Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Javier Garrón & Flaviano
Color Artist: David Curiel
Cover Artists: Javier Garrón & David Curiel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Avengers lost one of their own: She-Hulk had been captured by the Russian Winter Guard and took her to the infamous Red Room. There, the Red Widow got to work on changing She-Hulk’s mind and turning her into the new “Winter Hulk” and got loose when the Avengers tried to rescue her. Now in Avengers #49, the Winter Hulk makes her way to Atlantis to assassinate Namor while the Red Widow follows her trail to complete her own secret mission.
Avengers #49 keeps up the pace from the last issue and continues to fail to impress. From the offset, She-Hulk as the “Winter Hulk” is a concept that works on paper but fails in its execution, especially after plot reveals in this comic book. The story here is fairly predictable up until a major reveal which I’ll explore in the Spoilers section, but even then the book continues to go off the rails after that point.
So, the story starts off with Namor facing the Atlantean people not only losing confidence in him as a king but openly challenging his rule. While his sister (Namora, I think) tries to talk him down into surrendering the throne peacefully, Namor isn’t having any of it and is ready to fight for his throne. But then, just when the fun is about to begin, the comic’s real story starts and rears its ugly head.
One of the big issues with this comic is how the true story is mainly told by character narration that goes over all the relevant details like a military de-brief. Some of it is useful and illustrates the stakes and the threat the Red Widow and her mission poses. While the other half of the narrations serves to bolster up individual character such as the Red Widow, (more than the comic series already does that) and She-Hulk’s “true” role. The art team do a great job illustrating and coloring everything, as usual. Everything in this comic looks great, but the problems only kick in when you start reading the dialogue and following the plot.
When the big reveal occurs, the comic shifts directions and starts to lose stakes, and the threat of Red Widow goes down the watering hole quickly. Plus, the comic does absolutely nothing with Gorilla Man, making his involvement pointless. On top of all that, the big reveal with She-Hulk doesn’t make her a better or more compelling heroine. Instead, it makes her come off more mentally unstable than Jason Aaron actually intended it to be.
So the comic reveals that She-Hulk getting kidnapped by the Winter Guard and turned into the Winter-Hulk was all part of the Avengers’ plan to stop the Red Widow and the Russian plot to destroy Atlantis. Even more, it was all Jennifer Walter’s idea. Doesn’t sound too bad, but the Avengers are nowhere in sight, except for Thor and Robbie Reyes as Ghost Rider. The comic immediately (and desperately) tries to explain how She-Hulk was always mentally in control of her actions and highlight her mental strength. But it only proves the opposite.
After the reveal, the comic’s narration shifts from General Okoye to Black Panther and Jennifer Walters having an Avengers strategy session discussing her plan and her mental state. In this session, T’Challa rightly points out that She-Hulk has not been on her game (mentally speaking) in the last several story arcs. Especially in the Phoenix Tournament where she lost control and tried to kill Namor and nearly destroyed Moscow in the process.
But during this session, Jennifer reveals that this mission isn’t just about saving Atlantis, not really. It’s about her proving to the world that’s she unbreakable, mentally and physically, and showing everyone that she will break them if they try to break her. The problem is this all come off like Jennifer has an obsession to prove herself, to get her big moment, even if it kills her or gets anyone else killed in the process.
It also doesn’t help when T’Challa rightly asks her, “How do you feel? Do you honestly feel like yourself?” And she literally laughs uncontrollably like a mad woman in the narration, worrying T’Challa more. Despite Jason Aaron’s best efforts, this comic makes She-Hulk even more un-heroic than before (even unhinged at that last moment) and makes the whole World War She-Hulk storyline feel like his own misguided attempt to give She-Hulk a big win.
The World War She-Hulk storyline sadly continues to underwhelm in Avengers #49. This issue is more interesting than the previous one now that we know the stakes, and who the main players involved are. But like before, She-Hulk’s new Winter Hulk form and this storyline fail to impress even with the big twist in the comic. That twist tries to explain some things and show how it all adds up, but it doesn’t do a convincing job. However, the art team continues to do a great job on the art as usual.