Spider-Woman #17

Background

Lack of background is more like it. Jessica's lost her entire supporting cast! No father, no landlady, no older male companion, and no boyfriend: the Shroud was only around for a single appearance, and Jerry is out of the title for good as of last issue. It's not even clear that Jessica still has her job at the Hatros Clinic, given how she beat Adrienne "Nekra" Hatros half to death, also last issue.

So what have we still got? Well, Jessica still moonlights as Spider-Woman, and still wears her red-and-yellow costume with the hair extensions.

For now, at least.

Story 'Jessica's Night Out!'

  Spider-Woman #17
Summary: Costume Stolen
Editor: Roger Stern
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Mike Esposito

While Jessica mends her costume, which was rent in the battle with Nekra, she wonders what Magnus is up to lately. She can't reach him by phone, nor can she reach his agent. Hmm. There's a mystery here, which she ponders as she takes her costume out for a test glide. She's a better adventurer than a seamstress, it seems, because the glider woven into her right arm unravels, leading her to crash into some couple's apartment. On the downside, she breaks their window; on the upside, she interrupts their viewing of Soap. Jessica hustles out of there. Luckily, she thinks, "my apartment's only a kilometer away," so she can make it there on foot.

Soap... the metric system... I love the topical references that pepper this book. And there's more to come!

Until she fixes her costume, her adventuring career is on hold, so there's nothing else for it but to go back to work. She doesn't expect to have a job anymore, what with her employer being a hate-driven mutant that Spider-Woman pummeled into submission. Luckily, it seems that the clinic staff is ignorant that their place of employment was a front for a mutant-led cult of hatred, so the place continues to operate even in Nekra's absence. This allows Jessica to keep up her receptionist duties, and receive the free medical care that comes with it.

Speaking of which, Jessica is forced to blow off her encounter-therapy session – and a chance to hang out with Lindsay McCabe, the closest thing she has to a girlfriend – in order to met with Dr. Sachs, her primary-care physician. Sachs has formulated a drug that will inhibit Jessica's pheromone emissions. As retconned last issue, these emissions are the source of the bad vibes that have bedeviled Jessica her whole life. Jessica is skeptical but hopeful, and accepts the doctor's advice that she put herself "in a vigorous social situation and prove to yourself the difference the medication makes."

Enter the Monte Disco! "Jessica pays the ten dollar cover charge and pauses, as the droning music, the dazzling lights, and the dancing bodies of L.A.'s glitterati, saturate her senses..." Jessica is hesitant, as she's got no experience of what she calls the "single-bar scene", but things look good: the waitress takes her order without giving her any attitude, and one of the prowling dancers picks her up almost immediately.

Eric, as he introduces himself, has a Flock of Seagulls haircut, an achingly-white outfit with a shirt slashed to his navel, and some sort of dangling necklace the inker didn't bother to fill in. "C'mon—Disco!" he tells her. "Here's the basic L.A. hustle step."

Yes, it's the edge-of-your-seat superhero action we've come to expect from this title.

Wait, things are picking up: while Jess is dancing, someone swipes her purse! The readers learn the culprit immediately: it's a nameless disco patron, who mistakenly picked up Jessica's handbag instead of her own. Looking inside, she discovers her mistake... and also Jessica's Spider-Woman costume. Now this is a find, because the nameless thief is looking for some male attention, and it seems that dressing up might be a good way to get it.

She does get the attention she's looking for, both from the prowling men and from Jessica herself. The surging crowd pushes "Spider-Woman" out onto the balcony, where everyone can get a good look at her. Too bad, because there's more than people on the balcony. There's also "a tiny pink thing lurking in the corner... a pink thing that does not like being stepped on!"

Wha-huh? Don't worry about it, we'll come back to that later. For now, what matters is that by stepping on the "gelitinous [sic] mass", the Spider-Woman imposter receives a shove that sends her off the balcony, falling to the rocks below.

Jessica acts in a manner befitting a superhero. While everyone is distracted, Jess scrambles over the side rail and, clinging to the underside, wall-crawls to the edge, where the hapless impersonator is clutching the balcony edge. Too late, though: her grip fails, and she falls.

Jessica doesn't hesitate. She knocks the falling woman out with a venom blast, so that she won't struggle. Then, thanks to her power dive, Jess catches the impostor and spreads her arms wide, so that the gliders catch the updraft. Drifting back to the wall, Jess sticks to the cliff-face and wall-crawls the two of them down to the beach. Down, in the darkness, invisible to the patrons above, Jess retrieves her costume – leaving the hapless imposter in her skivvies – and returns to the disco.

Eric is still lurking about, and he's happy that Jessica didn't ditch him, like he thought. He's happy to give her a ride home, which is good, since she arrived by taxi. Eric doesn't take the most direct route, though. He swings by the local "Inspiration Point", clearly in the mood for some necking. "This is the perfect place to get to know each other better."

Jessica isn't hot to trot, though. "It's after midnight. I'm a working woman... I have to be up at seven."

"Please, Jessica – I'm lonely. I need..."

What does he need? Looks like he needs more time in the oven, because even as Jessica gives him the brush-off, his face begins to melt!

"To Be Continued!" Oh, yes.

General Comments

This is a bridge issue. There's no supervillains, no fighting, and two token action scenes that are extraneous to the plot, in that they don't advance the story or reveal any character detail.

What does this issue achieve? It sets up more of Jessica's new status quo as a single girl who works as a clinic receptionist who moonlights as a costumed adventurer. It disposes of another irritating remnant of the Wolfman era, namely Jessica's bad vibes, which can now be nothing more than an unpleasant memory. (Or they would be, if future writers didn't decide they were fertile ground for future stories.) And it puts Jessica in a vulnerable position with Eric of the Melting Face, the most sensational character find in this book since the Needle.

It's a good set-up. Trust me, you want to be on hand for the next issue.

Overall Rating

It's a bridge issue, but a good one. Three webs.