Apology: Okay, so I really fell behind here. We had a bit of a shake-up behind the scenes where I went from reviewing like 7 titles to 3 (Silk, Spider-Woman, and Venom) and then I got swamped with finals and this little thing called the holiday season. I really enjoy comparing the Spider-Ladies against each other, so I’m going to keep Battle-View for them, while doing more traditional reviews for Venom: Space Knight.
In this review, I’ll take a look at the first new number ones for Silk and Spider-Woman. At the end of Marvel Now initiative, I proclaimed Jessica Drew as the woman to beat, with Cindy Moon hot on her heels. Does Spider-Woman continue to hold the title despite a surprise pregnancy or will the Sinister Silk take it from her?
Spider Woman #1
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist/Colorist/C.Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Inker/C.Artist: Alvaro Lopez
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editors: Devin Lewis & Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Stacey Lee
Colorist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Helen Chen
Editors: Devin Lewis & Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Spider-Woman Recap: Jessica Drew spends one final day training her superhero protege, Porcupine, before she finally agrees to take a ‘maternity leave’ from the superhero thing. After throwing a party with her old co-workers (these little known heroes, The Avengers), she tries to live an ordinary civilian life. Unable to make it two weeks before she feels like she is losing her mind, she visits an alien pregnancy center on the recommendation of Carol Danvers. As luck would have it, Skrulls take over the hospital during her visit.
Silk Recap: Cindy Moon has been busy during the eight months since Secret Wars ended: she got her GED, a promotion at work, has been trying to help her brother regain his memory, and turned evil to work for Black Cat. She also continues to encounter the Goblin Nation, who are linked to the ordeals her brother went through before Cindy found him. Black Cat reveals the Goblin Knights that make up this growing Goblin Nation consist of henchmen from other crime lords, such as herself, and encourages Silk’s aggressive pursuit of them. By issue’s end we learn Cindy has a guardian angel helping her on the Goblin Nation front and she is actually a double agent, working with Mockingbird and SHIELD to bring down Black Cat.
I’ll be comparing these comics in three regards: The Old, The New, and The Art.
The Old: This category looks at what is retained and how well the writer catches readers up with the ‘eight months later’ period.
The first issue of Silk spends over half the issue catching us up on Cindy Moon’s life during the eight month hiatus, jumping in and out of Cindy’s head as she trounces some Goblin Knights as Silk. We learn that she has moved past her days living isolated in a bunker, instead living in a tiny little bachelor suite that she pays an outrageous price for. It’s a nice way at addressing Cindy making strides towards conquering anxiety without delving too deep into it. Considering the rest of the updates Robbie Thompson throws our way, this decision helps keep it from being overcrowded. We also learn of her promotion at work and acquisition of her GED, bringing the charming relationship she has with J Jonah Jameson front and center. And lastly, we check in with Albert, Cindy’s brother who she connected with during the final issue of Silk Volume One. This brings us full circle to present day, as she explains the Goblin Nation messed with her brother’s mind and she’s expressing her anger against them while searching for answers. Cindy has been a busy woman, but Robbie makes catching up with her seem effortless even as we jump around in time. Cindy’s narration helps a lot, as she retains the same unapologetic Dick Grayson-esqe wit that made her a delight in the first volume. Everything that made the first volume work is here and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Over in Spider-Woman #1, our eight month period is dedicated almost entirely to the new selling point of the series: Jessica Drew’s pregnancy. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Dennis Hopeless makes the most of this and shows us the sacrifices Jessica is willing to make for her unborn child. This ranges from saying farewell to her motorcycle to her crime fighting career. Rather than have these recaps be driven by Jessica’s narration, she goes through these experiences with people by her side; either her superhero best friend, Carol Danvers, or crime fighting partners, Roger Gocking (Porcupine) and Ben Urich. Jessica and Carol’s relationship is the highlight of the issue, as Carol does everything in her power to help her best friend (and earn Godmother status.) Sadly, the segments with Ben and Roger read as a farewell to the crime fighting trio status of Spider-Woman Volume Five. Hopeless highlights the strides Porcupine has made in the super-heroics department and continues to paint Ben as the voice of logic. This isn’t at all a sad farewell, as the team’s banter is as great as it ever was and there are hugs and praise aplenty, but Hopeless does make it feel like it’s the end of that era of Jessica’s life.
Partly because it feels like far more has happened to Cindy than Jess, but mostly because Cindy’s old life doesn’t seem to be going away like Jess’ is, I’m giving this category to Silk.
The New: This category looks at the parts of the book that are happening currently and what new elements it adds to the series.
Despite her old life being left behind, I’m more than okay with Jessica’s new status quo. Hopeless uses her new pregnant status to inject bitter humor into Jessica’s life. Jessica is forced to reevaluate her life once again, but in a way that makes this feel more exciting and ripe with potential than her loss of identity last volume. It’s great seeing Jessica trying to combat her boredom, going as far as to travel to Earth-65 to go visit Spider-Gwen (a nice build up to the upcoming Spider-Women event along with Jess’ appearance in Spider-Gwen #3.) This pregnancy brings the Marvel Universe to her, which makes sense since child-rearing isn’t exactly a common practice amongst the Avengers. The party at her house is great, addressing several things in cute ways like the identity of the father (no, we do not find out, but you can mark Clint Barton off the list as he hilariously makes an ass of himself in regards to Jessica’s appearance.) It’s also great to see Skrulls return as villains in a Jessica Drew series, without relying on the tried and tired Veranke plot beat from Secret Invasion.
The new elements in Silk’s series doesn’t far as well. The fact Cindy ‘broke bad’ is interesting, since we see she’s not afraid to vent her anger at the way life screws her over unlike Peter Parker. But of course, it’s all deception as she is secretly working to take down Black Cat; the most unoriginal trick in the book. An unexpected highlight from this however is a scene between Cindy and Bobbi Morse, where she asks Bobbi what it was like to be taken prisoner by the Skrulls and how she got over it. Also, Cindy getting a new guardian angel who might be villainous feels just a bit too similar to the Dragon-Man character in Volume One. Right now, these new elements are just not firing on the same cylinders the older stuff is.
Undoubtedly, this category goes to Spider-Woman.
The Art: Stacey Lee & Ian Herring vs. Javier Rodriguez & Alvero Lopez.
Stacey Lee’s art in Silk is defined by three core values: the expressive nature of her facial work, its cartoon aesthetic, and the kinetic movement of her characters. All of these are present in spades. Considering a comic book is made up of static images, there’s an incredible sense of motion to Lee’s work which I would argue is essential to any Spider-Family title. It’s little things in the body motions of the characters that make even her talking heads scenes come alive. Her Jonah is a particular favorite, as the cartoonish aspect of his exuberant speech is perfectly captured. Ian Herring’s light color palette helps give this book its animated quality. And all three of these core values come together beautifully in the fight scenes. This is where Ian Herring brings his classic background coding of red = power and yellow = speed, which is as appreciated as Thompson keeping Cindy’s supporting cast around. If I have one complaint, it is that Mockingbird’s redesign does not look that great in Lee’s style, especially the rigid mask (Silk’s bandanna is much more suited for her style.)
Over in Spider-Woman, Javier Rodriguez has a much more difficult job. Instead of tackling the same old, same old, he has to redefine the way Jessica Drew interacts with her world. Thanks to the eight months later period, Javier gets to draw Jessica at various stages in her pregnancy and he does a great job. Another technical trick he pulls off is adjusting how pregnant Jessica looks depending on the angle we see her from. Aside from Jessica, his redesign of Porcupine is bad ass and so are the scenes early on when we get to see a more competent Porcupine in action. Rodriguez colors his own work and it’s noticeable, since he knows how to frame his scenes in regards to the color (the Porcupine fight is illuminated by flames and Rodriguez uses the shadows to conceal the fact it is Roger and not Jessica fighting.) Alvero Lopez’s inks work well with the darker color palette in the beginning, creating a foreboding mood. When Rodriguez lightens his colors for a more alien landscape, Lopez doesn’t miss a beat, giving Jessica more substance than the insanity around her.
Both artistic teams are firing on all cylinders here, but for tackling something new, I’m giving this category to Spider-Woman.
Verdict: Even before I started picking apart the two issues, I knew Spider-Woman #1 was going to take it. That book made me want to run out and tell people all about it; about the pregnancy and the humor Hopeless mines from it, about the stunning artwork that Rodriguez uses to create not just a mood but several different moods for each scene in the issue, and about the exciting new direction it takes off in. Not that Silk wasn’t a solid first issue but it just felt like more of the same. So hats off to you Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, and Alvero Lopez, you made a spectacular first issue that takes Jessica Drew into exciting new territory. Considering none of them are women or have been pregnant, that’s pretty remarkable.
Grades: Spider-Woman #1 (A), Silk #1 (B-)
Javi Trujillo gave Spider-Gwen #1 an A, for those comparing all 3 of the Spider-Ladies.
See y’all in a few when I get the second issues reviewed.