Back in the late '70s there was a story running through fandom that some unscrupulous publishers were going to tap into Marvel's Mojo by issuing female versions of Marvel characters. To prevent this from happening, Marvel spun a couple of their top characters off into female versions first, so as to prevent the infringement from happening. So while the characters and names might be derivative (read: lame), the company did manage to protect its property, Plus, over the years, several talented creators managed to craft some very nice stories out of what was essentially a corporate CYA exercise.
Thus were born, She Hulk (cousin of The Hulk), and Spider-Woman (no actual relation to Spider-Man). As this is a Spidey site, we are more concerned with Jessica Drew, the first (of four) Spider-Women in this review.
This particular comic was generated by the fact that both Spider-Man and Spider-Woman are currently part of the New Avengers, and there is (in all likelihood), some renewed interest in the original Spider-Woman. So, being the capalistists that they are, the powers that be over at Marvel issued this book so as to satisify the wishes of fans (new and old) who desire to know (or learn) something of her origins, and how she came to return to SHIELD and become a part of the New Avengers. Thus it not only reprints some of her key issues: Marvel Spotlight #32 (her origin), Spider-Woman #1, Spider- Woman #37, & Spider-Woman #38. It also includes a brand-new eight-page original tale that gives a little bit of background about what took place shortly prior to the events of New Avengers #1.
Jessica Drew, (Spider-Woman) is standing on a street corner in the middle of the night dressed in a skin-tight black mini-dress (and looking good doing it). Only she is borderline despondent and running herself down as she reflects on how far she has fallen. Calling herself a cheap slut, she remembers how she was formerly an agent of SHIELD, and a superhero; that she actually turned down membership in the Avengers five times; and now she is standing on a street corner in the middle of the night dressed like a cheap slut, and she was envious of Hawkeye, a dead man.
While she is lost in her reverie, a pair of hold-up artist get the drop on her and demand for her to turn over her purse. Cursing herself for a fool and a novice, she attempts to use her failing superpowers on them, only her powers don't quick kick in and she is forced into hand-to-hand combat, relying on her SHIELD training. The next morning she is talking to the head of the local watch committee (who is apparently the one who hired her for the gig) and explaining how she took off the two gang bangers who have been terrorizing the community.
The fellow is very happy that she was able to do what the cops couldn't do (stop the muggings). Then he pays her $800.00 (she is a private eye, remember), and then has a photo taken with her (which Jessica reluctantly endures). She then heads home, only to find a stranger in her apartment. The individual chides her over her paltry fee, and then holds up her old Spider-Woman uniform stating that she might be able to make more money if she wore her old uniform.
Angered, Jessica tries to use her powers and blast him with one her venom stings, only her powers again fail her, and the fellow laughs at her. So she again falls back on her SHIELD training and delivers a roundhouse kick to his head. The stranger is passingly impressed, then utilizes his own powers on her, knocking her into the wall. He then introduces himself to her as Connely. Describing himself as a fan of the old her, he claims that he wants to help her regain her powers and abilities. Only, there is a catch.
We (the readers) are then left with this mystery hanging in the air, leaving it for writer Brian Michael Bendis to follow up on the mystery in the pages of The New Avengers.
I really liked this brief look into Jessica Drew's life. When her book ended in 1983, that could have been the end of her career, (it essentially was of her superhero life). She turned up briefly in Wolverine's solo book working in Madripor with her former roommate, and still best friend, Lindsay McCabe in her role of a private investigator. During that run, she still had her powers but had long since ditched the costume (as Julia Carpenter had taken up as the second Spider-Woman, and was a member of the West Coast Avengers).
The issue is packed out with four reprints of key historical tales of Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman.
The art could have been better (it looked a tad rushed), but all-in-all, this wasn't a bad story, also the book itself reminded me of why I liked this character in the first place all those years ago. It also acts a nice bridge from her beginnings to her re-birth as a New Avenger.
Hopefully, we will get to learn more of what is going here either after the current storyline involving the mysterious Sentry, or as that story progresses