Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew has joined the alien-hunting agency SWORD. She’s on a mission to Madripoor to track down a Skrull warrior who escaped the wind-up of the Secret Invasion. Jessica hasn’t been pursuing her investigation for a few issues, as HYDRA and Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts have distracted her. But she’s finally ready to return to her mission and track Koru Kavita down.
Jessica is clinging to the side of a skyscraper and talking to Agent Brand on her iPhone. I guess if you have wall-crawling powers, you want to do as many ordinary tasks as you can while sticking to a wall. Spider-Man does it all the time.
Brand isn’t happy that Jessica has been so overt in her activities. “Did you forget what the phrase ‘secret agent’ means?” But Jess is having none of it. “This is what you do when your target is hiding... you rattle cages. They came after me. Sloppy and scared.”
I guess Jessica (and Bendis?) have been reading Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. Why look for clues, or do legwork, when you can simply make a ruckus and have your opponents come after you? I doubt real investigations are that simple. But they do make for exciting and action-packed stories, I give you that. Legwork is boring.
Which is why, I suppose, Bendis has Agent Brand take care of it off-panel. Brand informs Jessica that the Skrull she fought in her hotel room, back in Spider-Woman Vol. 4 #1, had civilian identification on him, which provides a thread for Jessica to pull on.
Or maybe not. In a curious lacunae in the narrative, Jess doesn’t pull on it at all. Instead she talks to Zhang Lee, a girl who reported her boyfriend missing, and told the police she wanted to talk to the Avengers. It seems she thought her boyfriend was Spider-Man. He had told her so, and had demonstrated his wall-crawling abilities. Okay then, Jess thinks. Seems one of our Skrulls found a dumb girl to shack up with. Girl doesn’t seem to have any problem with the fact that Spider-Man famously lives in New York. Lee also knows that ‘Spider-Man’ met with his friends at a particular bar. Jessica heads there, thinking idly that I wish I was cute and dumb. Just for a day.
Outside the bar, Jess consults her alien-detector-wristwatch and sure enough, there is something inhuman inside. Keeping up her ‘let’s be aggressive’ investigative agenda, Jess walks right in, hoping the sight of her will rile up the hidden Koru Kaviti. Not getting an immediate reaction from any of the patrons, she shouts his name.
That gets his attention. Abandoning his disguise – that of an old man – Kaviti transforms into full super-Skrull warrior mode. Too late, Jessica realizes her mistake: she can’t beat this guy. The last super-Skrull she fought, in HYDRA’s prison cell, had already been imprisoned and tortured, and it still took everything she had to defeat him. Kaviti is rested, prepared, and trained.
He’s also drunk, which evens the odds a little, but only a little.
Eight pages of brawling ensue, with punches traded and lots of venom blasts thrown. Interestingly, Kaviti seems to be throwing venom blasts also. Or maybe it’s electrical – some Electro in there? It’s hard to tell. Anyway, Kaviti’s drunkenness doesn’t seem to be holding him back: he monologues at length that Jessica is a murderer, that he has suffered, that his gods have abandoned him, and that Jessica is here to blame him for her own troubles. And does all that while kicking her ass. Jessica gets a little bit of help from an anonymous patron who smashes a barstool over Kaviti’s head, but that surprises him more than it hurts him. To protect this anonymous helper from retaliation, Jessica allows Kaviti to blast her out of the bar onto the street. Kaviti follows her to deliver the coup-de-grace, but he’s interrupted by the cavalry: the Avengers, jumping down from a Quinjet.
None have parachutes, but the Avengers don’t seem to need them. I guess they can fly down, powered by nothing but their own awesomeness.
Jess is concerned these might be Skrulls, but her watch says no – they really are her friends, and they really are here to help her. They saw her, on CNN, fighting the Thunderbolts, so they came to assist. Kaviti attempts to hide in the crowd, but he can’t hide from the watch. He shapeshifts back to warrior form, but the odds are against him this time: before he can complete the transformation, Wolverine stabs him through the chest. He shakes Logan off, just in time to get a venom-blast straight to the head. So much for Kaviti.
Flying home, Jessica and Wolverine have a heart-to-heart. “Going hunting like this?” he says. “It’s a nowhere road.... you went there to get a beating.”
“I know what I’m talking about. Took me a long time to learn this: there’s nothing wrong with going out and doing what you gotta do. Nothing it all. But when you’re lost, you come home. You don’t run away.”
“...I don’t know who my friends are exactly.”
“Look around. You do now.”
Jess looks down at her iPhone, where Brand has sent her a text message, asking her about her availability for a new assignment. We’ll have to guess what she says, because we cut to a two-page splash of Spider-Woman in flight, and the issue – and the series – is over.
That was my reaction, at least, upon turning the page and finding, instead of a ‘next issue’ box, a note from Brian Bendis explaning that the book had finished. It seems that making motion comics is harder than anyone anticipated, and Alex Maleev is burned out on doing the job. Accordingly, he and Bendis have pulled the plug. The two of them will be doing some creator-owned work through the Marvel Icon imprint, and Bendis will be using Jessica in his upcoming Avengers books. But Spider-Woman Vol. 4 is done.
I understand and sympathize with their plight. I bet putting the original motion comic together was hard work, and I can’t blame them for retreating to more familiar territory. But it’s a shame, because I was looking forward to some of the things they had flagged as upcoming in this book. The Madame Hydra plot thread, for example: she was recruiting bounty hunters to capture Spider-Woman for her. Bendis had said that Echo, who left the pages of New Avengers #50 at the end of Secret Invasion, and whom I wanted to see more of, would be a supporting player in this book. And above all, I wanted to see Bendis write the return of the Needle, my favourite member of Spider-Woman’s rogue’s gallery bar none. (See Spider-Woman #9 for details.)
Ah well. I’m sure Spider-Woman will get a fifth ongoing series eventually. Until then, we’ll always have the Avengers.
A good ending to the series, even if it wasn’t planned that way. Jessica’s fling with SWORD, we now understand, was done as an attempt to paper over her trust issues by doing a job where she could work alone. Not having anyone she could count on was something she would treat as an asset, not a liability. Having the Avengers show up to bail her out of a situation she got herself into but couldn’t get out of taught her that she was wrong: she does have friends she can trust. Knowing that, she doesn’t need the gig with SWORD any more.
Good job, Bendis and Maleev. Thanks for the ride.
A few Spider-Man related points: