Six weeks ago, give or take, Jessica ‘Spider-Woman’ Drew quit the Avengers, in order to find a more grounded, street-level life. Ben Urich, a casual acquaintance, asked her to investigate the disappearance of the wives, girlfriends, and daughters of New York’s small-time supervillains. With the grudging assistance of Roger ‘the Porcupine’, she solved that case, and has decided to throw in with Urich, helping people by solving odd cases.
Jessica and Ben are taking their act on the road, so Jessica needs a set of wheels more capacious than her motorbike. She’s picked up a 1950s-style green convertible with big fins. Ben approves, but is surprised by her choice: “It’s just so… conspicuous.”
“Are we planning on hiding? You need to quit thinking of me of Phillip [sic] Marlowe.”
Jessica certainly isn’t planning on hiding, as she takes the time to sign for a package while in full Spider-Woman regalia - zipped-up jacket and goggles up - while she ruefully remarks that her secret identity isn’t faring so well these days. Not that I think her secret identity has been all that secret, not since New Avengers #1, anyway. Right after that, Roger arrives. Yes, the Porcupine is coming along on the road trip. “A week on the road! Solving cases! Punching noses in service to the common man! Honored just to be invited, man.” Jessica isn’t thrilled about this, but doesn’t feel like fighting with Urich about it, so they’re off!
Cue a montage of Spider-Woman taking on a variety of goofy costumed villains across America - Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois - while Ben watches and Roger makes ineffectual attempts to assist. By the time they reach Dodge City, Kansas, Jessica is completely out of patience with him. As he returns from a tourist trap with a bunch of Old-West-themed kitsch, Jessica is about to have words with him, but she loses the opportunity when someone off-panel shoots him in the chest.
That someone brought his friends - it’s a whole posse of cowboys in Stetsons, Levis, flannel shirts, and shotguns. The posse proceeds to blast hundreds of holes in the side of Jessica’s car while our three heroes take cover. As soon as they’re finished, Jessica leaps out and takes them all out in one superb two-page splash panel.
As she pauses to catch her breath, enter the villain, a refugee from Deadwood with partial handlebar mustaches, a white hat, and a Sheriff’s badge. Spider-Woman would like an explanation from him, but they’re no time for that: instead, Spider-Woman is dogpiled by a horde of tourists and locals dressed up in old-timey costume, all of whom look suspiciously blank-eyed.
She wakes in a meat-packing plant, on a conveyor belt, poised to go right into a meat saw. Recovering at the last second, she leaps up to a catwalk where the Sheriff is monologuing. He explains that he wants to know what brought Spider-Woman to Dodge, and whether there will be any Avengers following her. Jessica is not in a talking mood, however, and throws a kick and a punch, both of which the Sheriff dodges. He responds by hitting her with a stun stick, and the conducted electrical charge knocks her out. The Sheriff throws her down from the catwalk to the killing floor, where a trio of dead-eyed workers menace our hero with a sledgehammer and a meat-cutting blade.
“Now, do I really think I can force you to talk?” asks the Sheriff rhetorically. “No. Not really. But trying is going to be a whole mess of fun.”
Not much happens in this issue. Jessica, Ben, and Roger travel together, with Jessica vocally unimpressed with Roger’s abilities (just like last arc). Ben and Roger get captured off-panel, while Spider-Woman, separated from them, gets captured on-panel (again, just like last arc). Jessica is forced to take on a physically-overpowering opponent who seems to hold the upper hand (yet again, just like last arc). There’s not much here to spark interest, except of course for Javier Rodriguez’ pencils, which remain phenomenal.
The story is boring, and we don’t know enough about the Sheriff’s scheme to care much about him, or it. And the cliffhanger is gruesome rather than suspenseful. I’ll call it two webs, with a half-web bump-up for the art.
Another Cover Award of Totally Accurate - two in a row! Yes, this issue is about Jessica, Ben, and Roger on a road trip, complete with inter-personal friction.