Who is the ‘She-Hulk’ Big Bad?

We dig into She-Hulk Episode 4 and consider the larger threat lurking in the shadows. Are we about to meet an old foe?
She Hulk The Wrecking Crew

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series, where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores She-Hulk Episode 4 and considers the larger threat facing our hero. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

We’re four episodes into SheHulk: Attorney at Law, which is about the halfway point in the series. So far, the threats facing the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe hero have been of the mundane variety. Well, they’re mundane when you compare them to galactic baddies like Thanos and Gorr the God Butcher.

The show’s lower stakes battles are actually the show’s greatest strengths. In dialing back the catastrophe, SheHulk has normalized superheroics in a way no other Marvel comic book adaptation has done so far. As a result, Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) feels like the most relatable Avenger, or potential Avenger, especially when she’s already stating her willingness to kill for Megan Thee Stallion. Same, Shulkie, same.

With all that in mind, I still find myself looking for the catastrophic event on the horizon. SheHulk Episode 4 concludes with Jen being served. Titania (Jameela Jamil), the beefed-up social media influencer who climaxed SheHulk‘s first episode by getting clocked, wants Jen to cease and desist with the She-Hulk branding. The move is made all the more hilarious when you consider Jen’s absolute disdain for the moniker and how it was thrown on her by nitwit broadcasters.

At first glance, the injunction appears to be another small hassle used by the series to highlight Jennifer Walters’ absurd gamma-infused situation. However, when you pair it with the Wrecking Crew attack from last week, you begin wondering if a larger force is generating these smaller pressures.

The New and Unimproved Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew is the kind of wild and weird gang that makes you love Marvel Comics. They first appeared in The Defenders #17, written by Len Wein (Swamp Thing and Wolverine’s proud papa) and illustrated by Sal Buscema (The Incredible Hulk‘s most underrated artist?). As originally conceived, the group formed after the Wrecker was mistaken for Loki by Karnilla, the Norn Queen. From his enchanted crowbar, he extends his power to his fellow prison inmates, granting their tools magical strength.

SheHulk skips the business with Loki (for now) and explains away the Wrecking Crew as just a bunch of thugs who rolled an Asgardian construction worker. Besides being deliciously silly, that basically tracks with the Wrecking Crew’s comic book origins.  Our best look at New Asgard occurred in Thor: Love and Thunder, and through that Taika Waititi lens, it’s not too hard to imagine this group of dopes strolling through those streets and taking down an unlucky Asgardian public servant.

In the comics, the Wrecking Crew was never the A-Team. It’s hard to get mad at SheHulk for taking a few liberties and making them even goofier. It is worth noting that in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ fantastic Black Panther run, the writer reinvented the Wrecking Crew member called Thunderball. In his series, Thunderball is revealed to be a deeply sympathetic character, a brilliant scientist screwed over by the private sector long before his Asgardian encounter with Wrecker. SheHulk has no interest in exposing the third dimension to Thunderball and disappointingly recasts the character with a white actor (Justin Eaton). The last thing the MCU needs to do right now is remove one of their few Black characters from the roster. Sigh.

As represented in SheHulk, the Wrecking Crew is certainly not a serious obstacle for Jennifer Walters. It’s hard to imagine them returning to the series at any point, frankly. After their absolute thrashing, what’s most important about them is the phone call they make to an unidentified foe. Titania?

She-Hulk’s Mad Titan

Like the Wrecking Crew, Titania is not a top-tier Marvel baddie. Of course, the MCU has never bothered with celebrating the top-tier talent from their publishing line. As has been mentioned ad nauseam by others and me, due to licensing rights at the time of their kickoff, Marvel Studios was forced to push Iron Man as a top commodity. The public didn’t care if he was as popular as Spider-Man in the books. The public didn’t really care about the books at all. Give them interesting characters paired with a good story, and it’s a win.

So, who cares if the Wrecking Crew and Titania are looked upon as the best of the best by comic book readers? Only the comic book readers, maybe. The MCU repeatedly proves that a good movie or show will transform minor characters like Moon Knight and Shang-Chi into A-listers.

So, yes, Titania, as played by Jameela Jamil, should be recognized as mighty a foe as Thanos or Ultron. There’s even a good chance that I’ll personally come away preferring her to those two monologuing mustache twirlers.

Take Me to Your Leader

Yet, I still can’t shake that nagging feeling. Someone else lurks in the shadows. The MCU has trained me too well. The stakes can’t remain ground level, right? Eventually, a bright beam of light will appear, or some long-dead monster will reveal itself.

Most likely, it’s wishful thinking. Whatever. With the Abomination (Tim Roth) back on the chessboard, The Incredible Hulk becomes more and more of an essential entry in the MCU. Let’s keep going. Let’s bring back Tim Blake Nelson‘s Samuel Sterns.

When we last saw the bad doctor, a deadly drop of cloned gamma juice leaked into his noggin. In his efforts to cure Bruce Banner, Samuel Sterns poisoned/enhanced himself. At the time, this moment sent enthusiastic ripples through the comic book nerds in the audience. Sterns, re-dubbed the Leader, is possibly Bruce Banner’s most fearsome foe, a diabolical genius with a gamma-boosted intellect.

While Smart Hulk is off taking care of business on Sakaar, now would be an inopportune time for Sterns to reappear. With no Hulk to accept his revenge, the Leader would redirect it upon She-Hulk. As such, it would be a great chance for Shulkie to womp another baddie from her cousin’s rogue’s gallery. She’s already easily handled the Abomination.

Honestly, though, we (and I really mean “I”) should look at SheHulk‘s first four episodes and come to a cold realization. This series is all about Jen. We may want a big bad like the Leader. We may want to speed up the process of getting She-Hulk onto an Avengers team, but we should slow down and enjoy what we have already.

So far, SheHulk is a light series that also respects Jennifer Walters’ inner life, happy to live in the silly moments. Whatever keeps the focus on Jen’s internal storm is what we should crave. Folks like the Leader are undoubtedly coming. Let’s not rush things.

She-Hulk Episode 4 is now streaming on Disney+

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)