Secret Wars has been going for a few months now, but Jess has been running away from all things Avengers, so it makes sense it took her book a little time to catch up. How are Jessica Drew’s last days? Find out here.
Spider-Woman: Road Trip To The End of The World
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez (9) & Natacha Bustos (10)
Covers: Javier Rodriguez
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez (9) & Vero Gandini (10)
Inker: Alvero Lopez (9) & Natacha Bustos (10)
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Devin Lewis & Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Never Wanted To Be The Bad Guy: Our story begins with Jessica Drew and Natasha Romanov, piloting an aircraft full of scientists to Reed Richards’ life raft, as seen in Secret Wars #1. Jessica is quite dour, wondering what change she is really making as the world comes to end. Natasha tells her to get over herself. That she needs Jessica’s head in the game and not moping over her midlife crisis adventures with Ben Urich and Porcupine. Jess says she is here, since she left them behind…
Cut to a few weeks earlier as Jess & Ben are getting ready to travel the country, solving case files. Jess gets a mysterious package and Ben makes her wait for Roger (Porcupine), whose addition to the trip is a surprise Jess is not happy about.
We see a montage of adventures, that all end with Roger screwing up and Jess having to save the day. After she tears him a new one, she puts him in charge of driving while she tries to sleep off a week’s worth of concussions. During the night, Roger bemoans to himself about how he always wanted to be the white hat wearing sheriff, not the bad guy. As luck would have it, he comes across a small western attraction town and pulls over.
Unbeknownst to him, a super villain has taken over the town and turned its inhabitants into mind controlled zombies. The town’s inhabitants show up with a heavy barrage of gunfire and Roger gets shot saving Ben and Jess. The town takes Ben and Roger out back to be disposed and beat Jess unconscious.
When Jess comes to, she meets the Big Bad, a villain named Sheriff, and tries to escape a demented meat packing plant. One that comes stocked with Hulk cows and violent zombies. She decides she has to fight to escape, not win, but there’s nowhere to run.
On the outskirts of town, the zombies are digging graves for Ben and Roger, when Roger reveals his Porcupine suit is bulletproof and he’s been faking his death; he also reveals his suit’s ability to launch knockout quills and takes out the bad guys.
Ben is badly wounded, so Roger takes him to the hospital. There he meets a vegan nurse, who is the only person in town who hasn’t lost their mind. Roger theorizes the meat might be how the town is mind controlled and heads to the town’s meat packing plant. His hunch turns out to be right and he discovers Sheriff’s base of operations and takes out the villain. Just in time to save Jess by taking control of the town and taking down the Hulk cows.
The story ends with Roger, Ben, Jess, and vegan girl celebrating their victory in a cheap motel. Jess goes to get ice and runs into Natasha. The mysterious package from the beginning is Jess’ old outfit, along with a note from Nat asking for help. Jess argues, saying there is nothing she can do to save the day that 900 other Avengers can’t do. Natasha lets her know there is no saving the day, this is the end. Jess realizes she has to go and Natasha offers to let her say goodbye. Jess sees Ben and Roger having a good time and decides to leave them behind without goodbye.
I Wanted To Be The Sheriff: Every now and then, there are issues you read that get better the more you read them. These two issues are like that. In an age where comics are designed for the trade format, these two issues cram a lot in. I thought they rushed things after my first read, but future readings and critique show that this is a very tightly packed story that accomplishes everything it set out to do. Some things more successfully than others, but nothing is handled poorly.
Let’s get some cons out of the way; aside from the mysterious package in issue 9, it doesn’t tie into Secret Wars. The flash forwards start in issue 10, which I found a little weird but Editor Devin Lewis explained this was by Javier Rodriguez’s choice as they wanted to bring a special artist in for the Secret War issue (Rodriguez actually picked Natacha Bustos to do the issue.) I don’t feel the flash forwards work in the larger story context, but I’ll explain why a bit further in.
Another con is Ben Urich is basically non existent in the story aside from the beginning of Issue 9 and the end of Issue 10. He’s always there, but says very little and is comatose for a large portion of the arc. Considering the focus on him last arc though, this isn’t that big of a deal.
Especially because this is Roger Gocking’s story, aka the Porcupine. The first issue shows his incompetence while the second is him stepping up in a big way. This is why the Secret Wars tie in aspects don’t work as well as they could have if they had been put in at the start of issue 9, when Jess was more of a focus. His progression from zero to hero is handled quite well. We see the bumbling idiot from Spider-Woman’s second arc. We see his desire to do good/origin story. And we see him take all of Jessica’s berating to heart, yet still save the day in his own way (which includes a dancing zombie line among other amusing things.) Hopeless has shown from day one that he can make the guest stars of this series shine, from Cindy Moon to Ben Urich to Roger Gocking.
And what is truly remarkable is he never makes it feel like Jess isn’t front and center at the same time. This issue shows a very different psychology to Jess than what we’ve seen before. Jess is running from her past as an Avenger and it ties in well with this story’s big theme; you are who you choose to be. Once again, Hopeless writes some great speeches for Jessica. Especially when Natasha is on the page with her. His use of Natasha here is excellent, as Natasha tries to belittle Jessica’s current status quo and Jessica fights back. In the end, Natasha wins the fight and it gives Jessica’s last days a suitably bleak feel; something she tried so hard to move past is what does her in. I hope we explore some fallout of this when the series relaunches.
Let’s talk art quickly before we go. Rodriguez’s montage of missions is probably some of his finest work on the series thus far, but it’s Natacha Bustos I want to talk about. I can believe Rodriguez chose her to do the book for the Secret Wars issue because her style is very similar to his own. As far as I can tell, aside from a small back up in a Vertigo comic, this is her first full issue in comics and she’ll be the artist on Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur after Secret Wars, so kudos to Rodriguez for helping an artist break in. Unfortunately, she’s a poor man’s version of Javier Rodriguez. Nothing in this story defines her art as anything but that, lacking the polish of Rodriguez. It’s not bad art, just not as good as our usual. She does draw a very cute Natasha though, amusing considering her own name is a different spelling of Black Widow’s. She also brings her own colorist along, Vero Gandini, who maintains the coloring style of the series perfectly.
To Wear The White Hat and Six-Gun: Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Natacha Bustos, Alvero Lopez, and Vero Gandini deliver a single story in two parts and they manage to keep the passing of the artistic baton as seamless as possible. The story is tightly woven, which is impressive considering how new to the comics scene Hopeless is. There are few hiccups here and there, but there are also tons of little moments like Roger wanting to be the Sheriff and then taking Sheriff’s mind control gimmick, that make this arc more clever than it seems at first glance. I’d give issue 9 a B+ and Issue 10 an A, meaning the creative team once again deliver a story in the top tier of grades. I’m hoping Spider-Woman returns out of the gate swinging. I feel Hopeless will have some great commentary on a superhero being an expecting mother, and I feel Javier Rodriguez is the perfect artist to tell this story with.
- Roger’s Turn In The Spotlight
- Jessica’s Defense of Current Status Quo
- Art Team Transition Fairly Seamless
- Excellent Use of Guest Star
- Ben Urich Just There
- Natacha Bustos Feels Like a Poor Man Javier Rodriguez