Arc Reaction: She-Hulk #8-10

Published on November 18th, 2014

Steve Rogers is being sued for the wrongful death of an old friend from before the war, and he needs to win the case to save his reputation. Anything less than beating the prosecution outright is a loss. No tricks. No technicalities. Just legal fisticuffs. She-Hulk to the rescue, right? Trouble is Matt Murdock’s the prosecutor. It’s the superpowered legal battle we’ve been waiting for from our friends Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, and Muntsa Vicente. She-Hulk might just be the courtroom comic you never knew you always wanted. Spoilers Ahead.

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“The Good Old Days” is certainly a courtroom story with plenty of twists and turns. The first big complication is, of course, that Matt Murdock is the prosecutor. Let’s just say that would normally lead to a conflict of interests, but Steve has actually requested Matt take the case. He’s also asked Matt Murdock to not pull punches. One of the more interesting aspects of this comic is that Steve Rogers is in many ways the antagonist of the story. He’s the troublesome client that’s turned what should be an easy win into a drawn out case to prove a point. Every time Jennifer Walters thinks she’s found an easy out — who’s in the way? Steve Rogers.

Soule’s a practicing attorney, and he crafts a strong case against Steve. Harold Fogler’s dying declaration places part of the blame for his brother Sam’s death on Steve Rogers. When Steve and Sam went to save Harold from running around with a bad crowd, Steve insisted on talking when told doing so would get someone killed. The police report claims that Steve even said, “This is all my fault.” And when faced with these details in the courtroom Steve tells the jury it’s all true. He adds one important detail: the “bad crowd” was made up of Nazi saboteurs. But even in Steve’s version we’re given the scene that matters. The Nazi leader tells him to “stop talking, or someone will die.” Steve responds, “Go ahead. Show these men how afraid you are of words.” It’s a scene of bravery, yes, but it leads to the Nazi shooting Sam then and there.

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Would Sam have died if Steve hadn’t spoken, or if he wasn’t even present? Possible. Perhaps even probable. Yet Jen explains early on that this case isn’t a criminal one, and Steve can still be found partially liable. And by the end of She-Hulk I want him to be liable. Soule just does too good a job of stacking the deck against Steve Rogers, and the ending doesn’t feel like enough to exonerate him. Or maybe it’s something more basic. Matt Murdock’s expert witness, Professor Flanagan, says it: “We all know his story.” That’s the problem.

Captain America is a celebrity. Jen tells the jury in her closing statement, “Let’s start by saying something we all know. He’s Steve Rogers. But he’s also Captain America.” There is no way for the jury to be fair. They all “know” Captain America. They’ve seen him on TV. They’ve read about him in their history books. He is the idealized American, so this can’t be a regular trial. The real complication is that juries are fallible, and celebrity trials are notoriously unjust. Jen knows it. “The last thing I’m worried about is putting Steve Rogers in front of a jury.” Steve asks Jen not to bring up his service as Captain America, and he’s right to. Jen does it anyway, and Steve wins because he’s Captain America.

It’s the jury’s fault. Pulido makes it clear in issue 10 when Matt Murdock and Jennifer Walters give their closing statements. We’re given each character on a stark white background surrounded by word bubbles. They’re depicted in full, standing there, facing front, but from a very slight low angle. They lay out their case, they look at us, and we look back from the jury box.

From the second Captain America walked into Jen’s office we knew he was innocent, didn’t we? After all, he’s Captain America! We read about him every week. We know everything he does. Of course Steve’s innocent, he’s a celebrity, and he can do no wrong.

Travers Capps
travers@comicimpact.com