Hey guys, I hope your holiday season was good. In the first Crawlspace review of 2017, we look at a emotionally driven Spider-Woman story, a mystery beating at its heart. I spent my holidays rereading Hopeless’ previous issues and apparently this volume has the subtitle: Shifting Gears. Who knew?
Spider-Woman #14: Mommy Mode
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Veronica Fish
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Travis Lanham
C. Artist: Javier Rodriguez
Editors: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis & Allison Stock
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Yeah, Right In The Middle Of A Thing, That’s Just How It Goes: Our issue opens with Jessica Drew losing it in the shower over the death of her partner-in-crime, Roger Gocking. After, she pulls herself together for the sake of her child, Gerry. Carol Danvers, recent best friend now strongly disliked, arrives to look after Gerry so Jessica can haunt down Roger’s killers. She reluctantly agrees and takes off to Moon’s Hollow where she receives a cold reception from Olivia Gocking. She informs Jessica that she is the reason Roger is dead, instead of home looking after his daughter. Jessica tries to argue and Ben Urich arrives in time to drag Jessica out and give his regards to the Gockings. Ben explains to Jessica that Roger was in love with her, before giving her a lead in Roger’s case; he was seen the night before he died going to a bar owned by Roderick Kingsley. Jessica investigates the bar, punching her way through the assortment of supervillains there. In the thick of it, she gets a call from Carol who informs her that Alpha Flight footage places Porcupine at the Green Bank in Queens. Jessica races there, where someone in the Porcupine costume is robbing the bank. While Jessica tries to suss out whether it is Roger or not, Porcupine is able to catch her off guard and the issue ends with Porcupine laying a beat down on Jessica.
Long Time No Face Squeeze: While a necessary issue in the grand scheme of things, a large portion of this comic is Jessica Drew catching up on the going-ons around her that readers are already privy to. That by no means makes this a bad comic, but it does take a little wind out of Dennis Hopeless’ sail. This story is driven by the mystery of Roger’s final acts, and whether or not they were in fact his final acts. This mystery fully sucks me in, leaving me to question whether I want Roger to return or not; I have strong feelings both ways. Hopeless did write Avengers Arena, so I could believe that Roger Gocking is in fact dead. Ben saw him get blown up, or perhaps Kingsley used some kind of teleportation pumpkin, since teleportation is ever-present from Alpha Flight tech to dimension hopping Spider-Women tech. But Hopeless writes this ‘new’ Porcupine in a very Roger-esqe manner, huffing and puffing and making his robbery a little melodramatic in the process. I think there is value in bringing Roger back, because no matter the outcome, the golden days of Team Spider-Woman is over. Jessica is faced with Roger’s love for her as well as the toll she is taking on his family life, and a possible betrayal to boot. And in classic Jessica fashion, she kicks into sleuth mode and runs away in search of answers rather than face the tough revelations and her emotions.
If Roger is alive, what is he doing with Roderick Kingsley? Is he trying to get out of the superhero game to spend more time with his family? And if so, is Olivia in on it? This would bring the book back to its sophomore story, which introduced Roger as part of a scheme by ex-supervillian spouses to exploit their husbands, which is not a bad move as the series hits its twenty-fifth issue. It would celebrate the the series past while also breaking apart Team Spider-Woman to push the series in new depressing directions. I would love to see Hopeless challenge Jessica with depression while raising her child, with hopeful reconciliation with Roger and Carol lying at the end of the dark tunnel.
This issue is Gerry Drew’s biggest one to date. Gerry is absolutely adorable, drawn perfectly by Veronica Fish with big innocent eyes and Aquaman-esqe attire. Jessica Drew pulling herself together for Gerry’s sake is a lovely character beat, because she characterizes her ability to pull out of overwhelming emotions as her Mommy Mode, when really she has had it all along. It is one part healthy, one part unhealthy because Jessica would rather run and put on a tough face than get bogged down and face the bleak reality of her situation; superheroics are great for that. Interactions around Gerry are always great, especially with Carol, but my heart melts into goo when Gerry sees the Porcupine outfit and says, “Rodgoo.” Moments like that swing me like a pendulum between Roger staying dead and coming back to the series, which means Hopeless is doing his job extraordinarily well.
This is the issue where I finally accept that Rodriguez’s one man creative team is not Spider-Woman‘s creative team anymore and the book belongs as much to Veronica Fish and Rachelle Rosenberg as it did to him. I can even pinpoint the moment this happens and it is the fight in Kingsley’s bar. The creative team embrace tricks that I think visually define the series, like the embrace of shadows and light and Jessica’s ability to move through the page, but make it their own. Rodriguez took the static nature of comics and made it dynamic, but Fish prefers a more cinematic approach to things; go big with the emotion and pull tightly around it within panels. This allows her to create creative panels in her own style and she fills them with little details that bring it to life, like steam and water droplets. She compliments Hopeless’ dialectic comedy with physical comedy that bleeds the two into stellar comedy. You are never lost during action scenes or left trying to decipher the emotions of characters. Veronica Fish owns this book.
And she has a stellar partner in Rachelle Rosenberg. Her use of light in this issue is astounding, especially in the Moon Hollow scenes where the light almost blinds the reader as if it were real sunlight. She uses light to propel Fish’s characters to the forefront of panels. She also uses colors to contrast one another in storytelling ways, like the blazing reds that burns Roger out of Jessica’s life while she weeps in the depressing blues of her shower. There are very few monotone backgrounds in this issue as Rosenberg tries to reflect reality in ways that both echo Rodriguez’s work but also exist as its own thing. I have loved her work blending different styles since Spider-Women, and she continues to excel here.
There is one last thing I have to address before my verdict and it involves the ever-shifting time frame of Marvel Comics. I feel it is way too soon to mend the bridge between Carol and Jessica, since it was the emotional stakes of the previous storyline, but Hopeless at least tries to address Marvel’s sifting timeline by aging Gerry a couple months quietly between story arcs. What really hurts is the fact Jessica and Carol’s reconciliation happens in Mighty Captain Marvel #0, which came out alongside this issue but clearly takes places after it. This is Dennis Hopeless’ story and Marvel gave it to Margaret Stohl. Hopeless has put so much time and effort into the story of Carol and Jessica, but sadly the nature of working in a shared medium means sometimes others get to tell the next chapter of your storyline. I am not holding that against the Spider-Woman creative team, but we are already seeing the mending of their friendship here and I think it is too soon.
Verdict: This issue plays catch-up for Jessica Drew, throwing off the pacing when the reader already knows what she learns. Ben Urich is relegated to exposition overdrive and we make very little progress on the arc’s central mystery. Thankfully, it does confront the reader with the question of whether or not we want Roger to return. Perhaps Hopeless is writing a story about how sudden death is and the lack of closure people have with loved ones, but the focus on Roger’s mysteries and life makes me think we have not seen the last of him. While Hopeless leaves the reader in emotional limbo, the art team steps up in a big way this issue. They carry it through any weak spots and make this book their own, while also paying tribute in small ways to what came before. Next up, we have the twenty-fifth issue of Hopeless’ run and I hope it reaches the heights of the series’ best.
- Art team makes Spider-Woman their own
- Excellent use of light
- Toys with the reader’s emotions
- Poor pacing
- Ben relegated to exposition
- Too soon for Carol/Jess to start to mend