Xaimi's Nerdy Blurbs: HULK Smashing Self Doubt

Saturday, May 16, 2020

HULK Smashing Self Doubt

May is Mental Health Month and comics– like Mariko Tamaki’s She-Hulk run– can serve as a respectful and elegant reminder of coping with the inner battles we face.

Comic books serve as an escape from reality– a break from the stresses of everyday life. But often, these colorful universes and their characters cross that gap to help us tackle “irl” responsibilities and trials. Before and during this current pandemic timeline, there are those among us battling themselves and loneliness. In respectful observance of Mental Health Month, we’re revisiting She-Hulk (2016-2018).

Tamaki’s She-Hulk was cancelled in early 2018, yet her depiction of Jennifer Walters’ struggles with trauma, grief, and self-acceptance remain relevant today. As Tamaki herself points out in an interview with Marvel, “ There are a lot of layers to trauma—so as a theme, and as an experience, it has a lot of twists.” 

When we meet post-Civil War II Jen in Hulk #1, she’s finally regained consciousness from her rocket-induced coma, only to learn that her cousin, Bruce Banner is dead. Banner trusted Hawkeye with the burden of ending his life should he go beyond the point of no return. But Jen carries different burdens: Guilt and PTSD from loss and the events that caused her coma. These yield themselves to a loss of self, unbearable grief and intense rage– the latter manifesting as her new, unstable, gray Hulk form. 

The Sensational, Incredible, confident Jennifer Walters readers had grown accustomed to was now afraid and reclusive. She tries to throw herself back into work at the law firm. Finds temporary solace from writhing in pain on the floor, in baking videos.

She refuses to transform into her vibrant green-skinned persona if she can help it. There’s too much pain there— a chance to lose herself in rage and turn into the neutral gray monster. Her two identities, once in a harmonious fusion, are dissident. She’s at odds with herself.

Friends and fellow superheroes reach out to check on her but she pushes further away.

Meanwhile, people in Jen’s life are wading through their own new normal too; Bradley, her new personal assistant, deals with his own loss while supporting his new boss. Maise Brewn, a new client, struggles to find her footing after suffering through an assault with a looming eviction.
For many readers, these feelings hit close to home. Tamaki’s writing manages to bring to life how it feels to wade through the waters of compromised mental health while trying to stay above the surface in everyday life. 

Many consider our current pandemic state to be a sort of trauma and, like any distressing experience, there are a multitude of ways to react to it. But, the reactions are normal in the face of abnormal circumstances. Jen is not sick or suffering from a disease as she fights to find herself again, just as those of us trying to sift through the negative emotions during this time are not sick.

“I really appreciated Jen’s internal monologue that would include statements about what’s normal and not normal...it underscores the idea that whether we want to label it or not, her mental health condition—her post-traumatic response—is not considered a disease, it’s a normal response to something that was abnormal. I love that this series is framing that for us, to let us know that yes, she’s questioning normality, but she is still intact. She’s acknowledging that she is still normal, and that helps readers to realize that what was crazy or abnormal, it wasn’t the person, but what happened to the person.”
- Dr. Andrea Letamendi, “Tackling Trauma

Until Later Guys,


All images property of Marvel Comics

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