Comics : Spider-Man: The Manga #24
This review was first published on: 2004.
We conclude the "Winter Woman" three part story arc.
Spider-Man: The Manga #24
Dec 1998 : SM Title
Summary: The Winter Witch
Arc: Part 3 of "Spider-Man: The Manga Seventh Arc"
The woman with whom Yu is having tea gives him a photo of Takao. "If you ever happen to see him", she says, "tell him to come back to me!" She breaks down and cries.
In the city, the sad woman walks. "I am the wind of death," she thinks, in sorrow, "Someday I will pass you. Unknowing, unsuspecting, waiting for your loved one, I will be there."
Finally, Yu's spider-sense leads him to the Winter Woman. He notices that the city has changed. "The streets, covered in sleet. Dead trees lined up as if in a funeral procession." He follows her at a respectful distance. A car roars by, nearly striking the woman. A howl of winter wind decends on the car, causing it to crash, killing its occupants. Yu understands that this woman has a power that brings death with a stray thought.
Yu follows her into the subway. She looks pre-occupied, "absorbed in the sound of ice and snow". A drunk comes on to her and a blast of air sends him onto the subway tracks and to his death. Horrified, the woman flees. Yu starts to follow but is stopped by a man who warns him that following that woman will lead to death. The man who has stopped him is a weary, withered, hollow-eyed Takao.
"I've been chasing her for the last month", Takao says, "She was hurt to the bottom of her heart and soul. It was then something happened to her. She became the goddess of death. But I don't think she wanted this. She's suffering. She's afraid of her power." Takao argues that it is not the woman who is killing people but her powers. "All the hatred and ill will toward poeple she harbors at the bottom of her heart is making her kill people whether she wants to or not." Yu can identity. He is afraid of his powers, too.
Yu travels with Takao in pursuit of the Winter Witch. He feels for her. "Is there anybody who's never hated and cursed other people?" But, clearly, she's got to be stopped. Takao pulls out a knife and declares "she has to die". It is the "only way to truly help her".
Yu lets Takao go but, moments later, he comes upon Takao's body in an alley. His throat has been slashed. Finally, Yu decides to change into his Spidey duds. He picks up Takao's knife and walks into a raging blizzard. He comes upon the woman standing on a bridge, sorrowfully looking over the side. He knows that he cannot kill her, that, in fact, "I'm the only one who can understand her suffering". But the woman looks back at him, then jumps over the side. Spider-Man rushes to her aid and prepares to shoot webbing out to save her. But... he hesitates, and she is gone. "It was the only way out of her pain", he decides.
Around the city, things start to return to normal. But for Spider-Man, "I can still hear the elegy of her sad blizzard in my mind. For now."
The story is also chock-full of interesting dilemmas, themes, and dualities. Yamano is presented as a monster who, in the minds of some, deserves to die and yet one panel shows us his elderly, saddened parents thereby endowing him with humanity. Miki's tragic transformation to the Winter Woman cannot help but arouse our sympathy and yet she is killing people for petty offenses, albeit inadvertently. Takao knows of the mistreatment received by the Winter Woman and empathizes with her, yet his fixation brings about a disappearance that devastates his own girl-friend; the woman who drank tea with Yu. In the center of all this, is Yu's dilemma. He knows the agony of unrestrained super-powers. He knows the Winter Woman's fate could be his. Yet, he cannot act. Even his response to the woman's plunge off the bridge is hesitation and inaction.
The story is not without its flaws, of course. If you're looking for costumed capers, Spidey barely makes an appearance and Yu's inaction, in the face of countless deaths, is still extremely grating, though this is finally looking like a serious issue worth exploring rather than an annoying trait of the character. In any case, this is minor stuff. The story of the Winter Woman is one of the best Spidey Manga stories to come along in some time. Perhaps the best one so far.
I can't emphasize to strongly that this story is a mile apart from regular Spidey. As a traditional Spidey story, and judged by western standards, this story pretty much fails. But judged on its own merits, there's plenty here to please - especially after the stupid, violent and highly offensive arc which preceded it. Let's give this tale four webs for art and lyricism if nothing else.