Spider-Woman (Vol. 5) #3

Background

Spider-Woman has teamed up with the rest of the Spider-Man Family to battle the Inheritors, a multiverse-hopping band of murderers who feed on the essence of ‘spider-totems’. Infiltrating the Inheritors’ home dimension of Loomworld, she’s kidnapped the local version of Jessica Drew and taken her place. With her doppelganger safely out of the way on a pirate ship, our Spider-Woman has entered the Inheritors’ palace, to discover - to her surprise and disgust - that Morlun, the principal Inheritor, has taken this world’s Jessica as his consort.

Meanwhile, Silk is trapped on a world that’s been completely irradiated after a nuclear war. Luckily, the radiation means that Inheritors can’t follow her there, but unluckily, the environment will eventually prove fatal to her too.

Story Details

  Spider-Woman (Vol. 5) #3
Summary: Morlun, Silk, Spider-Gwen
Arc: Part 3 of 'Spider-Woman Spider-Verse' (1-2-3-4)
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Pencils: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Leisten
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Colorist: Frank D'Armata

Silk, alone amid the ruins, has the idea to visit this world’s version of the containment bunker where she herself spent the past ten years. Webbing herself a makeshift radiation suit, she makes her way through the rubble. Arriving at the Sims Building, she finds in the basement the vault that she seeks; it even has the same entry code, namely 616001 (which is strange, given that this is Earth-3145). She enters the vault, pleased with her success.

On Loomworld, Jessica is dining in with Morlun. The big bad is concerned because this Jessica isn't acting like he expects his girlfriend to act: she doesn't like shrimp and she prefers not to dance. Morlun becomes increasingly emotionally erratic at Jessica’s displays of indifference; in fact, to the readers’ surprise, Jessica doesn't even make an effort to conceal the repulsion that Morlun produces in her. Finally, she escapes his company by faking a stomach complaint.

“You've got about ten minutes before those pheromones start wearing off and he realizes the woman who just ditched him is nothing at all like his shrimpy dancer girlfriend,” she thinks to herself. Yes, this is why Jessica couldn't be bothered to act out the part of Morlun’s paramour; he was so soused on her biochemical scent that he couldn't notice how out-of-character she was behaving. Apparently she herself notices how weak her performance was: “Now,” she thinks to herself, “let’s spend a few minutes proving that despite recent evidence to the contrary, I’m actually pretty good at espionage”.

After cold-clocking Loomworld’s espy of Mary Jane Watson and crawling through an air duct (like all good spies do), Jessica ends up in the lair of the Master Weaver, the spider-totem of Loomworld, who tends the Web of Life. Mastery of the Web and the Weaver has made the Inheritors kings of the multiverse, but unbeknownst to them, the Master Weaver has sown the seeds of their downfall. He is the one that ensured that the local Jessica Drew became Morlun’s companion, thus creating an opportunity for 616 Spider-Woman to enter the palace and receive the gift the Master Weaver has for her.

The gift in question is “the Prophecies, everything you need to know of the Other, the Bride, and the Scion”. Jessica, unable to take them back to the Spider-Man Family herself, or to use one of the Master Weaver’s portals (because the Inheritors would know if an intruder used them), she rigs up her damaged multiversal teleporter and sends the Prophecies through the ether, into the hands of 616 Spider-Man.

Retreating back through the palace, Jessica meets Morlun and - though it’s neither stated nor implied - presumably doses him again with pheromones, because he doesn't twig, even now, that this isn't his Jessica. He merely mutters something about her bathroom trip, and then departs.

Cut to the next scene, where Jessica is riding a speedboat out to the the pirate ship where she left Loomworld’s Jessica Drew in custody. She thinks to herself that her cover is blown, presumably because Morlun is eventually going to come out of his pheromone haze and realize he’s been had. Jessica plans to hide out on the pirate ship until the Spider-Man Family sets everything right. Too bad for her that the pirate ship has a new mistress, who orders the cannons to blow up Jessica’s vessel. Brought aboard as a prisoner, 616 Jessica discovers that Loomworld Jessica has taken over command, which, given her pheromone abilities, isn’t surprising in retrospect. Loomworld Jessica plans to keep this new role, as “pirate queen is a whole lot better job than concubine”, but she needs 616 Jessica to die to cement her own authority.

Before the Pirate Queen can follow through, out of a multiversal portal comes Silk and Spider-Gwen to save the day! The three ladies are pleased to reunite, and ready to take on the pirate crew together.

General Comments

If the recap above is briefer, less detailed, and more out-of-patience than usual, it’s because this story is utterly redundant to Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #12. Seriously, Silk’s travel to the Sims Building bunker; Jessica infiltrating the Master Weaver’s lair; getting the Prophecies; and teleporting them to the Spider-Man Family, all appear in that issue, which came out first. The only detail here that’s new is at the beginning - when Jessica escaped from Morlun by bewitching him with pheromones and then sneaking off - and the end, when she is caught on the pirate ship. That’s the only new content.

The practical effect of this is to make issue #3 of Spider-Woman’s new ongoing boring. There’s very little that’s new here, and what is new isn't exciting. Jessica's escape from Morlun isn't played for tension or suspense; Jessica goes through that whole sequence not afraid and trying to hide it, but rather as exasperated and jaded. If she doesn't care about her predicament, why should we?

The end is just as bad: having Jessica trapped on a pirate ship, half-exploded and half-drowned, at the mercy of a vengeful doppelganger, would have been an exciting ending. Instead, we end with Jessica reunited with a fresh Silk and Spider-Gwen, and Loomworld Jessica out of commission. Sure, the trio is surrounded by pirates, but they’re just normal scrubs with swords. It’s obvious that three spider-powered adventurers can take them out without breaking a sweat.

There’s more to beef about, if I wanted to get into it, like how the dialogue, the costumes, and the scenery don’t align between the scenes here and those in ASM #12, making it harder to suspend disbelief in the fiction, or the fact that Silk’s arrival isn't accounted for in the story - she went from trapped on Earth-3145 to coming to Jessica’s rescue with Spider-Gwen, with no explanation of how that’s possible given. To know the answer to that, you have to have already read ASM #12. But that’s the problem right there: if you haven’t read that book, this one will confuse you. If you have read that book, this one will bore you. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Overall Rating

The Spider-Verse story as a whole is interesting enough to drag this one up to one web. But it’s a horrible issue of a standalone Spider-Woman book. The idea that readers are going to keep following the title after Spider-Verse ends seems less and less plausible.

Footnote

I was going to give writer Dennis Hopeless props for writing a feminist text in the early part of this book: a lot of (male, straight) readers would enjoy reading about Jessica playing the role of the submissive concubine, even if it’s a long con to bring down Morlun and his empire. The story deliberately doesn't give the readers that; instead, Jessica makes pains to underscore what little interest she has in catering to Morlun's power fantasies, or the reader’s, for that matter. But after some thought, I believe that Hopeless never intended that reading; he wanted to play Jessica’s inability to playact as a deficiency on her part. Putting on a role is something that, as a trained spy, she should be able to do, but can’t, and that incapacity is one that she regrets. Whatever reading you give to that, it’s not one you can reasonably describe as feminist. I think the scene’s power is unintentional. What a shame.