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February 28th, 2005 - Trickle of Consciousness — LiveJournal
A week or so ago, I finally found a copy of Dann Slott, Juan Bobillo, and Paul Pelletier's She-Hulk: Single Green Female, the collection of the first six issues of the series that just went on hiatus. I jumped on late in the game, so this caught me up with what I was missing. It's a bit like reading a series backwards, in that I kept hitting on set ups in the early stories which paid off in the stories I already knew.

As I made my way through the first four stand-alone stories, I could appreciate how clever Slott was being. Most self-aware super-hero stories have a tendency to think winking at the audience is in and of itself worth the return of a trope. While I'd say Slott's still winking, he's also twisting the super-hero standards he's playing with enough to make the story he's telling new while still familiar.

As I read along, however, I realized I wasn't--as I had with later Slott She-Hulk stories--laughing. Flipping back through, I could certainly see the joke moments. It wasn't that early issues had fewer jokes or something. Rather, I was nodding and smirking at them rather than trying to hold back an obnoxious guffaw. I wanted to say that Slott just got funnier as he went along, that he traded in one kind of humor for another. But, really, when the first story alone has She-Hulk belly-bouncing men out of her bed, free parking gags, and drinking your enemy under the table ... no, the humor was of the same temperament, certainly.

Then I hit the two-part "Big House" story, and all of a sudden I was laughing again. As I finished up, it occurred to me that the first few She-Hulk issues I tried had worked the same way. The cosmic judge story had been clever but not laugh-out-loud funny, but She-Hulk's return to Earth had me in stitches. The answer was fairly obvious, then. Somewhere in my head Juan Bobillo's artwork makes She-Hulk a clever-humor / smirking book; Paul Pelletier gives me a She-Hulk owing far more to slapstick and belly laughs.

For me, this is something new. I can't really remember reading a book and having its entire tone shift with a change of artist. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, but if it did, I wasn't aware of it.

I have to say, the criticism brain in me is getting something of a kick out of the experience. That I can stipulate the writing style isn't notably altered between the issues gives me this wonderful little artsy plaything / learning tool for analyzing how humor and tone and atmosphere work in comics. Little tingles I've got over that.

So I flip through and look at, say, Bobillo's more understated facial expressions. I find myself realizing that Pelletier tends to lay out his pages to emphasize a lot of the visual "punch lines," where Bobillo often puts those elements in a corner of his page or off-center in a panel. I look at who seems to use more close ups (I'd say Pelletier), whose figures feel "lighter" on the page (I'm going with Bobillo).

While I still don't have the (visual) vocabulary to really do justice to the discussion, I nonetheless find the study intriguing. All these individual elements I so often take for granted add up to two similar but noticeably different books. It's one of those things that reminds me how comics are unique, and probably explains why I'm still reading them.

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