As I hoped with last issue, the second issue of “Spider-Woman” continues more in the vein of the second half of that issue, with its intrigue and action, than the first half, with its incessant self-loathing narration and inability to show Jessica Drew’s hardships. This issue puts her firmly into a very bad, very dangerous situation, and it’s entertaining to watch her work her way out.
Last issue ended with her blacking out after fighting a Skrull in Madripoor, killing it in the process. This issue begins with her waking up in a Madripoor prison, obviously having the answers to the few dozen questions local officials may want concerning her, the technology she has on her, and the dead Skrull. Of course, that Madripoor is one of the most corrupt places in the Marvel universe doesn’t help.
Where last issue fell flat in having Jessica tell us how bad her life is, this issue shows us quite well. It's her first gig as S.W.O.R.D.’s alien hunter and she’s found herself in jail with no real hope of escape, except using methods she really does not want to do. Bendis makes good use of one of her powers that was played for laughs in “New Avengers,” but comes off more disturbing and scummy here. Showing us what Jessica is willing to do to survive really gets us behind her.
That said, Bendis’ usual slow pacing doesn’t work entirely here as this issue feels a little light on content. It has some great scenes and ideas, but not enough to really sustain a whole issue. However, it does build to a very good ending, one that Bendis is smart to include so early in the book’s run, because it’s inevitable and why not get it out of the way early?
Alex Maleev on art is everything you want it to be. Jessica doesn’t stand out as much in this issue as being obviously photoreferenced compared to other characters. His command of shadows and the interplay of colors in dark, sleazy places is put to good use in a Madripoor prison. The subtle change in a character’s reaction to Jessica is also handled nicely. There are a few spots where characters don’t fit entirely into their environment, the final page being the most notable example of a character’s positioning and body language looking awkward with her surroundings. But, we’re not at the level at the level of obvious cut-and-paste that some artists exhibit, and Maleev does great work for most of the issue.
Not quite at the level of quality most would expect of a Bendis/Maleev book yet, “Spider-Woman” #2 is an improvement on the first issue and, hopefully, that trend will continue. The plot is intriguing and Jessica Drew’s character is being given chances to show who she is rather than telling us, it makes for an entertaining read.