With its latest series for Disney +, the fine folks at Marvel take a decidedly left turn. Playing within a format that apes more classic TV sitcoms with heavy hints of Ally McBeal and Night Court, plus lots of fourth wall breaking, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is more about the laughs than the action. Supersized ‘single gal in the city’ tale, She-Hulk dismisses becoming a superhero in order to retain her current life, something new from a Marvel property.
In the opening of the first episode Jessica Walters (Tatiana Maslany), is involved in an accident with her cousin Bruce, yes THAT Bruce (Mark Ruffalo). She ends up being charged with gamma radiation in the process, turning her into the She-Hulk, but with a difference. See, Jessica doesn’t lose consciousness when she turns like Bruce did before he was able to meld into the ‘Smart Hulk’, and her career as a female assistant district attorney has enabled her to deal with anger and harassment way more constructively than Bruce has ever been able to. Plus, unlike her famous cousin, she instantly dismisses ever being a hero, but the question then becomes, will the rest of the world allow her to?
Going any further into this series would delve heavily into spoiler territory, some of which has already been hinted at heavily in the trailers leading up to the show’s release. But unlike other Marvel properties, the series doesn’t follow a linear path, rather opting for a more episodic style run where some plotlines run through the series but most are single episode issues resolved by the end. It’s a change of pace for Marvel, and further allows the series to feel like the sitcoms it’s clearly influenced by. The show even calls out its own “guest of week” tendencies during a 4th wall break from Jessica a few episodes in, we were provided the first 4 episodes for review. The show does perhaps hint at an overall through line at the end of Episode 3, but we’ll have to see if that was a throwaway segment or seeds planted for later on in the series.
Where 4th wall breaks are often used by lazy writers for cheap asides (see my previous review for Paws of Fury to see what I mean), they work much better here due to the influence of Tatiana Maslany. Much like contemporaries Elliot Page and a less acerbic Aubrey Plaza’s earlier works, Maslany also has an innate ability to produce awkward energy that is more endearing than it is annoying. And it’s this awkward energy that she infuses into Jessica/She-Hulk that immediately makes the character more relatable and endearing to audiences, plus it really helps set up the humor too which is a plus. And Malsany feels born to play this character. She’s the main focal point of the entire series of course, but she also has to contend with other Marvel characters that are more established. The already teased Tim Roth, back as Abomination, or the aforementioned Ruffalo, all show up and attempt to steal the show from her, but Maslany more than holds her own.
On top of the cameos and other characters appearing, the show also features a regular supporting cast of characters around the life of a working law firm, 2 of which surround Jessica on a regular basis. Her law clerk Nikki, played by the wonderful Ginger Gonzaga could almost lead her own show. Filling both the legal support role and the sassy best friend role wrapped up into one, Gonzaga is stellar. Also standing out from the crowd is Josh Segarra’s Augustus in a comedic relief role that fits his timing perfectly. To delve further into the casting could be spoiler territory, but the established characters coming in for the show are all having fun here, knowing full well the context of the show.
Established television directors Kat Coiro and Anu Vaila know how to steer this ship adeptly, their experience on other comedic sitcoms apparent throughout. Even the CGI of She-Hulk is quite good for a Disney+ series, despite what the gatekeeping fanboys trying to review bomb the show might lead you to believe. Marvel may have taken its sweet time getting to their female-led movies with Captain Marvel and Black Widow, but this already marks the 3rd female-led Disney + show out of the eight that have been produced so far. Of course, that’s not including the now ported-over Jessica Jones and Agent Carter, but that feels like a strong ratio. And coming off the heels of the excellent Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law continues the trend of strong writing on Marvel shows. Now we just have to wait 9 weeks as the episodes are released to see how it all ends up.
- Rated: TV-14
- Genre: Action, Comedy, superhero
- Release Date: 8/18/2022
- Directed by: Anu Valia, Kat Coiro
- Starring: Ginger Gonzaga, Jameela Jamil, Jon Bass, Josh Segarra, Mark Ruffallo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Tatiana Maslany, Tim Roth
- Produced by: Jennifer Booth, Jessica Gao, Kat Coiro, Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso
- Written by: Jack Kirby, Jessica Gao, John Buscema, Stan Lee
- Studio: Disney Plus, Marvel Studios