She-Hulk Diaries (Hyperion/Marvel) Book Review

Hyperion's series of prose novels based on Marvel superheroes continues with the recently released She Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta!

To say I was stoked to review Hyperion/Marvel’s new endeavors is saying something. I already went into this duo review (You can read my previous review of Hyperion’s Rogue Touch right here) a little biased. I was looking forward to Rogue Touch much more than She-Hulk Diaries. Rogue was always a much more interesting character to me, but I put expectations on that book that it didn’t live up to. It was a little too romance, and not enough hero.Now I’ll admit I’ve never been a Hulk fan. A man who turned giant and green that you wouldn’t like when he was angry wasn’t the type of story I was into. And She-Hulk? Yet another superhero that got a female version to pacify fans. I began reading She-Hulk Diaries with no knowledge of the character, somewhat disappointed by Rogue’s book, and so was pleasantly surprised. The She-Hulk Diaries is penned by Marta Acosta, author of the Casa Dracula series, Dark Companion, and Nancy‘s Theory of Style. It seems Marta‘s got a flair for smart female leads with supernatural elements and comic undertones.She-Hulk Diaries finds Jennifer Walters having a mini-crisis with her life at the beginning of the year. Her superhero persona (She-Hulk) has gotten her kicked out of the Avengers Mansion with her wild antics. Y’know, the kind of antics that include twirling a flaming telephone pole in Times Square or commandeering a motorcycle for very important wheelies on the Brooklyn Bridge. She-Hulk’s wild side and party girl ways have gotten her in trouble before, leading to massive property damage and complaints, but nobody tries to fuss too much with a jade green giantess.Jennifer has decided to make some New Years’ Resolutions–Well, more like Valentine’s Day Resolutions, since she decided to stall the start date– to better herself in areas of career, social life, and romance. She vows to find a new job (and new apartment, since her last job furnished her loft), find time for social niceties like meeting new people, avoid the superhero scene when possible, and avoid becoming She-Hulk when necessary, and look for a serious relationship with a PFLOMY (Potential Future Love of My Life).The characters are fun. Jennifer is a lawyer, the kind who used to specialize in superhero law (totally a thing). She’s smart, passionate about her legal work, and also a bit of a geek, since she enjoys occasionally LARPing. She-Hulk is bold and saucy. She encounters her foes with a wry smile and a “You gotta be kidding me” ‘tude. Then there’s Dahlia, Jen’s best bud, hair stylish who judges all movies by the hairstyles alone. Later, we’re introduced to the Past-Love of Her Life, Ellis Tesla, who used to be the lead singer of a band, and the sexy, talented Dr. Sven Morigi who orbits Jen long enough for her to consider him a PFLOML.The writing, mostly done in first person from Jennifer’s perspective, is engaging and humorous. Jennifer’s diary encapsulates her thoughts and inner life beautifully with much focus on self-improvement. Chock full of to-do lists, point systems, transcripts of texts and conversations, plus Gilmore Girls-like banter with her best friend, it’s an easy-to-read diary. Her comments are rife with references that Marvel fans will love to dissect, including her past relationship with Tony Stark.Although the book was very humorous, it found enough plot to get serious. Jen’s new firm and new case is against the ReplaceMax company, which is now in trouble for providing cloned organs that deteriorate to terminal patients. Jen forms a friendship with a young patient named Mavis, and when she lapses into a coma, the case becomes personal. It brought to life the issues with cloning, both ethical and practical.Side plots added to the tale. The  B story, hinted at from page 5 onward, was about smoothie place Joocey Jooce. It’s the Starbucks of this universe, making fancy drinks that people obsess over at omnipresent locations. There’s something off about those perky employees and “Play Nice!” slogans, and I expected it to somehow tie in to the main plot of the ReplaceMax court case. It didn’t pan out that way, but she eventually did find out what was odd about the company.There’s a C story with Superbrat (nicknamed by Shulky, since he didn’t spout his name and evil plan to the heavens) who attacks a bank with a moon beam. Later he disguises himself at a fashion show and makes custom clothing for the attendees that made everyone grow enormously fat. He called them fatshions. This is the kind of hijinks you could have only found with a character like She-Hulk.Jennifer finds her life complicated when old flame Ellis Tesla swings into the scene. She’s treated to conflicting emotions as she finds out he’d been writing songs about her ever since they met, but now he has a new spiteful fiancé. I liked She-Hulk Diaries more than Rogue Touch because it had a compelling main character with more self-respect, and because the story didn’t take itself too seriously. This is a world where superheroes and ray guns are common fare. She-Hulk’s misadventures are a treat. She’s an egotistical hero who kicks butt, causes property damage, then goes clubbing. Much time is devoted to Jen’s case against ReplaceMax. The legal jargon, luckily, didn’t leave me in the dust. The story and the stakes kept the case interesting.I didn’t know at first how author Marta Acosta would handle She-Hulk herself, but she did an admirable job. Jen treats Shulky like a troublesome roommate. It works especially because when she changes to She-Hulk the narrative switches from first to third person. She’s not all “She-Hulk smash!”  In fact, she’s intelligent and able to make conversation and quips. I don’t think I would have liked a senseless monster for Jen’s alter ego, like the Incredible Hulk usually is. She-Hulk is her own bodacious person (with her own bodacious wardrobe).Victor von Doom (of Fantastic Four fame) was mentioned enough that it was a nice payoff to have him show his ugly face at the end, although the climax of the story ended far too quickly and easily for my taste. I would have also liked the Joocey Jooce side plot to work into the ReplaceMax storyline.The She-Hulk Diaries works well for modern audiences. It takes a character and gives her the pizzazz and sass to make one heck of an amusing, often hilarious book. The characters are all quite interesting and have their own unique problems, and if it weren’t about a woman who could shift into a giant green monster, it could proudly sit on the shelves besides the better chick lit out there. Heck, it should be there anyway.Den of Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


4 out of 5