During the Marvel Now initiative, we saw the amount of Spider-Men ongoing titles (2099, Ultimate, and ASM) matched with Spider-Female titles (Spider-Woman, Silk, and Spider-Gwen.) Using Dan Slott’s Spider-Verse as a launching board, the opening arc of Spider-Woman set the board for Jessica Drew, Cindy Moon, and an alternate universe Gwen Stacy to take the stage in their own titles. With all three books continuing on into All New All Different Marvel, and Web Warriors giving Gwen a 2nd title alongside Anya Corazon and Mayday Parker, I thought it would be interesting to see how these characters fared in this first wave, starting with the Spider-Verse event and concluding with the Secret Wars event.
Jessica Drew: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3: #9-15, Avengers Volume 5: #38-40, #42-44, New Avengers Volume 3: #26, #28, #30, #32, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers: #8-9, Spider-Woman Volume 5: #1-10, Secret Wars #1, Howard the Duck Volume 5: #5, Hawkeye #22, Thor Volume 4: #2, #4, #8. (35 issues)
Gwen Stacey (Earth 65): Edge of Spider-Verse #2, Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3: #9-15, Spider-Verse Volume 1: #1, Spider-Verse Team-Up #1-2, Spider-Woman Volume 5: #1-4, Spider-Gwen Volume 1: #1-5, Spider-Verse Volume 2: #1-5. (25 appearances)
Cindy Moon: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3: #9-15, Spider-Woman Volume 5: #1-4, Howard the Duck Volume 5: #5, Silk #1-7 (19 appearances)
Anya Corazon: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3: #9-15, Spider-Woman Volume 5: #1, #4, Spider-Verse Volume 2: #1-5, Spider-Verse Team-Up #3 (15 appearances)
Mayday Parker: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 3: #9-15, Spider-Verse Volume 1: #1, Spider-Verse Team-Up #3, Spider-Island Volume 2: #1-5 (14 appearances)
Clearly the weakest character of the lot is Anya Corazon, aka Spider-Girl. In her fifteen appearances, the most notable development she went through was gaining a mentor in the form of Billy Braddock, aka Spider-UK. And even though their partnership would lead to the formation of the Web Warriors, a group of Spiders dedicated to protecting the Web of Destiny, she was largely a background player during the formation. Hopefully as her team of Web Warriors travel through dimensions, aiding worlds who lost their Spiders during the Spider-Verse event, she’ll step up and become a more developed character.
Next up, would be Mayday Parker. Clocking in at 14 appearances total, Mayday went through a devastating loss when her father was killed. She was drawn into the Spider-Verse event in an attempt to save her little brother, Benjy, who turned out to be the fabled Scion, a very important Spider that the Inheritors had to sacrifice. The loss of her father became the crux of all of her appearances, as she struggled to remain true to herself and her father’s memory. With the aid of the Spider-Family and her own friends and family back home, she managed to embrace the legacy of her father while also doing things in her own way. Fourteen issues, one big change.
Next up is the breakout star of Spider-Verse, Spider-Gwen. Coming from a universe where Gwen was bitten instead of Peter and Peter died after turning himself into the Lizard, Gwen was very much a rookie in the fight against the Inheritors. But she emerged alongside the other victors and seemed ready to handle things when she returned home. However, knowing how much Peter Parker changed the world got inside Gwen’s head and made her doubt her confidence to do anything. She lost herself in the Spider-Woman persona, avoiding her father and bandmates as she tries to live up to Peter’s legacy. And while she ran, her world continued to expand around her, with new takes on characters like The Vulture, The Rhino, Felicia Hardy, Frank Castle, and Matt Murdock. And ultimately, it was a heartfelt exchange with May and Ben Parker that brought Gwen back out from under the Spider-Mask. The way Spider-Gwen Volume One handles her change, with more depth and style, is why I place Gwen’s evolution over Mayday’s. I find her to be a funnier, more rounded character, a symbol of modern day youth, but she also had a lot more space to grow than Mayday.
When it came to the most character evolution, I was really torn between the next two, but I’m going to give Silver to Jessica Drew. After the events of Spider-Verse, Jessica realized her life had been insane for far too long. Trying to escape from alternate dimensions and space travel, she quit the Avengers and decided to embark on her own. And for a little while, she seemed kind of aimless, which is okay for someone like Gwen, a young adult just new to the superhero game, but not a woman whose been doing this as long as Jess. But Jessica came back with a vengeance, a new costume, and some sidekicks to boot; Ben Urich and Roger Gocking, aka Porcupine. Jessica’s series wasn’t so much about an evolution of character as it was about becoming comfortable with the person you are. And outside of her series, she was busy as well, helping her ex, Hawkeye, settle his affairs against the Russian Mafia, and the Odinson discover the identity of the new Thor. But as much as she tried to escape her past as an Avenger, it caught up to her and Natasha Romanov roped her into joining Sunspot’s Avengers, a group dedicated to reminding the feuding Avengers what the Avengers should stand for. She died during the final Incursion of Earth 616 and Earth 1610 (Ultimate), trying to save as many people as she could. Jessica is easily the strongest hero of the Spider-Females as it stands right now.
But it is Cindy Moon who went through the greatest transformation. I don’t know of anyone who enjoyed Cindy Moon, pheromone sex toy, when she appeared in Dan Slott’s ASM relaunch. Not even a tie in to Ezekiel and my favorite era of ASM could make me care, but that didn’t stop Marvel from pushing her. Practically the co-star of Spider-Woman when it launched, Cindy was an overeager rookie, doing more harm than good, but always with the best intentions. And then once her own series started, we started to see a more rounded Cindy Moon develop. We saw the toll the years in the bunker took on her, and we saw her struggle to find her own identity in the superhero world. Driving Cindy was her quest to find her family, who disappeared shortly after she did. And while Cindy started by doing things on her own, she eventually learned to open up and trust others like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, J Jonah Jameson, and even her one time villain, Dragon-Man. She started to bring people in, building powerful connections with them, much like a Marvel Universe version of Dick Grayson. And as her final day loomed and she fought one last time to find her family, we saw a strong hero drawn to helping others around her. As you saw her fight the chaos of the final Incursion and reunite with her brother, you saw just how far this character had gone since her first appearance.
I’m now going to shift focus to the creative teams working on the characters. I’ll primarily be focusing on the people who handled the main titles of these characters: (Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Silk, Spider-Verse Volume 2, Spider-Island Volume 2)
Once again, Anya takes last place here. I think Mike Costa’s Spider-Verse miniseries was miles better than his Scarlet Spiders mini-series, but he still is pretty heavy handed with the exposition. Not only that, but he put most of his focus on Gwen and made Anya probably the most ignored character in the mini. Poor Anya, hopefully she won’t have to fight Mayday for the spotlight as well.
I’m going to give fourth place to Gwen. Something none of the Spider-Female titles were lacking in was humor, and Gwen got a lot of good lines in Spider-Verse and Spider-Gwen. But again, Mike Costa’s exposition heavy hand hurts her and Jason Latour’s writing while at times brilliant, could also be unfocused and we spent far too much treading water. Poor pacing from Latour hurts Gwen most of all. The conclusion to the Most Wanted arc really felt like it happened in Issue Four, with Felicia Hardy basically stealing the book for the actual conclusion.
Third place is Robbie Thompson, a newcomer to comics. He took on the Herculean task of trying to make Silk an interesting character and I think he did that and much more. He did have some ups and downs though, with the humor not always sticking and a lot of convenient plot devices just happening to play out. But he should also be commended for making J Jonah Jameson a great character again and making several of the issues stand on their own, while also building an ongoing story line. Silk felt very much like a season of TV, which I quite enjoyed.
Taking silver is the combined team of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz. They’ve been writing Mayday for over a decade now and have a really solid handle on her. With easily the smallest page count (her backups in Spider-Island clocking in at around a single full issue and then her half an issue in Spider-Verse team up), they did a lot of work with Mayday in a short amount of time. And once they got going, they delivered a fun tale that evolved the character, while also checking in with multiple aspects of the world around her. It’s a shame they won’t be handling her further adventures in Web Warriors, but I’m sure she’ll be under their pen again before long.
And in the first place, Dennis Hopeless over on Spider-Woman. He was the first to make Cindy an interesting character, even if Jessica had to stand in her shadow for a couple issues. But once Spider-Verse was over, Jessica Drew came to life under Hopeless’s pen. She was smart, funny, and slowly coming to terms with the type of person/hero she is. Hopeless also made her supporting cast come to life, while also learning from Spider-Verse so that Jessica didn’t get lost again. And he had fun playing with tropes and expectations, which makes me very excited to see what he does with a pregnant Jessica.
Man, things are not working out for Anya right now, are they? She once again takes last place, this time in part for Andre Araujo’s art. I felt like Araujo was in over his head on the Spider-Verse miniseries, but I do have to commend him for his efforts. I feel like he came at it with everything he had and his colorist Rochelle Rosenberg tried her best to help him. Unfortunately, Rosenberg’s colors were best when the scenes occurred outdoors and most of the series took place inside. But the art team delivered strong facial expressions and clarity in the action scenes, traits even the greats can struggle with.
Next up is Mayday, who was drawn by Sal Buscema in the Spider-Island backups. There’s nothing wrong with Buscema’s style, it’s got a very classic feel to it, but it also felt stilted to me. Still, he delivers some great classic Spider-Man poses in his work. Colorist Andrew Crossley delivers some strong if unremarkable work as well, but this artwork feels like part of an era of style that has come and gone. Their art probably ranks higher than the next three for most of the Crawlspace, especially since two are a more distinctive style that draws a lot of hate.
Coming in at third is Spider-Gwen. I honestly couldn’t tell you which of the top three artists working on the Spider-Female books I like the most, so it comes down to guest artists and Gwen has Araujo penning five issues focused on her, so she falls to third. In her ongoing title, Robbi Rodriguez and colorist Rico Renzi deliver an art style that is unlike any other Marvel is putting out there. Robbi draws with a punk sensibility and Renzi fills the pages with vibrant colors. Once again I would like to point out, Spider-Ham is the character Robbi Rodriguez was born to draw and I hope we see Ham return to the pages of Spider-Gwen.
Second place goes to Silk. I think Stacey Lee’s art might actually edge out the Rodriguezs as my favorite, but sadly, Silk’s guest artists were not up to snuff. Tana Ford handles the Last Days issue of Silk’s adventures and while she delivers some strong art, she does come off as a poor man’s Stacey Lee. However, Annapaola Martello was a huge misstep for the series. Her art style would have been much better suited for a fight issue, but most of her issue is talking and her faces unnerve me. Ian Herring deserves heaps of praise for how he maintains a strong color continuity during guest issues and his colors work excellently with main artist, Stacey Lee. Lee uses a very minimalist anime based style that is very kinetic and she delivers a lot of great emotion with her facial expressions, even when a face is mostly concealed behind a mask.
Spider-Woman snags first place again, and that’s even with Greg Land doing the first three issues. I’ve never been a huge hater or fan of Land’s work, so the book starts with a fairly neutral art grade. But it kicks into high gear when the main artist, Javier Rodriguez joins on issue five. His redesign of Jessica’s costume is one of my favorite modern superhero redesigns and he does most of his own colors, so I’m giving him most of the credit for how the world of Spider-Woman just comes to life. The mundane looks beautiful and he’s able to switch from serene to terrifying spectacularly well. In some of the darker scene, his inker Alvero Lopez deserves a lot of credit, as he’s able to intensify the mood of the art. For the Last Days issue, Spider-Woman and Hopeless are joined by Natacha Bustos, who was actually Rodriguez’s choice for guest artist. She delivers a style very similar to his, and while not as polished, it doesn’t hurt the series much, unlike Silk’s guest artists.
So as it stands, Jessica Drew seems to be the strongest contender among the Spider-Female stars, with Silk hot on her heels. Gwen and Mayday seem to be on fairly equal footing, while Anya trails behind by quite a bit. It’ll be interesting to watch how these five fare going forward and if any other Spider-Females will join their ranks and get their own titles. Maybe Black Cat getting her own title would be a start to fixing the mistakes done to her character or Mayday could get another on-going, or perhaps we could see a gender bent Alpha, or Black Widow gain spider powers. Honestly, I could see the latter two happening over Mayday getting another on-going.
By the end of each volume/series, each character earned the chance to continue their adventures in their on-going series. The fact that none of these books were cancelled is probably my favorite thing about the All New All Different Marvel movement and I hope their good fortunes continue.
The event I’m looking forward to most next year is definitely the Spider-Women event, where Jessica and Cindy re-team with Gwen, but in her universe this time. This is the team of women that kicked off the current female push (Ms. Marvel doesn’t exist) and it’ll be great to see them all back in action together again.
Also, going forward, I’ll continue to review these titles, plus Web Warriors, and the new symbiote titles (Venom: Space Knight, Guardians, and Carnage) so I’ll be doing monthly reviews, that will be much shorter than my regulars, but will feature several reviews at one time. At the end of each arc, I will also do a review of the whole arc, something people seemed to enjoy for the Spider-Verse miniseries review. Every now and then, I may do a solo issue review if it’s something amazing or spectacularly bad. You can still get single issue Spider-Gwen reviews from the talented Javi Trujillo and if anyone wants to single issue review these titles, just shoot Brad a message.