(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Writer- Dennis Hopeless
Pencils- Greg Land
Inks- Jay Leisten
Colors- Frank D’Armata
Reviewed by Shawn Warner
This was one of those books that I was really looking forward to; in spite of all the flack surrounding the ill-fated original cover by woman exploiter extraordinaire, Milo Manara there was some real excitement generated by the return of Jessica Drew to her own solo monthly series. Drew has been in and out of the Marvel Universe spotlight over the years, most recently taking center stage in the events of Secret Invasion. Her role was second only to Norman Osborne’s in its pivotal nature.After that she sort of faded back into the shadows taking her place in the supporting cast of the next few Marvel events. Now it seems it is her time once again to leap into the spotlight playing a major part in the huge Spider-Verse event and returning to her own eponymously titled monthly series written by A-list scribe, Dennis Hopeless with art by Marvel House Style master Greg Land. Not since Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s stellar but all too short lived work on an on-going Spider-Woman series has there been much to get excited about in the Jessica Drew camp, at least not on a monthly basis, but now that was all going to change, right? Hold your web shooters, not so fast. This inaugural issue is fraught with inconsistencies and bogged down by the curse of the first issue tie-in.
The main problem I have with this book is that is does not feel like a first issue and what’s even more distressing is that it doesn’t feel like a solo book either. In the midst of a major crossover event is perhaps not the best time to debut an on-going series; the amount of time spent on tie-in elements in this issue is proof of that but that’s not the only flaw threatening to derail this train before it leaves the station. Spider-Woman seems to be playing second banana to Silk making this feel more like a team-up if not a full-fledged duo series. The writing is solid but the characterization of Drew is way off, Hopeless writes Spider-Woman as though she is tired and grumpy, more like she is bringing in her younger, more vital replacement, a changing of the guard of sorts. The narrative is uneven serving more as a superfluous addendum to the overarching Spider-Verse books than an introduction to an established Marvel heroine. As a first issue, Spider-Woman #1 falls pretty flat; in fact it fails to be comprehensible as a stand-alone story, requiring at the very least a working knowledge of the Spider-Verse event book proper just to understand who these other characters are and why they are in this book to begin with. It makes me wonder if it wouldn’t have been a better move to publish this as a mini series tied into the Spider-Verse event and then after the big conclusion and the new status quo is in effect release an on-going monthly Spider-Woman book.
Whether this misstep is credited to Axel Alonso or Dennis Hopeless the end result is the same, a lackluster debut with a misinterpreted heroine. Certainly Hopeless shares some of the blame with his sketchy portrayal of Jessica Drew as does Alonso with pushing this first issue out during a massive crossover event. These elements have conspired to rob a promising title of an opening issue boast that could have meant critical as well as fan acknowledgement much like in the case of Ms. Marvel, a book that came out strong and was able to build and maintain an audience based on that fact.
Hopeless has some moments of humorous relief as well as some witty banter and smart dialogue but overall the convoluted premise and menagerie of miss matched plot points add up to a plodding, confusing and just stagnant issue. Most of the book is devoid of any direction and interaction between Spider-Woman and the other Spider-People, in fact Spider-Woman has less impact on her own book than some these supposed supporting characters.
Visually Greg Land doesn’t do much to improve things; he doesn’t do much of anything for that matter, nothing that we haven’t seen from him a thousand times before anyway. His knack for repeating facial expressions and flat feeling imagery is present albeit amid solid page composition. Land is not an awful artist but his tendency toward cookie cutter character design and redundant staging just doesn’t help matters here.
Needless to say this was not the exciting senses shattering first issue I was hoping for and that Jessica Drew certainly deserved as a fan favorite on par with other Marvel heroines like Carol Danvers but by the final act Hopeless manages to obtain some semblance of order and a coherent plot begins to emerge, alas perhaps too little, too late. As disappointing as this issue is, the real measure of this series will only be seen when the events of Spider-Verse have come to a conclusion. That being said I definitely plan on giving Spider-Woman a well-deserved second chance. (3/5)
Name: Shawn Warner
Twitter Account: @shawnwarner629
City: Baltimore, MD
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading,
collecting and living comic books for over 30 years.
He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots
of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.
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