“The Search for She-Hulk, Part 4: With Friends Like These…”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
Far, far below the cliff is a valley of jagged pine trees and snow-encrusted earth. And as the battered archer plummets towards disaster, he finally begins to doubt himself—maybe his idea to pit Hulk against She-Hulk was a mistake. Rapidly he descends; until suddenly from the side of the cliff, a red-gloved hand extends and catches Hawkeye. “With Friends Like These…” is the apt title of Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’ satisfying conclusion to the “Search for She-Hulk” story arc, as the Avengers rescue and wound each other, all for the sake of friendship.
Geoff Johns’ feel for the Avengers is keen, emphasizing the fact that this team isn’t just about action, but about spirit. Thus, although the story is really one big fight—first between the hulks, then between the hulks and the Avengers—poignant and witty dialogue underscore the team’s powerful relationships. The smooth repartee between Hawkeye and Captain America is the most enjoyable aspect of this issue. While playing tag with the raging Hulk, the two chatter, exchange knowing looks, dodge in unison, and impress each other. At one point, Captain America performs a swift series of leaps to reclaim his shield. And though Hawkeye’s seen similar moves for many years now, he can’t help but smile and marvel out loud about how Captain America can move so quickly, so smoothly, and with such precision. The mutual admiration continues with Captain America’s response: “Practice and passion, Clint. Just like you.”
Johns also explores the characters’ emotional depths through their willingness to suffer for each other. In order to prevent She-Hulk from being killed by the Hulk, the Avengers separate the cousins and use themselves as targets. The results are: Iron Man loses a tooth, the Scarlet Witch breaks her wrist, and Captain America is pierced by an arrow. But the biggest sacrifice comes from Jack of Hearts who risks his health, possibly his life, to save She-Hulk. All of these sacrifices and displays of affection touchingly remind readers why the Avengers are so special; they are a tight group of heroes, bonded by a common goal and deep emotional investment in the welfare of the world—and each other.
Scott Kolins’ art compliments the feel of this issue perfectly. Masterful with motion, Kolins’ fight scenes are exhilarating: the blurry stream of Hawkeye’s arrows, the fluid motion of Captain America’s leaps, the pulsating shockwaves as the hulks pummel each other. Additionally, although faces continue to look slightly grotesque and cartoon-ish, in this issue the characters’ expressions match the intensity of their emotions. Jack of Hearts is especially well depicted as he accepts the gravity of his situation and heroically reacts. Other noteworthy moments are She-Hulk’s remorse at the sight of all the destruction she has caused, Banner’s lonely trek through the snow, and Hawkeye’s rigid shock as She-Hulk rewards him for his help. For the first time since his return to the Avengers, Hawkeye is speechless and utterly still—an absolutely adorable moment where Hawkeye again steals the spotlight and confirms his official return to the Avengers.
It’s a pity that Geoff Johns ends his tenure as AVENGERS writer with the next issue, because his stories celebrate the heart of the team. And though the plot of this issue was simply a battle, the personalities of the characters were as vivid as they’ve ever been: Iron Man’s smug professionalism, Captain America’s compassionate leadership, She-Hulk’s tough-girl love, and Hawkeye’s charming determination. This was an uplifting issue that allowed the characters to sparkle in their individual ways.
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