The first “Iron Man” changed everything. It revived Robert Downey Jr.’s career, and launched what has become the biggest movie franchise of all time. But as big and successful as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become, and as good as it is at bringing comics to the screen, it is easy to forget just how grounded that first “Iron Man” really was. Like most comic book movies of the ’00s, it desperately wanted to appear as if it was set in the real world, and not in a comic book world, it was serious with a capital S, it placed a big importance on making sure the suit felt “realistic” and avoided the weirder and more fantastical aspects of the comics. Sure, it starred a billionaire playboy with a metal suit that could fly, but it didn’t really telegraph that it was set in a world that would one day be conquered by a purple alien guy.
That all changed with the film’s post-credits scene, when Nick Fury revealed that there was a bigger universe of superheroes out there, except it wasn’t, not really. We have seen plenty of heroes and villains rise, but it’s mostly been set in the years after that fateful scene, with people with powers only really joining the Avengers, or fighting them. That’s not exactly a universe full of heroes.
Thankfully, that is changing with “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” a show that truly feels like it is set in a larger world filled with people with powers, not just big heroes and villains, but unimportant people, dweebs, idiots, jerks, and just bystanders.
A Whole New World
Like every Marvel Disney+ show so far, “She-Hulk” has brought something new to the table that we haven’t seen before. “WandaVision” brought meta commentary and sitcom tropes, “Ms. Marvel” brought a Disney Channel series tone, “Moon Knight” brought psychological horror, now “She-Hulk” is bringing the workplace sitcom to the MCU. Aside from the many MCU Easter eggs and references, the show brings a funny, bright, low-key vibe to this franchise that sets it apart from the other titles.
But while most of the attention has gone to big cameos like Bruce Banner, Wong, and the gift that is Madisynn, what really makes the show unique is its introduction of smaller people with powers, like Titania or Mr. Immortal. These are not some grand villains to be taken down by the end of the season, or characters with a deeper connection to the protagonist, but simply small-scale side characters with powers. Where did their powers come from? Who cares, what matters is that “She-Hulk” is making its world, and therefore the MCU, feel larger by showing us that there are more superpowered individuals than just the Avengers and their villains. Iron Man was not the first superhero, we just haven’t seen the rest of the superpowered people yet.
Part Of Something Larger
Jennifer Walters’ position as the head of a superhuman law division provides an unique opportunity for “She-Hulk” to introduce a side of superheroes we haven’t seen before in the MCU: the mundane. A big loss since the early days of the MCU has been the lack of downtime for the Avengers, the lack of low-key moments when our heroes just get to hang out in-between saving the world. It’s only been with these Disney+ shows that we’ve got to see how people like Sam Wilson go about they day. “She-Hulk” takes that idea a step further by showing the legal troubles and shenanigans that people with powers get into, like Mr. Immortal’s commitment issues. This makes the world of “She-Hulk” feel bigger and more like the comics, where thousands of people with superpowers just go about their day, most of whom we don’t really see in the big stories.
“Ms. Marvel” showed us a world in response to the existence of the Avengers, one with entire conventions dedicated to Earth’s mightiest heroes and where teenagers dressed up as their favorite heroes. Now, “She-Hulk” is fulfilling the promise of the first “Iron Man” by inhabiting its world with superpowers both big and small.
“She-Hulk” is streaming on Disney+.
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