The Inheritor Twins are pursuing Cindy ‘Silk’ Moon across the multiverse, and she’s trying to stay one step ahead of them. Jessica ‘Spider-Woman’ Drew was tasked with bodyguarding Silk, but the 616 Spider-Man pulled her off that assignment for something even more important. After Jessica left, Silk headed off into the multiverse on her own, with the Inheritor Twins hot on her heels.
Jessica’s new assignment is to use her espionage training to recon ‘Loom World’, the Inheritors’ homeworld. “It seems they Frankensteined together loose chunks of all the universes they've conquered. Like you do.” Indeed, the planet is a strange mix of robots, aliens, cowboys, and geodesic domes. There’s a wild mix of fashions on the street, which may help to explain why Jessica is comfortable walking around in her Spider-Woman costume.
“All I have to do is uncover all the secrets of a planet whose gods want to eat me for breakfast. When I asked Spider-Man how I’m supposed to survive such a stupid plan, he said, ‘by the skin of your cephalothorax’. This is why Spider-Man and Spider-Woman don’t hang out.”
Bleh. That is such a Thing Spider-Man Wouldn't Say. He’d give Jessica genuine advice in a situation like this, or failing that, a heartfelt “I believe in you.” If he did go for a joke, it would be a lot funnier than “by the skin of your cephalothorax”. I don’t even see the joke there! I guess it’s a spider-reference mixed together with the phrase “by the skin of your teeth”, but you don’t tell someone to survive something by the skin of their teeth; that’s something you say when you, yourself, have a narrow escape.
Ick, we’re only on page one and I’m already annoyed. This isn't a good sign.
As she walks the streets, Jessica is harangued by an increasingly large crowd, all of which wants her patronage, and all of which knows her name. Before she can figure out why she’s so popular here, a man with tentacles for arms seizes her and carries her off.
In the space between two panels, Jessica is transported through the streets to a sailing ship, released, and introduced to the captain. Huh, I would have thought she’d struggle, rather than permit herself to be abducted, but this story is moving too fast to care for such niceties. The captain, prodded by Jessica’s clumsy prompts, explains that she’s entitled to first pick of the salvage his crew has found, as per the standing arrangement.
Cut to a strange interlude, where a young boy races to deliver a present to the Spider-Woman indigenous to this world - let’s call her Jess-2 - who’s walking through the streets with her guards, basking in the admiration of the passersby. Unfortunately for the boy, he’s so desperate to get Jess-2’s attention, he grasps her arm. Jess-2 is scandalized and her guards backhand the boy, who drops the gift, breaking it.
I guess the point of this sequence is that Jess-2 is bad news - spoiled and indifferent to the feelings of the common people? Maybe? I wonder why they love her so, when she doesn't seem to give them any reason to.
Back at the ship, Jess-1 has used her pheromone powers to charm the captain. “I will never not feel gross about using my pheromone powers to bedazzle a guy. But, proud feminist or not… gross feels better than dead.” I’m not sure what feminism has to do with it. Is using her pheromone power supposed to be analogous to women using sex appeal to manipulate men? I don’t think the equation balances, but it’s an interesting idea. I’d like the story to explore it more, but it`s in a rush here, as I said. Jess-1 has already worked out she has a counterpart on this world, and when she sees Jess-2 approaching the ship, she dives out the window, leaving the captain with a final command to “pretend she`s the first me you`ve seen today”.
Cut to Cindy, who’s jumping from universe to universe, trying to stay ahead of the Inheritor Twins. The chase comes to an end when she runs afoul of an exploding jeep, which stuns her and damages her universal transporter. The Inheritor Twins leap in from Loom World, and are so confident of victory, they stop to jaw about inconsequentials rather than grabbing her straightaway. Cindy takes the opportunity to leap right through the portal to Loom World they left open.
This portal leads to the Inheritors’ palace, where Jess-2 is manipulating a smitten servant into giving her a bottle of wine. A watching guard, who’s surprisingly comfortable speaking truth to power, notes that “you know that kid has 30 lashes coming the moment they notice that bottle is missing.”
“Locus has a lifetime of lashes coming regardless. At least this way I get a bit of wine out of the deal.”
“Wouldn't Morlun bring you a whole case of that wine?”
“Probably. But I get to drink this one alone.”
All of this is quite suggestive of Jess-2’s relationship to Morlun and her feelings about it, but Jess-1, who’s spying from the shadows, is too busy fuming about how awful her counterpart is to pick up on them.
The Inheritor Twins arrive, still sniping at each other, and Jess-1 falls to her knees. The Twins explain that they’re taking her guards to search the building for Cindy, who has teleported here. As soon as they’re gone, Cindy appears and goes to Jess-2 for help. Jess-2, surprised in mid-kiss of the wine bottle (?) tries to raise the alarm, but Jess-1 leaps in with a right cross, knocking Jess-2 out. In a homage, or rip-off, of Incredible Hercules, the sound effect of this blow is SUKR-PNNCH!
Jess-2 is out, and her wine bottle is broken. Surprisingly, there’s no wine in the shards, presumably because Greg Land forgot to draw any. The two superheroines compare notes briefly, and Jess gives Cindy Jess’ own transporter device, enabling Cindy to escape, at the cost of leaving Jess stranded on Loom World.
Cindy escapes to Earth-3145, a post-nuclear wasteland. The background radiation is making her sick as the Inheritors arrive. The male one, Brix, jumps through the portal and gets much sicker indeed, so sick that his sister needs to pull him back to Loom World.
“She’s stumbled across the one place in the multiverse we can’t follow?” he mutters.
“Yes. And thanks to your ‘jump first’ idiocy, she knows it.”
Back on Earth-3145, Cindy smiles.
On Loom World, Jess-1 has disposed of Jess-2 by locking her in a chest and bribing the sea-captain she met earlier to take it out to sea and keep it there for a few days. No discussion of food, water, or air, which means Jess-1 thinks she herself could survive those conditions, or she just doesn't care. Nipping back to the palace, she is surprised to encounter Morlun, eldest of the Inheritor siblings. Having failed to catch the earlier clues, she drops to her knees, but Morlun, surprised, helps her up and French kisses her. We close with Jess thinking to herself “Oh, you've got to be $%^& kidding me.”
My complaint last issue is that Spider-Woman took a minor role in the first issue of her own book: Cindy got to be the star, and poor Jess didn't get a chance to demonstrate why that’s a problem: no spider-powers, no use of her signature skills, no callbacks to her history. This issue improves on these fronts: Cindy’s story is moved firmly to the subplot, and Jessica gets to use her pheromone power, though this achievement is vitiated by her discomfort with using it. Hey, speaking of feminism, it’s an old misogynist trope that men are expected to revel in power, and women are expected to flee from it. Jessica’s disclaimer that she doesn't like to use her pheromones to manipulate people on feminist grounds strikes me as anti-feminist itself.
At least she gets to use her espionage skills, though this only happens off-camera. Too bad; James Bond always gets good mileage out of showing off tradecraft. I hope we get to see some of that in the future. Still, a trained spy should have picked up immediately on the import of Jess-2’s conversation with her guards, and not been caught so off-guard in the final scene. I guess those espionage skills are rusty from lack of use.
For that matter, Jess-1 should have realized from her first conversation with the captain that Jess-2 never goes about masked. If Jess-1 is so keen on impersonating her, why did she keep the mask on when she returned to the palace? Morlun, no dummy, should twig pretty quickly that something’s wrong - the captain, who had far less reason to be wary, thought Jess-1 wearing a mask was strange. Morlun is no dope and is familiar with the multiverse, so he should catch on pretty quick. This is unfair nitpicking, since I’m sure keeping the mask on was an editorial decision to do us readers a favour and help us understand that this Jessica is Jess-1, but c’mon, we’re not chimps. We can keep track of this stuff.
Having Cindy just happen to meet Jess-1 in the Inheritor’s palace on Loom World is monumentally coincidental, and it’s a coincidence introduced into the story for no purpose that I can see - writer Dennis Hopeless could have had Cindy blunder into the irradiated world all on her own. I hope that chance meeting pays off somehow, because if it doesn’t, it strains the story’s internal logic even more. C’mon - the Inheritor Twins can track Cindy’s precise location anywhere in the multiverse and can teleport right to her. That’s the whole reason she’s on the run, remember; if she stayed with the other members of Team Spidey, she’d draw the Inheritors right to them. Her presence is such a beacon to them that Morlun himself felt it the moment she left Ezekiel’s sealed bunker back in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #4. And yet, when she teleports to the Inheritors’ own palace, the Inheritor Twins are the only ones who know about it, and they need guards to find her? That’s lazy storytelling right there.
It’s a stronger Spider-Woman story than last time, but it’s a weaker story overall, with odd interludes, misuse of coincidence, and violation of the narrative’s own internal rules. Let’s even it out to 2.5 webs.