Spider-Woman (Vol. 5) #6

Background

Five weeks ago, Jessica quit the Avengers, in order to find a more grounded, street-level life. Ben Urich asked her to investigate the disappearance of the wives, girlfriends, and daughters of New York’s small-time supervillains. She captured the Porcupine mid-bank-robbery and found out that someone is holding his daughter captive, to use as leverage against him.

Story Details

  Spider-Woman (Vol. 5) #6
Summary: Spider-Woman investigates supervillain kidnappings
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Pencils: Javier Rodriguez
Inker: Alvaro Lopez
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez

Cut to Jessica’s P.I. office, where she’s got the Porcupine, stripped down to his skivvies, ziptied to a radiator. He’s understandably upset about this, but Jessica is unfazed, maybe because she’s preoccupied by the problem at hand. Thinking out loud, she muses that there must be more going on than there seems: after all, it’s expensive to hold lots of prisoners for months at a time, while keeping them housed, fed, monitored, and such. Sure, that’s forced a bunch of supervillains to commit regular robberies, but as Jessica observes, “It would cost half what you all have been paying just to staff such a thing… [there] has to be some sort of endgame.” After trading some more smack-talk with Roger the erstwhile Porcupine, she leaves him tied up and goes off to investigate. Shortly after she leaves, an unseen figure who’s been staking out the office building smashes his-or-her way into the premises, via the frosted glass of the office door.

Jessica has tracked down Latino supervillain Senor Suerte (that’s Mister Luck to the anglos), who is making bank by robbing a fried-chicken joint. He also stole a bucket of chicken for lunch, and he’s happy to chat while he finishes it - fisticuffs can wait. Unfortunately for Jessica, he’s not willing to provide any real information on his missing wife, but only threats mixed with sexual harassment. Unfortunately for Senor Suerte, he has to charge up his powers by spinning the wheel of fortune attached to his chest (no, really). This makes it easy for Jessica to sucker-punch him at spider-speed, then smash his face into a table. She then leaves, taking some chicken for the road, and leaving the unconscious Senor Suerte as a problem for the fast-food clerks.

Over in Queens, Jessica - who’s now zipped up her jacket to full Spider-Woman mode - braces (the driver of) the Big Wheel, who’s stolen a breeding pair of alpacas. Hilariously, he keeps them in an open-top trailer that’s hitched to the back of the Big Wheel, i.e., the vehicle, not the driver. Jessica tries to get him to admit his family’s been kidnapped, but he’s as unforthcoming on the subject as Senor Suerte. Before things can get physical, Jess gets a text from an anonymous sender that tells her to visit “1234 West Dock Road” where she’ll find what she needs.

Ditching the Big Wheel, Jessica visits 1234 West Dock Road, which is a seemingly-abandoned warehouse on the waterfront. She prepares to ride her motorbike right in, but is cut off by a driver who comes out of nowhere. Seething, Jessica monologues that “there had better be a new super villain in town named ‘Sensible Beige Sedan’, because if you’re just an idiot who drives too fast…”

No on both counts, it’s Ben Urich, who had to block Spider-Woman from ‘bullheading into that obvious trap’. His reporter’s instincts are good, because even as they speak, the door of the building slams shut, and the whole thing explodes! Seems Urich has flagged the property for years as co-owned by the Mauler and the Tinkerer, which convinced him it was “a dangerous place to hang out”. How did he arrive right on time? It seems he was the one who broke into Jessica’s office earlier, and Roger (the Porcupine) convinced him to follow Jessica, in case she did anything stupid.

Now it seems to me that this sort of trap wasn’t sprung remotely, given that the door closed and the bomb went off when Jessica approached the door but didn’t actually enter. So the guilty party must be in the vicinity. But I guess Jessica and Ben don’t notice that or don’t believe it, because rather than search the area, our heroes return to Jessica’s office. Amusingly, the hole in the window that Ben smashed earlier has been patched over with the boxboard from the cereal Jessica was eating earlier in the issue.

Over Chinese take-out, the trio of Roger, Ben, and Jessica ponder the next move in the investigation, which, we readers infer, is for the Porcupine to infiltrate the bad guy’s lair, with the cover story that he gave Spider-Woman the slip. This doesn't seem like a great plan to any of them, but it’s the best they've got. We readers know that the facemask of the Porcupine costume has been bugged, and a mysterious figure is watching and listening to all of their plans remotely.

Cut to the Porcupine, waiting on a street corner. As per instructions, he throws his safe (?) full of loot into a passing garbage truck. As soon as he does so, he’s pulled into an alley by Senor Suerte and a band of other low-rent supervillains: Big Wheel, Cyclone, Goldbug, Mauler, and the Kangaroo. They’re not impressed by the Porcupine’s ‘pulling this hero crap’, and proceed to pound on him hard.

From a distance, Ben and Spider-Woman watch from his car. As they figured, it was a trap, with Jessica having deduced that the costumes were bugged. I’m not sure how she reached that conclusion, but I guess that’s why she’s the private investigator. Accordingly, knowing it would be a trap, they planned accordingly. Roger sits in the car, wearing Spider-Woman’s old costume and a black wig. In the Porcupine suit, Jessica waits, smirking, as her supposedly-unconscious body is thrown into an empty subway car, which will shortly take her into the presence of the conspiracy’s mastermind.

General Comments

Uriel wrote in again to say a few things about this issue: I did put to Mr Hopeless that he is writing Jess as a Dunderhead who seems wilfully incapable. At first he disagreed, and then claimed there is something else at work. Good luck with issue 6, I found it went nowhere fast but reinforced Jess as a bit useless and a bit unpleasant.

I’m not going to be as hard on this issue as Uriel is. Yes, Jess comes off, again, as a bit useless and a bit unpleasant. A trained spy who isn't blessed with spider-sense shouldn't have blundered directly into the trap, as Jessica tried to do. And her out-of-patience tone with everyone very quickly wears thin. But I wouldn't say this issue ‘goes nowhere fast’; the legwork with Senor Suerte and Big Wheel was fun and underscored Jessica’s new role as a detective, as did the old-switcheroo plan at the end of the issue.

Hopeless’ private revelation that there is something else at work in regards to Jessica’s new-found incompetence is interesting. I hope that pays off sometime soon.

Overall Rating

A brisk crime story with hustling, low-rent supervillains, and cracking good art from Javier Rodriguez, this story is very much the sort of thing I like. Unfortunately, Jessica’s overall demeanour of snarky fumbling detracts from the proceedings, leaving this one a middle-of-the-road three webs.

Footnote

The cover shows a smiling Jessica riding her motorbike right overtop of some leather-garbed, Uzi-packing street tough while a screaming Ben Urich holds on to her waist. Nothing like this happens in the issue; Jessica only uses her bike for transportation, and she loses it halfway through. Ben never goes into battle with Spider-Woman, and no street toughs with submachine guns appear. Ben never even loses his cool! At least the cover does convey the point that Jessica and Ben Urich are the focus of the story, earning it the award of Mostly Inaccurate.