmates, Mark Ruffalo was thankfully shot into space and Jen was being harassed by a group of incels online á la 4chan.
The humor in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” reaches far beyond the generic Marvel comedy tropes we’ve grown accustomed to with each new release. When the show was initially revealed in 2020, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige called it the Cinematic Universe’s first “legal comedy.” It stretches into and beyond that territory, often bringing the jovial, irreverent humor associated with a sitcom. Simultaneously, though, the show’s mundanity is its strongest suit. We’ve never had a superhero who works a day job as a major plot point on the screen before. We’ve never seen a Marvel hero go on Tinder dates, get drunk after hours and experience casual, early-30s love. We’ve never seen a superhero lose such personal battles day in and day out, like not being able to fit into comfortable clothes or having to work professionally with a creepy crypto bro with whom they went on a date.
Also, we got to see Daredevil do the walk of shame after a hook-up. Worth it.
A friend of mine asked me why the heck I would want to crack open this old can of Marvel-review worms. They asked how I could stand to keep hearing the same recycled jokes and one-liners, and if there was actually any point in trying to repeat Kaleigh’s whole song and dance again. The truth is, the shows Marvel has put out since Kaleigh graduated are uniquely thoughtful, interesting and compelling. And, dare I say it, they break the long-hardened mold of Marvel comedy.
Each episode of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” is quick and clever, and genuinely deserves to be experienced on its own, which is why I’ve tried so hard to avoid spoiling its contents here. Most importantly, though, the show is self-aware that the story it is telling is generic and already repeated to high hell, especially with the pace at which Marvel has been producing content in recent years. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” skipped familiar beats to throw the unexpected at us. As someone who has grown accustomed to the most basic laundry-and-stationary-bike fodder, it is a much-appreciated change of pace — I even found myself with a few unfolded articles of clothing by the end of a half-hour episode.
Since the release of “Moon Knight,” there’s been a tangible feeling that Marvel content is outgrowing the vessel we’ve packaged it into. The new writers that Marvel is bringing on board are telling stories that seem to have moved beyond the grand, millions-of-years-long Feige Marvel empire. Instead, they are telling uniquely human stories about marginalized voices who find themselves, quite literally, empowered.
So, my plea to you is this: If you have given up on Marvel content because you hate the rut it’s been in lately, give “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” a try. If you hate it, write me back through a letter to the editor and we can have a pool noodle joust for Jennifer Walters’s honor.