US: Nov 2014
A few years ago there was a popular form of entertainment that might best be described as the “quirky legal drama.” This television genre usually featured an ensemble cast of eccentric characters who worked at a law firm. Their cases were interesting, sometimes mysteries to be solved, but these were usually less important than the interactions between the characters. The dialogue was witty, sharp and rapid fire. More often than not, these quirky legal dramas were written and produced by David E. Kelley. Kelley was responsible for L.A. Law (1986-1994), The Practice (1997-2004), Ally McBeal (1997-2002) and Boston Legal (2004-2008).
From what I have heard, these shows were fun and engaging. They most certainly were popular. I can’t speak to their appeal personally, however, because I don’t think that I have ever watched even a single episode of any of these programs.
The reasons for my neglect of such a popular genre are probably multiple. If I thought about it a long time I could probably come up with some good explanations. Some of these explanations might reveal some interesting insights concerning my personality or, at the very least, expose some basic flaws in my character. In lieu of such introspection, however, I’m just going to state the obvious.
Without a lot of potentially tearful self-examination, I can’t say exactly why I never watched any of these programs but I can say, quite easily, what would have made me watch them: superheroes - characters with super powers and secret identities.
If Ally McBeal had been the secret identity of Wonder Woman then I would have watched the program, even if most of her time was spent doing attorney-stuff and making wise-ass observations about other people or about the nature of life itself. (Don’t laugh. We almost had such a show when Kelley produced the pilot for a Wonder Woman series a couple of years ago.)
Granted, Boston Legal had Captain Kirk and that was almost enough to pique my interest. (OK. Technically it starred William Shatner in another, very different role, but you know what I mean.) And looking back I now realize that Boston Legal’s other star, James Spader, is due on the big screen next summer as The Avenger’s robotic enemy, Ultron. Had I known this at the time I am pretty sure that I would have tuned in. I really love Ultron. But, otherwise, as far as I know, there were no superheroes.
Which brings me, finally, to She-Hulk.
She-Hulk, you see, is a quirky legal drama with - and this is the good part - superheroes.
Jennifer Walters, let go from her big prestigious law firm, opens up her own law office with the help of her decidedly odd legal assistant Angie Huang, who takes her capuchin monkey Hei Hei with her everywhere, and her old friend Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat, who works for Jennifer as an investigator.
Together the team has had some pretty interesting cases. Jennifer represented the son of Victor Von Doom when he sought asylum and protection from his father. She and Patsy joined Hank Pym’s Ant-Man to search for a missing person who had reduced himself to ant-size and become lost in a back yard garden. In the latest issue, they are called upon to defend Captain America against a wrongful death charge.
Sometimes, in the pursuit of justice, Jennifer and Patsy don their superhero get-ups; most of the time they don’t. She-Hulk #8 is the strongest issue so far and no one wears a costume: not Jennifer and Patsy and not guest stars Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Matt Murdock (Daredevil). Indeed, there is only one scene when anyone uses superpowers at all: Jennifer hulks out long enough to chase away a crowd of paparazzi. Of course, Jennifer maintains her abnormal stature and green skin practically all the time, but she tends to use her powers more for social persuasion and intimidation than for fisticuffs and traditional crime busting.
Throughout this series, and especially in this latest issue, Charles Soule’s dialogue “sparkles,’ as we critics tend to say. It is fast, witty, sarcastic and charming. Whether the characters are plotting their courtroom tactics, sharing cocktails at their favorite bar, or riding aboard one of Tony Stark’s private planes, the characters have a lot to say. Just enough of the dialogue is exposition to further the plot; the rest is usually character-driven and funny.
Javier Pulido is the perfect artist for this series, masterfully capturing the light and breezy feel of Soule’s plots. His Jennifer Walters, his She-Hulk, is at once both intense and slightly goofy, both strong and insecure. In one scene in particular a loose strand of hair that hangs across Jennifer’s face wonderfully captures the vulnerability and the power of this character.
I like Soule’s and Pulido’s She-Hulk. I think they should make it into a TV show. A quirky legal drama. With superheroes.
I would watch it.