From the first page, Davis-Hunt’s art and Meny’s colors are completely jaw-breaking, attention-moving and vibrate with the overwhelming emotion of this book: Death. Everything in this book is so irrevocably and carefully about death that we can almost feel Jenn’s experiences of it, from the vibration of her skin, the expressions on her face and the recreation of every one of her deaths.
Moreso, every dialogue centers Jenn’s worries around mortality, immortality and the experience and fear of dying. From the conversation with Wolverine, starting with a call-out around Jenn’s non-mutant privilege going into the territory of the immense grief and loss they both face, to Thor’s reflection on deity’s mortality, to the very tense moments lived in Ewing’s particular Gamma dimension/heartland. And it’s this particularly beautiful and tense, traumatic, real depiction of Jenn’s trauma, grief and sadness that makes this book hit just the right emotional spot.
Yet, there’s still one problem I have with this characterization of Jenn, starting from Aaron’s Avengers post-Celestial infusing powers on her, through Empyre, that continues here, even with some really challenging nuances that I hope stuck in her story moving on. What has always made Jenn’s character unique is that she, opposed to her cousin Bruce, hasn’t developed a dissociative disorder born out of trauma that separates the “Hulk” from the “Jenn”. Of course, and touching into Jenn’s own traumas, that line of narrative has been subverted numerous times. For example, during Mariko Tamaki’s take on Jenn’s PTSD. But it still bugs me of this issue that we get presented with a “sillier”, “less words” Hulk, and a Jenn that “can’t manage heavy talk” and other dichotomies between Jenn and She-Hulk that make Jenn too much like Bruce and little like Jennifer Walters.
Of course, the strength of a lot of Hulk-related stories relies on combining real-life issues like dissociation disorders and trauma with sci-fi themes in a way that sometimes manages to get a nuance of real-life experiences with mental health struggles. And Ewing is really really good at that. But Jenn is not “a Hulk”, and that analogy or imitation is something that in some aspects robs her of her own own struggles to maintain control, of her independence, her own PTSD and how she relates to the fact of being She-Hulk. And that starts on the cover, a recreation of Alex Ross’ cover of Immortal Hulk #1 that is just too obvious and relies on some vision of the “Hulk” mythos more than on Jennifer as a character.
And, even with those moments of character detriment (that are nevermind too present in her canon right now, outside of this book), Immortal She-Hulk struggles to search for a really deep exploration Jenn’s psyche and explains her profound trauma with dead in a way that it’s more reachable, and even understandable that there’s some level of dissociation from herself.
Arguably, there’s a lot of reconciliation to do with who exactly is this Jenn independently from the “Hulk” characterization. But, in just one-shot, and surrounded by a careful and detailed sense of death, fear and depth, I feel we’re finally getting somewhere.