Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman has faced quite an uphill battle in recent years. There was the whole “boob-window” controversy last year during the Infinity event, when her space-suit had a boob window for some inexplicable reason. And then there was the utterly horrible Milo Manara variant cover a few weeks back for her debut issue, released this week. Despite being an Avengers stalwart for a number of years, she has had a tougher time in recent years with her own books than many other characters, though she has still come out on top with others like Black Widow and Ms. Marvel and others in getting a brand-new series this year.
Spider-Woman I had quite high expectations for, I’ll admit. I love Jess as a character, thanks largely to some of Brian Michael Bendis’ work with her and what Ales Kot has been doing this year in Secret Avengers. Despite the controversy, I was really looking forward to this book, but unfortunately, things just don’t work out at all. Writer Dennis Hopeless dumps you straight into the middle of Spider-Verse without any kind of context at all and it is more an ensemble title rather than a Spider-Woman title. Most disappointing.
Hopeless’ story lands Jessica right smack-dab in the middle of Spider-Verse. This is an event which draws in Spidey-heres from all across the Marvel multiverse, from time and space, together on a quest to destroy the Inheritors, a dysfunctional family of dimension-hopping beings who are consuming the life-forces of the Spider-heroes in all the different realities. As far as I’m concerned, this was the worst approach to take with Jessica Drew. Marvel is perhaps cashing in on the event drawing in readers to the title, but I’m disappointed with it. She should have been given a chance to stand on her own two feet before being plunged head-first into this mess of an event that is already struggling under the weight of so many different titles.
This story sees Jessica playing nurse-maid to Silk, the latest Spider-hero of Earth-616, since apparently she draws the Inheritors like moths. She and Spider-Man Noir are given the task of babysitting Silk, and it feels very forced and heavy-handed. There’s absolutely no setup for any of this, so I was at a loss to understand any of it. And Jess raining on Silk’s parade was just… out of character, it seemed. For me, she has always been one of the most centered of superheroes, and in here, she’s just a fed-up babysitter who hates what she’s doing. Or close to it anyway that it doesn’t make a difference.
What I wanted to see out of this issue was who Jessica is, what she does, how she relates to the people around her in a normal setting. But that’s not what we get. This is not a debut title. This is just another Plain Joe Spider-Verse title, and that really, really disappoints me. As if the whole Milo Manara controversy wasn’t enough, Marvel screwed up the story too, and in a really, really bad way.
And given that the issue has so many other Spider-Heroes, it is more a jumble of characters rather than anything meaningful. Jess feels like an extra in her own title, and that does not bode well for the future of this title, or at least until as long as Spider-Verse is going on. Any good moments in the story are ruined by how forced the event narrative is, with the random dimension-hopping and switch in purpose for the lead character towards the end of the story in what is a very anti-climactic moment that causes even more disappointment.
Greg Land is the penciller on this with Jay Leisten on inks, Frank D’Armata on colours and Travis Lanham on the letters. Land and Morry Hollowell do the cover, which has its moments, but is also rather disappointing given that Silk’s body proportions are completely off. And this isn’t something that is new with Land. I thought his work in the first arc of Al Ewing’s Mighty Avengers was pretty decent, and it is decent here too, but there’s still the tendency towards supermodel poses and improper body proportions in general. The inks and colours are good thankfully and help make up for some of the deficiencies, so it is not all a total loss.
I might give the second issue a try, but I’m not particularly looking forward to it anymore.