Spider-Woman (Vol. 6) #1

 Title: Spider-Woman (Vol. 6)
 Posted: Jan 2016


Three months ago, Jessica ‘Spider-Woman’ Drew quit the Avengers, in order to find a more grounded, street-level life. Throwing in with Ben Urich and Roger ‘the Porcupine’ Gocking, she traveled America to help the helpless.

Then the Secret Wars happened, and a year passed. Let’s see what’s happened while we’ve been away.

Story Details

  Spider-Woman (Vol. 6) #1
Jan 2016
Summary: Spider-Woman pregnant. Spider-Man cameo
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Pencils: Javier Rodriguez
Inker: Alvaro Lopez
Cover Art: Alvaro Lopez, Javier Rodriguez
Lettering: VC's Travis Lanham
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez

We open with Roger the Porcupine beating up a bunch of low-tier supervillains - I think I recognize the Griffin and Ruby Tuesday in there - while Jessica watches from a distance. She’s engaged in inner monologue about why other people like children, but she doesn’t and never has. She’s thinking about this because, as the cover told us, she’s very pregnant: to my eye, late second or early third trimester.

In a side chat with Ben Urich, as well as Roger over wireless comms, we lay some exposition beats: it’s bean a year since Jessica met Roger back in Spider-Woman (vol. 5) #5. In the intervening months, Jessica has become a Wise Old Mentor, teaching Roger everything he needs to know about superheroing while remaining safely at a distance, feeding Roger intel remotely while he battles supercreeps. Ben Urich is doing the same thing, I guess.

Jess continues to mope about how much life sucks as a pregnant woman: can’t throw punches, swollen ankles, no booze, can’t drive her motorbike anymore. Even though the risk to her unborn child is substantially reduced by the alien tech that her bestie, Carol ‘Captain Marvel’ Danvers, has provided, Ben and Roger still refuse to let her participate physically in any superheroic shenanigans.

That evening, Jessica begins her official maternity leave, meaning she won’t even be Roger’s cornerwoman anymore. (I write these reviews in Google Drive, and the Google text engine is redlining ‘cornerwoman’. In boxing, a cornerman is the person who gives a boxer advice between rounds. I note that Google doesn’t redline ‘cornerman’.) So Roger and Ben will do whatever it is that they do without Jessica’s help until Jessica’s baby is born and of an age where Jessica can go back to work.

The evening begins with a maternity leave party. It’s held at Avengers Tower, maybe? Do the Avengers still have a tower? Beats me. Anyway, in a beautiful splash page, we see Jessica chatting with Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker while Carol talks to Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark. Peter tries to raise Jessica’s spirits while Tony pumps Carol for info on the father of Jessica’s child. When Tony raises that subject with Jess, we don’t get to hear the dialogue, but we do see Peter’s spider-sense begins to tingle.

Things don’t go well for Tony, as he apparently gets venom-blasted. ‘Ka-Zat’! (Sigh. Where my ‘zdak’ at?) Apparently he asked if Jessica knew who the father was. Sheesh. That definitely crossed the line between‘cad’ to ‘boor’.

As the party closes, Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton drops by for a few pointless lines of dialogue, and Carol offers Jessica an appointment with her space ob-gyn. Apparently Alpha Flight (her new team? I thought she was an Ultimate…) has its own HMO, which is a shame, because if any superteam should be on single-payer, it’s Alpha Flight. After two weeks of boredom, Jessica is at her wits’ end, because, as she says, “Taking a month off sounded godawful boring…” So I guess she’s late third trimester then, if her maternity leave is only a month long. She’s so bored that she takes up Carol’s offer, and pays a visit to a super-science space hospital. A quick teleportation hop and she’s in a maternity ward crossed with the Mos Eisley cantina.

Before she even has time to take stock of the weirdness around her, which penciller Javier Rodriguez clearly enjoyed drawing, two Skrulls enter, wielding ray guns, and throw down. “This will all be over soon,” they say ominously.

General Comments

I’m writing this review on New Year’s Day, 2016. Apparently I began writing my review of Spider-Woman (Vol. 5) #1 on New Year’s Eve, 2014, so it’s been a year and a day for me on Spider-Woman #1 reviews. Going back to reread that one, I said that it was a terrible #1 issue because it didn’t allow Spider-Woman to do anything interesting, and it didn’t explain who she was or her power set for new readers.

Apparently writer Dennis Hopeless is making that his trademark, because he does exactly the same thing here.

Jessica doesn’t do anything superheroic in this issue. She doesn’t throw a punch or climb a wall. She doesn’t glide through the air. She doesn’t use her pheromone powers, or resist a toxin, a power I don’t think she’s used once during Hopeless’ run on the character. Instead, she mopes about how she can’t do anything cool anymore. The only superheroic thing she does is to use her venom blast… on a friend who said something thoughtless… and she does it off-panel.

I understand that writing a story about a superhero who’s pregnant is largely unexplored territory, but maybe there’s a reason it’s unexplored. Superhero comics, and indeed genre fiction as a whole, is about heroic people doing amazing feats. If your hero can’t do anything physical, you’d better make her capable of amazing feats in some other area. When Barbara Gordon was paralyzed, we still wanted to read about her, because she was a fearsome computer hacker. When Jessica Jones was pregnant (check back issues of The Pulse, True Believer!), we still wanted to read about her, because she was a good private detective, and could solve mysteries. When Selena Kyle was a new mother, we readers still wanted to read about her, because she was the cornerwoman (dammit, Google) to Holly Robinson, who had taken on the guise of Catwoman while Selena was in retreat.

So why do we readers want to read about Jessica Drew? She has no awesomeness on display here. Roger the Porcupine does some interesting stuff, but it’s not his name on the masthead. What Jessica mostly does is whine, either to her friends, or to us readers. It’s not entertaining or engaging, it’s tedious.

The best parts of this, the parts that are actually interesting, are the superheroic soap opera stuff at Avengers Tower, and the space-opera hospital stuff at the end. But wait… the whole new direction and status quo on this title was about removing Jessica from that world and planting her firmly in the noir world of street-level crime and private detection. So the best parts of this issue are the parts that do a full 180 on the bold new direction we readers were sold on half a year ago.

Overall Rating

It’s a dull story told by a difficult-to-like protagonist who doesn’t do anything interesting, but is nearby when interesting things happen to other people. One web, which I’ll bump up by half a web because Javier Rodriguez’ art is superb, as usual.


So who’s the father? I can’t muster much interest in this mystery. The obvious suspects are Roger the Porcupine and Ben Urich, but as far as I know they’re both married. Moreover, while both are solicitous of Jessica in this issue, they’re solicitous in the co-worker way, not the you-are-bearing-my-child way.

The only other men we meet in this issue are Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and Clint Barton. None of them act like they might be the father, and only Tony acts like he might harbour suspicions that it’s him. On the other hand, Clint used to be Jessica’s boyfriend, though they broke up well before the Secret Wars. Still, a late-night booty call - made by him or made by Jess - is plausible, and the way Clint’s written these days, he’s thick enough that he could very well be oblivious to the fact that Jessica’s unborn child might be his. So if I had to back a horse in this race, I suppose it would be Clint.

 Title: Spider-Woman (Vol. 6)
 Posted: Jan 2016