Spider-Woman #6

Background

Weeks ago Jessica Drew, the Spider-Woman, thwarted a scheme of Morgan le Fey, the ancient sorceress, to travel forward in time to the present day. Since that time Morgan has sought revenge, most recently by trapping Spider-Woman in an old house. There, Morgan's spells drove Jessica to the brink of madness. But now that Jessica has seen through the illusions, Morgan has manifested in person!

Story 'End of a Nightmare!! [sic]'

  Spider-Woman #6
Summary: Morgan LeFay, Werewolf by Night
Editor: Marv Wolfman
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Rick Bryant

Flanked by two badly-drawn demon-spirits, a badly-drawn Morgan le Fey looks down on a badly-drawn Spider-Woman and sneers threats. The narrator explains that this isn't really Morgan, just an astral projection, but no less dangerous for that.

Narrator? Yes, in a transparent attempt to boost sales, this issue features a guest appearance by Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night. He himself isn't in this scene, but writer Marv Wolfman doesn't want us to miss that the Werewolf is in this book, so Wolfman foregrounds the Werewolf (heh) by having him describe the opening scene...

...A scene he wasn't actually present for. Ugh. So far we've got lazy pencils, lazy inking, and lazy writing. We've hit the trifecta!

Ahem. Morgan orders her demons to attack Spider-Woman, and a few pages of badly-drawn fighting ensue. Just as in her last appearance, in Spider-Woman #2, Morgan wants Magnus to give her the Darkhold, a powerful spellbook, which she might use to manifest herself physically in the present day. Last time Morgan had her agents attack Magnus, but he heroically refused to surrender the book; Morgan now reasons that if her agents attack Jessica, Magnus will heroically give up the book to save his protegee.

Morgan reasons correctly. Jessica is outmatched by the demons, and Magnus, in fear for her life, agrees to hand over the book. Morgan's demons relent and Jessica, following Magnus' directions, glides out of the window and towards Los Angeles, where, presumably, the Darkhold awaits.

Out the window, eh? Wolfman has apparently forgotten that Morgan and Jessica were fighting in the basement. Oops.

While Morgan gloats her triumph, wily old Magnus plays his trump card: he sends a magical missive to the one man who can get him out of this jam: Jerry Hunt!? Clearly this trump card is a deuce. Jerry, poring over mugbooks in a L.A. police station, is engaged in a fruitless attempt to find the Spider-Woman, whom he met way back in Spider-Woman #1. Now Magnus' spell gives him what he needs to know. Tossing the mugbooks aside, he sprints into the night.

Now, Jerry and Magnus have never met, so how does Magnus even know he exists? The same way that Jack Russell can narrate events he wasn't present for. And what is that way, exactly? Let's let Jack explain it: "Please don't ask how I know what had already happened... I just do." That's as explicit as Wolfman can be on the subject of his bad plotting: things just happen, okay? There aren't any answers, so don't bother asking questions.

All right, Wolfman, I'll forgive you the plot holes, and the bad art (which, formally, is your responsibility, since you edit as well as write this title). Just give me some good writing and all will be well. Let's take up the story as Jack narrates Spider-Woman's arrival at his home:

"Spider-Woman was floating somewhere outside Colden House, the singles' apartment I parked my butt in. Like a gentle strand of gossamer, she alighted on the smooth poured concrete shell."

Sigh. Comment would be superfluous.

Spider-Woman silently enters Jack's apartment, where Jack himself waits, chained to the wall. Jessica fails to appreciate just why those chains are there, and, ignoring Jack's pleas, breaks them with her spider-strength. Just at that moment, Jack makes a one-panel transition into his wolf form, and a fight breaks out. For all of her strength, Jack makes quick work of Spider-Woman, and strangles her unconscious.

(I'm pretty sure that's not how it works. Kids, don't try this at home.)

Coming to moments later, Jessica pursues Jack into the streets, arriving in time to prevent him from savaging a passerby. She knocks him out with a single venom bolt, grabs his body, and silently glides into night.

Back at Morgan's lair, Magnus' scheme is revealed: Jack Russell recently read the Darkhold, and if Morgan scans his memory, she'll find the spells she seeks. Magnus isn't prepared to allow that, and the two of them begin a wizard's duel, Morgan's spirit against Magnus' spirit, which rises out of his body to do battle.

The wizard's duel is a calvacade of poorly-drawn, poorly-inked panels, so we'll pass over it quickly. The two spirits fire all sorts of coloured bolts of energy at each other, to little effect. Seeking an edge, Morgan strikes at Magnus' most vulnerable spot: his body, which she immolates in a blast of flame. Jessica rails at this, and joins in the struggle with her venom bolts, but they are of no avail against a spirit. Morgan tries to return the favour, but finds Jessica shielded by some mystical barrier. Too caught up in her own victory, Morgan doesn't investigate this closely, but instead begins the spell she's learned from the Darkhold: a portal to the past opens, revealing Morgan's physical body. All she needs to do is animate the body so that it might walk through the portal, and her spirit and flesh will be reunited.

Right on cue, Jerry Hunt arrives to save the day. Jessica, flabbergasted, asks "Why have you followed me here?" "There's something about you," he replies, "something that makes me love you!" "Love? Are you crazy, man?" "Look, complain to whoever set up my gene pattern."

Morgan, apparently as irritated as I am at this turn of events, puts Jerry out of our misery by immolating him just as she did Magnus. But in so doing she's failed to guard her own body, and Jessica hits Morgan's body with a full-power venom blast, which apparently is powerful enough to disintegrate it. In yet another badly-drawn panel, Morgan, the house, and everything in it are sucked through the portal, back to Arthurian England. (Why?)

All that is left is Jessica and Jack, alone on a hillside. Or maybe not alone; Magnus and Jerry are there too! Magnus used magic to guard them all from Morgan's spells, and to make it seem as if he and Jerry had been killed. Magnus proceeds to tidy up all of the loose ends: wiping Jack's memory so he won't remember this encounter; sending him back to his apartment; and explaining how his own magic powers are now significantly diminished (so he won't be available for a deus ex machina in the future). But Jessica isn't hearing any of this: during all of this expository dialogue, she and Jerry are in the background, locked in a passionate embrace. Thankfully the comic ends before either of them gets any farther than first base.

General Comments

Quickly:

* The dialogue is terrible. I can't bear to cite any more examples.

* The plotting is terrible. Not one part of the story stands up to scrutiny.

* The use of continuity is terrible. Leaving aside the matter of the absent Hangman: when Jack Russell was previously seen, in the final issue of Werewolf by Night, he'd gained the ability to control his transformations. But in this story, his most recent appearance since that final issue of his own title, he's lost that ability, without explanation. And he's only here to provide a short fight scene. If I were a Werewolf by Night fan picking this book up for a new Jack Russell adventure I'd feel pretty taken advantage of.

* The pencils and the inks are both terrible. The whole thing looks dashed off in a hurry.

* The cover is terrible. It shows yet another bondage scene, which is fast becoming a hallmark of this title.

The cover depicts Jessica, bound and gagged, helpless before the looming Werewolf by Night. In other words, it's the primal rape scene, wherein the female is totally in the power of the aggressive male... a scene that appears nowhere in the issue. Exploitation, thy name is Marvel Comics circa 1978.

Very quickly: this issue has no redeeming features whatsoever.

Overall Rating

Again, the half-web that appears above is for the system's sake. This issue deserves no webs at all. It is an embarrassment.

Footnote

The only saving grace is that, reading these issues in retrospect, we latter-day readers know that we only have to slog through one more issue of Wolfman's hackery before Mark Gruenwald takes over and starts Bringing the Awesomeness (tm).