March 29, 2008

Super Lawyer Aqua Conference

That's the real punchline to the joke "What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?," according to my friend the brilliant comedian Andres du Bouchet.

And I'm pretty sure that if they had such a thing, Mallory Book would be a perennial keynoter.

Mallory's spectacular showing in She-Hulk #27 reminded me why, love her or hate her, she's such an exceptional character in mainstream comics--a regular, non-powered human woman who routinely rescues or undermines superheroes and villains through sheer will and brains. Not only that, she does it within the context of her profession as an attorney, all within a set of laws that she shrewdly navigates and exploits. She's no vigilante, rogue bandit or maverick of the night who "lives by her own rules"--she doesn’t win battles by doing any old crazy thing her imagination cooks up to manipulate people. Yeah, she gets creative with the system's technicalities, takes on morally reprehensible clients and flattens others' will like a freight train, but she does it without tech-armor or eye-beams or telekinesis.

And yes, Mallory's character is problematic. She's the stereotype of the smart, ambitious woman who got where she is by being unrelentingly assertive (although that’s probably not the phrase most people would use). She's the reason certain people hate Hillary Clinton, who unwittingly represents every snippy know-it-all girl in chemistry class who had to raise her hand twice as fast and be twice as smug in order to be acknowledged as the smart one. She resents the hell out of people who get fame and recognition that she feels they didn't earn--people like Jennifer Walters, whom Mallory thinks gets way too much credit as a lawyer because she also happens to be a massively strong and popular superhero. Mallory Book is that ice queen who supposedly confirms that incredibly successful women must be miserable.

But she is also the woman that sweet, tragic Awesome Andy was deeply in love with--so much that he refused to keep her under the spell that was causing her to return his affections. She was horrible to him when she came to, of course, because Mallory Book is not ok with not being in control--but her pride isn't so spiny that she couldn't swallow it soon after for a paralysis-overcoming declaration of love for the Two Gun Kid (I've never quite figured that one out, by the way, because come on, the Two Gun Kid? I’ll admit I don't even know his history beyond the recent She-Hulk appearances, but that name is about as sexy as Mr. Fantastic).

In She-Hulk #27, Mallory swoops in to undo the arrest of a man who was tragically unlucky enough to get caught in the middle of one of She-Hulk’s conflicts. She saves Jen’s ass—that being the ass of the strongest woman in pretty much the universe—by coming up with a story that gets the case dismissed in about ten seconds. When Jen thanks her for the unexpected favor, Mallory says it was no favor, that “I came to see you squirm, watching me do what you can’t anymore.” Of course Mallory probably didn’t have entirely vindictive motives, but she’s not about to let Jen know that—all she wants Jen to focus on is that Mallory can do this and Jen can’t, now that she’s disbarred. Big strong green goliath, can't even file a little motion, can't save the day. Jen has a lot of self-esteem issues, and while becoming She-Hulk helped her deal with a lot of them, her successes as a lawyer, even a small, mousy one, had a hell of a lot to do with her overall confidence. And that’s why Mallory Book in all her sour, litigating glory can be stronger than the strongest woman (and most men) in the world.

Let's just hope she doesn't get caught in the path of a cosmic ray or dumped in a vat of radioactive waste, because yikes.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Gosh, it IS nice to see a non-powered man OR woman go and do awesome things. Mallory can be fun.