‘She-Hulk’ Is the Master of Marvel Deep Cuts

After teasing the long-awaited arrival of Daredevil in the MCU to close out the fifth episode, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law delayed its inclusion of another major crossover character in this week’s installation and focused on a wedding instead. On the heels of yet another tragic Westeros wedding during the most recent installment of House of the Dragon, She Hulk presents a much lighter TV matrimony in “Just Jen.” The sixth episode features some social commentary on the awkwardness and quirks of modern-day weddings and a wonderful guest appearance from actress-comedian Patti Harrison as the bride-to-be, while providing no shortage of drama: There’s a dance-floor between Titania and She-Hulk, a promising new love interest for Jen, and an introduction to the season’s apparent true villain, the Intelligencia.

Two-thirds of the way through a nine-episode season, the sitcom-style structure of She Hulk has settled into a rhythm. Every week, we can count on the 30-minute legal comedy to focus on two plotlines, including one—if not both—that involves a GLK & H case and another that somehow relates to Jen’s life outside of the courtroom setting. (Along with Jen’s bridesmaid duties, this week’s episode featured a fun B plot centered on a divorce case involving a man misusing his gift of immortality.) The show’s sitcom-inspired “case of the week” approach has allowed it to incorporate an abundance of cameos and crossover characters from other MCU franchises, as it teased in trailers leading up to the series’ release. What has been more unexpected is She Hulk‘s tendency to integrate deep-cut characters from the comics into its world.

From the forgotten brother of Sam Wilson and a superhero named Leap-Frog to a fashion designer introduced in the short-lived Dakota North series, She Hulk continues to weave in obscure or lesser-known characters from the comics as Easter eggs or even in larger roles. These sorts of references have long been a staple of MCU projects, providing hidden gems for Marvel Comics fans to appreciate and constantly look out for, but the creative team behind She Hulk seems to be taking a particular delight in rolling out characters that even avid readers may not be aware of. (I, for one, had to look up who Luke Jacobson was after Griffin Matthews made his MCU debut in the role in last week’s episode. I had never even heard of Dakota Northwhich ran for only five issues in the late 1980s, though it seems to have been far ahead of its time.)

ace She Hulk staff writer Cody Ziglar explained on a recent episode of Crooked Media’s X-Ray Vision podcast, that all comes from the writers’ room being filled with a bunch of longtime comics fans, starting with head writer Jessica Gao, whose first job in high school was at the local comic book store. With a pair of Marvel executives on hand in the room to help determine which characters were off-limits and which were fair game, the writing team explored a great number of options.

“At one point, we had two different whiteboards, one like the big board with the story stuff and one that would just have the characters or bits that we pitched,” Ziglar said. “I felt like I was doing comic book nerd trivia, like, ‘What obscure character can I find that hasn’t been scooped up by someone else?’”

The sixth episode of She Hulk may have left out the hero from Hell’s Kitchen, but it did feature a founding member of the Avengers. And when I say “Avengers,” I mean the Great Lakes Avengersa team so ridiculous that—during its debut in a 1989 West Coast Avengers comic, written by Sensational She-Hulk creator John Byrne—Hawkeye and Mockingbird hopped on a commercial plane to Wisconsin just to find out if the team was real. Led by the so-called Mr. Immortal, a death-defying man by the name of Craig Hollis, the Great Lakes Avengers were eventually recognized by Captain America and the Avengers in an official capacity and would even come to their aid in battle from time to time.

However, Hollis’s debut in “Just Jen” does not arrive in the form of a public-facing superhero trying to establish an offshoot of the Avengers in the Midwest but rather in the form of a deceitful, (sort-of) immortal man who finds himself in the midst of a divorce case that involves loving former spouses. It’s a hilarious premise and usage of the comics character, with the TV version bearing little to no resemblance to his comics counterpart. Except, that is, for his habit of kinda dyingas he did within minutes of meeting Hawkeye and Mockingbird in West Coast Avengers:

Marvel Comics

Along with Mr. Immortal, this week’s She Hulk chapter features the first mention of a group known as the Intelligencia, a supervillain team from the comics that brings together some of the Marvel Universe’s greatest sinister minds, including a number of heavy hitters like Doctor Doom. Despite a roster that consists of mostly well-known characters, the Intelligencia are among the more obscure supervillain teams in a long line of them, with their most notable appearance coming in the 2009–10 Fall of the Hulks crossover event in which they were formed. But leave it to the She Hulk creative team to not only incorporate a lesser-known supervillain team in a development that suggests that they’ll be the season’s Big Bad but also to repurpose the group as an online forum for “hateful man-babies” that sure looks and sounds a lot like the thin enclaves of Reddit and 4chan.

Disney+

No matter how hard Titania may try to stand in Jen’s way, it’s become clear that she won’t be the villain who’ll call She-Hulk to action in her superhero form as the show elevates its stakes in the final third of the season . As the episode’s closing scene teases, the Intelligencia are preparing to enter the next phase of their plan to take down She-Hulk, following their failed efforts to gather some of her gamma-irradiated blood by way of the hapless Wrecking Crew in the third episode . outside of maybe Awesome Andy (an android that appears frequently in Dan Slott’s She Hulk comics) and MODOK (a villain who’s set to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania next year), it seems unlikely that any of the actual Intelligencia members from the comics will appear in the home stretch of She Hulk‘s first season. Even so, the MCU Intelligencia’s resemblance to the comics crew bears watching.

With only three episodes left in the season, She Hulk continues to be an entertaining weekly affair, even if it remains something of a mixed bag. Much of the sixth episode’s wedding plotline falls flat, especially the climactic fight between Titania and She-Hulk that ends with Titania slipping on some ice. But its saving grace is the birth of an incredible legal team in Nikki and Mallory Book, as well as a superhuman divorce case that further demonstrates why a series that plays off the absurd happenings of the superhero world from a more grounded, yet deeply silly point of view could—and should—continue to have a place in a cinematic universe that often takes itself a little too seriously. As ready as I am to see Charlie Cox’s Daredevil back in action in the weeks to come, I’m almost as intrigued to see which obscure character from the comics She Hulk might turn to next.

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