Marvel’s latest Disney+ series is here, and it’s a … cameo-filled half-hour legal comedy? Here’s everything the franchise’s casual fans should know before diving in:
Who is She-Hulk?
She-Hulk, a.k.a. Jennifer Walters, is an attorney and the cousin of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who gains similar Hulk abilities after an accident. Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany stars, making her MCU debut.
She-Hulk was first introduced in the comics in 1980, and her origin story was a bit different than in the show. It involved Jennifer getting shot by goons working for a crime boss named Nicholas Trask; to save her, Bruce Banner provides his cousin with a blood transfusion. This results in her becoming a Hulk in her own right. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has tweaked this story slightly, though, so she’s instead injured in a car crash and gets covered in Bruce’s blood.
In contrast to Bruce, Jennifer is still basically herself when she turns into She-Hulk, rather than having a radically different, rage-filled alter-ego. In the comics, She-Hulk joins the Avengers and even the Fantastic Four; she’s also known for breaking the fourth wall like Deadpool, something the Disney+ series has retained with frequent meta scenes of Jennifer speaking directly to the camera and acknowledging the fact that she’s in a show.
After the premiere lays out She-Hulk’s origins, the show develops into a wacky legal procedural examining what the court system might look like in a world filled with superheroes, and thus becoming the closest thing the MCU has to a half-hour comedy. Beyond her Disney+ series, She-Hulk is expected to appear in upcoming Avengers films, according to Ruffalo. Notably, in the comics, she played a role in original version of the event that will be central to the 2025 film Avengers: Secret Wars.
Where did we leave off with Bruce Banner?
Mark Ruffalo returns in She-Hulk for his first major role as Bruce Banner since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
It’s worth remembering that Bruce is coming off a story arc beginning in Thor: Ragnarok, which saw him attempt to reconcile his Hulk side and his human side. In Ragnarok, Bruce ends up stuck in Hulk form for two years on a planet called Sakaar, where he’s forced to fight as a champion for the planet’s ruler, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and eventually encounters Thor. After escaping Sakaar, he returns to his human form but struggles to turn back into the Hulk when he needs to in Avengers: Infinity War. By Avengers: Endgame, Bruce figures out a way to become “Smart Hulk”: essentially, his Hulk form but with Bruce’s consciousness, so he’s fully in control.
Let’s also not forget that Bruce is the one who reversed Thanos’ snap in Endgame, severely injuring his arm in the process. We last saw him in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ credits scene, where his arm is still in a sling but he’s back in human form. Based on She-Hulk‘s early episodes, Bruce’s time on Sakaar in Ragnarok looks likely to come into play, setting up a juicy storyline for him.
Who is Emil Blonsky?
A few other character returns have been revealed in She-Hulk‘s marketing, including Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, who hasn’t been especially relevant in the MCU for nearly 15 years.
Blonsky was introduced in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk as a Russian-born soldier from the Royal Marines tasked by U.S. Army General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) with capturing Bruce Banner, who’s in hiding while trying to cure himself of his Hulk side. Amid this mission, Blonsky is injected with super soldier serum (like what Steve Rogers received to become Captain America) at Ross’ direction. But Blonsky, seeking Hulk’s strength, demands to also be injected with Banner’s blood, and the combination turns him into a destructive creature known as Abomination — basically, an evil version of the Hulk. Abomination goes rogue and rampages across Harlem until Ross is forced to send Bruce in to take him out, after which Blonsky is brought into custody.
Later, the Marvel short film “The Consultant” revealed the World Security Council not only wanted Blonsky to be released because they consider him “a war hero,” but they actually wanted him added to the Avengers. Obviously, that didn’t happen, as Ross refused to release him.
Where did we leave Wong?
Phase four truly is Phase Wong, as with She-Hulk, Benedict Wong’s character — named Wong — makes his fifth MCU appearance in the past year alone.
We first met Wong in Doctor Strange as the librarian at Kamar-Taj, where students are trained to master the mystic arts. Spider-Man: No Way Home revealed he has gained the title of Sorcerer Supreme, taking over for Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) thanks to Strange being dust for five years after Thanos’ snap. In No Way Home, Wong was also the one to remind Strange about a spell that can erase memories, which Strange uses to help Spider-Man (to disastrous results).
More importantly, we saw Wong cross paths with Emil Blonsky in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Shang-Chi at one point visits an underground fight club, where Wong and Abomination are competing. Wong wins, but he and Abomination then have what looks like a friendly post-fight chat, with Wong telling him, “Maybe you’ll start controlling those punches like we practiced?”
Why Wong was fighting Abomination and appeared to have an established relationship with him was a mystery at the time. But She-Hulk turns this cameo into a major plot point.
Who else is in the show?
Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) stars as a social media influencer named Titania, who has a minor role in early episodes but is set up as an overarching villain. We’ll also apparently meet a comics character known as Frog-Man — who, yes, is indeed just a man in a frog suit.
But by far the most anticipated appearance is that of Charlie Cox as Daredevil; he isn’t in the first four episodes shown to critics, but is expected to show up later. This will be Cox’s first time suiting up since the cancellation of the Netflix Daredevil series in 2018, though he did have a cameo out of costume in No Way Home.
But it only makes sense to bring Marvel’s two lawyer superhero characters together. Matt Murdock is an attorney based out of Hell’s Kitchen who is blind and operates as the vigilante Daredevil, and his primary rivalry is with crime boss Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), a.k.a. Kingpin. In the final episode of Daredevil, Fisk ends up back in prison, though he was out again by the time of Hawkeye, in which we last saw Fisk being shot at point-blank range by Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo. We don’t know if Fisk will appear in She-Hulk, but it wouldn’t be surprising to get an update about his status ahead of a new Daredevil Disney+ series slated for 2024.
In one of the show’s many meta moments, though, Jennifer does declare early on that this isn’t going to be “one of those cameo-every-week type of shows,” reminding fans who the series is really about. Will that tamp down frenzied weekly speculation over what other characters will appear? We have our doubts.