“Spider-Woman” #1 is a good first issue, but it feels six months out of date. Delayed to give time for the motion comic adaption to be completed, this book was meant to be a follow-up to “Secret Invasion,” as Jessica Drew deals with the problem of her identity stolen and used by the Skrull queen as the face of the invasion. It’s a great idea, but one that required a timely release for it to pack any punch. Nearly ten months after “Secret Invasion” ended, it lacks that punch.
The issue begins with Jessica depressed, angry, and suicidal with no preface to demonstrate why exactly her life is bad. As far as we, the readers, know, she’s been hanging out with the New Avengers for all of 2009 to date and hasn’t seemed that upset over her life (beyond the common hatred of Norman Osborn). And, here, Bendis decides to tell us how horrible her life is without showing a single example of why she would be contemplating suicide. Longtime readers, aware of her past, have some idea, but there has been little specific groundwork laid beyond vague ideas that people hate her now. The problem with that is that, since “Secret Invasion,” there have only been a couple of mentions of people associating her with the Skrulls and, both times, that issue was dismissed by other characters right away.
However, getting past that point, the rest of the issue is more mood than content as Jessica is recruited by Agent Brand to be an alien hunter for S.W.O.R.D. This is a good idea presented well since it takes advantage of Jessica’s resentment for the Skrulls and, we’re to believe, all aliens by proxy. Through this recruitment and her first assignment in Madripoor, a more extensive look at her background is given, which will be helpful for new readers.
Pairing with longtime collaborator Alex Maleev gives Bendis’ writing a needed lift since the narration is overwrought and full of self-loathing that isn’t fully justified. Also missing is his strong dialogue skills, preferring for Maleev to carry the load. Maleev’s art here is very good as he uses pages well and chooses his images carefully. The use of photoreferencing for Jessica is distracting as she stands out in detail from other characters, not quite fitting in with the world around her. His art really picks up during the action scenes, less focused on static images and more on conveying motion.
Divorced from the impetus for this series, “Spider-Woman” #1 isn’t as powerful as it could have been, coming off as overly melodramatic based on the way that Jessica Drew has been portrayed since the end of “Secret Invasion.” The added pages for this issue help as the second half is better than the first as Jessica leaves her self-pity behind to focus on her mission at hand. Hopefully, future issues will continue in that direction as this constant ‘My life is so bad’ narration doesn’t work without some actual evidence of hardship.