It seems so long ago…for everything. So long since Secret Invasion happened; so long since Spider-Woman was initially solicited as a comic; so long since the motion comic came out and “changed the future of paper comics as we know it;” just…so long.
But Jessica Drew is back and so am I, ready to step back into my reviewing-shoes, and boy did I pick a great time to do it!
SPIDER-WOMAN: AGENT OF S.W.O.R.D #1
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTIST: Alex Maleev
LETTERER: VC’s Cory Petit
MODEL FOR SPIDER-WOMAN/JESSICA DREW: Jolynn Carpenter
We find Jessica comparing herself to Wolverine and deciding that she has taken his position as “the most screwed-over person in the universe.” A manila-envelop slipped under her hotel’s door leads her to a meeting on a double-decker bus (fantastic) with everyone’s favorite green-haired Abigail Brand. What does she want with Jessica? Most simply, Brand wants Jessica to become an agent of S.W.O.R.D for as long as she wants, hunting down the wrinkly-skinned b******s known as Skrulls. The watch, the iTouch, money, and seemingly lack of strings have Jessica a little wary, but she decides to go for it.
Jessica goes to the seediest corner on the planet, Madripoor, for her first mission. Her inability to sleep and her constant need to stare at the non-human-identifying-watch give readers time to catch up on a brief splash page of her origins before Spider-Man comes crashing through her hotel’s window…GET YOUR OWN BOOK SPIDER-MAN!!! Spidey explains to Jessica that S.W.O.R.D. is a sham and that he’s there with the Avengers to save her. Luckily for us, Jessica is not an idiot and summarily pummels Spidey before passing out due to the twelve-story fall she just experienced.
Perhaps the best thing about this book right now is the fact that Jessica is at rock bottom. She is despised by the world, mistrusted by the superhero community, and pretty hard on herself as well. This is not going to be a book full of giggles, unicorns, rainbows, but one that, I would argue, is full of realism in terms of her situation in the comic world. This issue was all about exposition, but exposition that actually pushes the story forward. Jessica is at a loss for what to do next and even when the road opens before her she still hesitates. Is this what she wants to do? Get into another organization that is all about secrets and subterfuge? Does she really want to take down Skrulls, the nipple-less race that ruined her life? Damn straight, she does!
I really like the fact that the special-watch is such a focus for her and the readers. Several panels highlight this watch and it really gets at the notion that Jessica is extremely paranoid at this point (as we all should be) albeit a little naïve. The tech she is given will have little bearing on the outcome and she really has to start relying on herself and her instincts again if she is to have any hope against the fight ahead. The final thing I am enjoying about the character right now is how angry she is. She knows she needs to control that anger but she has a long way to go until she can get back to where she was. It will be interesting to see if she will allow the anger to consume her before she finds her way or will have a quicker turnaround.
Am I forgetting something? Hmmm, OMG! The art! Now, I know there are people reading this right now who probably dislike Maleev as much as I dislike Botulism…wait, I think his name is Bachalo (little joke there). No matter, the art in this book is FANTASTIC! When the art alone could advance the story with no words, you know that it is a success. The dark tones really get at this idea that Jessica is in a really dark place in her life right now. The darkness continues in each of the places that she finds herself, perhaps showing the effect of the Invasion on these places. The fourth page, second panel has Spider-Woman with hints of a green, wrinkly-chin. I mean, how wonderful is that? So subtle, so well done! The only negative I have to say is about the splash page. I LOVELOVELOVE splash pages. They are the place where artists and the characters which they are portraying can shine. This one, however, falls short. I think it could have been really special, and taking into account the amount of pain that is coming through with what Jessica is saying, it should have been great.
4.5 Webheads out of 5.0. It was a great first issue, setting the bar high for the series. Finally, I can add another character to the very short list of realistic female characters in comics. The art is nothing short of amazing. I press you to READ, not watch, Spider-Woman.
Ex animo, Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Girl!