Spider-Woman undergoes a change in creative direction as existing writer Dennis Hopeless establishes a new status quo; Jessica is leaving the Avengers and going back to street level investigation. There are some fun moments and interesting mysteries set up here, and Hopeless writes Jess as a confident, if hazard-prone, character. Unfortunately the book doesn’t quite escape the shadow of other recent and perhaps more successful reboots that take a similar approach. This is good work, but the results are solid rather than spectacular.
After dealing with the events of the Spider-verse Jessica Drew has decided to quit the Avengers, suit up in a new costume, and get back to the people-helping basics. The ‘Batgirl-ing’ of this title has been promoted for a while; redesigning Jess’ outfit to be more realistic and less sexualised, rebooting Jess’ status quo, removing previous team affiliations, and dropping prior supporting characters. It all works quite well and the central plot arc, that Jess will be working with The Bugle’s Ben Urich is established effectively, but the issue is relatively predictable and the dialogue doesn’t quite sparkle as much as one might hope.
The issue begins with Jessica narrating her recent decision to quit the Avengers; not much is given away in that regard, essentially she is done with the high-stakes superhero game and would rather have a normal life for a while. It felt like the first couple of pages feature a lot of narrative text, we’re not talking Claremont volumes, but there is more to read than you might expect at the very start of a ‘light’ book. That said, once the initial action gets going there are some nice moments; the design of the ‘monster man’ is great and the colouring on his light-void body and glowing features is really well done (and Jess ascending the building in silhouette was ace too). I’m also fond of the police anti-super-villain SWAT team too. The surprise that the monster man was actually a police-robot-suit-man was a pretty neat implementation of the classic ‘not-what-you-expected’ scene, and the subsequent prison holding cell was fun.
However the scene I most enjoyed in this issue was Jess taking her worldly frustrations out on a wall with a sledge-hammer. As Ben Urich solicits Jessica’s help she goes about physically ‘rebooting’ her universe by doing a little interior decoration. The dialogue is good, Rodriguez draws Jess as a powerful figure, and the final beat of this scene, “I’m normal. Help me“, is great. In fact, the overall mystery is an excellent one; Urich is concerned that the loved ones of known low-level super-villains are being systematically kidnapped, presumably to force those villains to act on the kidnappers behalf. But Jess is blinded by her hatred of the super-villains, and the confusing recent changes in her own life, and so she refuses to help Ben. It’s not until she encounters the pretty cool looking porcupine robbing a bank that she realises what’s really going on and gets involved.
I think if it weren’t for the recent massively successful reboots (the humour and self-deprecation of Ant-Man, the incredible costume and status quo revisions in Batgirl, the wholly new world of Spider-Gwen or the self-discovery of Silk, even the low-stakes adventures of the nearly finished Matt Fraction Hawkeye) that Spider-Woman #5 might read as a more unique and fresh comic. Unfortunately, with those titles being as good as they are, this book seems somehow less than the sum of its parts. That may sound harsh, and there is still plenty to enjoy here, but the solid art and writing never really manages to rise above expectations. The story reads well, the actions plays well, and there are some chuckles in the dialogue, but this isn’t groundbreaking stuff and with so many incredible titles just getting underway I fear that Spider-Woman will need to be more than just ‘good enough’ to stick around for the long haul.
Spider-Woman #5 // Writer – Dennis Hopeless / Pencils and Colours – Javier Rodriguez / Inker – Alvaro Lopez // Marvel
Notes and Observations:
- I really like Kris Anka’s redesign of Jessica’s costume, it is cool and practical and makes a lot of sense for a street level hero (though the shades might be a little much!). I am also a big fan of Jess’ bike.
- When inner-monologuing about her love life would Jess call Clint ‘Hawkeye’ or ‘Clint’? I would have expected it to be the latter, she surely wasn’t calling him Hawkeye when they were out on dates, etc.
- Love the panel of Spider-Woman raiding Ben’s files whilst hanging upside down.
- I’m sure Ben was just supposed to be happy Jess was on the case in that last panel, but he looked a little manic to me – I hope he’s not the guy behind this whole thing in some weird twist.
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