Santa Claus, P.I. – The Sensational She-Hulk #8
Before I type anything else, I just need to point out that never once in my years of law school or traipsing through the periphery of the legal profession did I ever see a book simply entitled LAW. Maybe I was travelling in the wrong circles. Not a criticism, just an observation.
John Byrne’s time on The Sensational She-Hulk was some of his most innovative work. Known throughout his career for straight-forward, high-quality superhero storytelling — if not outright reinvigoration of downtrodden franchises (see Four, The Fantastic) — with Bruce Banner’s law degreed cousin things went a little different. Under Byrne’s guiding hand, Jennifer Walters became a self-aware character that would talk to her audience, and one who was very much keyed into the fact that she was a green giantess in a comic book. Every other sentence out of her mouth was a wry commentary on the medium or a sassy comeback at Byrne himself for putting her in some odd predicament. It was a brand of storytelling that set the series apart from the rest of the capes and tights pack, and in so doing it helped make She-Hulk the sexy B-level star that she remains to this day.
Yet Byrne’s constant sundering of the fourth wall could be a bit much. Yes, it was different. New. But all too often it felt like you were watching a movie and boom mikes kept falling into the frame and grips kept wandering into shots. It was Byrne’s GIANT OBNOXIOUS SIGNATURE (with commentary) writ even larger. It sucked you out of the story, and now, going back to the books, you realize very much that you’re reading a comic instead of becoming one with the narrative (getting a little Zen here, I know). It’s even harder to stomach at this distant remove, as you just want to scream ENOUGH ALREADY JUST GET ON WITH IT at every other panel, like the worst Joss Whedon scripts. SHUT UP.
For those unfamiliar, here’s some of the less infuriating material, from the comic we’re about to pry open:
I’m not the biggest fan of the technique, but it’s not the worst in the world. It has its place, so long as it doesn’t spin out of control, and threaten to drag us down into an all-consuming vortex of smarmy sass.
Which it did in this issue.
Yes, this Christmas-themed installment of Sensational (one of a number of Christmasy comics we’ll look at this month) guest-starred the Right Jolly Old Elf himself.
OR DID IT?
You see, never once is the term “Santa Claus” mentioned in these pages, as the pudgy, diminutive Nick St. Christopher seen on the cover goes by that name and that name alone. Nor does She-Hulk make the connection at any point. Apparently, despite that keen legal mind of hers, she’s really an empty-headed bimbo, and accepts Mr. St. Christopher for what he claims to be: a kind of psychic detective, one who’s going to help her put a serial killer behind bars. Here he is introducing himself, after (literally) running into our heroine:
Just what is he going to bring to the dance? What powers and abilities will he graft onto She-Hulk’s crime-fighting prowess? Let’s see if you can tamp down your rage after this panel:
And it goes on like that. St. Christopher (who’s making gentlemanly passes at our green gal the whole time) seems to know everything, and guides She-Hulk along on her quest to dig up evidence to poke holes in a smug murderer’s alibi. Along the way — and oh so predictably — there’s a chimney that the two of them need to get down, and a touch of the nose later…:
As I said: AND IT GOES ON LIKE THAT, right up to the senses-shattering conclusion. Do we ever find out if this is the “real” Claus? You’ll have to track down a copy to find out, because I haven’t the energy to pry this apart any more. And I’ve already ground my teeth down to stumps (between Santa and the wisecrack asides…). Suffice to say, it ends on a reindeer poop joke. Fitting.
Nick St. Christopher disappeared never to be seen again, yet a small boxed present he gave She-Hulk towards the end of the story would come up again years later, in another Christmas-themed issue. One that was a whole lot more heartwarming and far less infuriating. When I’ve sufficiently recovered, perhaps I’ll have a few things to say about that one. It’s going to be awhile, though.
One final non-Christmas (and non-Nick St. Christopher — thank God) note. She-Hulk always seems to be spending a lot of time at the beach, whether just laying out or playing some volleyball with the girls. At all times she evinces an alarming desire to work her iceberg lettuce skin into a nice deep olive, a quest that would make George Hamilton beam with pride. Anyway, in this issue there’s a dream sequence which find her sunning in the sand. Here’s the first panel of said sequence:
I’d just like to compliment her on yet another giant floppy Elaine Benes hat. That is all. UNTIL NEXT TIME.