With the Jackal’s plot in its tertiary phase, citizens across Manhattan are mutating into spiders and wreaking havoc. With Alicia Masters trapped in her studio, Reed Richards enlists the help of Spider-Woman to go and rescue her. But Spider-Woman's old foe, Gypsy Moth, seems intent on getting in her way.
Although the plot is flimsy by half, Van Lente does his best to turn the story into a character piece for Spider-Woman that actually relies on Spider-Island as a backdrop, rather than simply using it as scenery. Jessica’s feelings of alienation are used as a lens through which to refract her interpretation of events. While it’s unlikely that she was hand-picked to enter the so-called “Spider-Island” because her peers were mistrustful of her arachnid mentality, the fact that she considers the idea at all tells us enough about her to make it an intriguing read.
Of course, it’s the same plot thread that also causes the book’s internal logic to falter. The idea is that Reed sent her to rescue Alicia Masters -- possibly because the infestation would recognize her spider-DNA and go easy on her -- but she then spends the bulk of the issue fighting with, or alongside, Ben Grimm. Surely, if both of them are in Manhattan, he’s the one to send after Masters?
Aside from that, it’s an otherwise serviceable single-issue story. Gypsy Moth isn’t the most compelling villainess, and her connection to the plot is slight at best, but at the same time it’s worth pulling a character out of, er, mothballs (sorry) and seeing if anything sparks. It’s just regrettable for Van Lente that this time it doesn’t.
The artwork, at least, helps to rescue a mediocre story by giving it some visuals worth talking about. The book is almost a cover-to-cover action sequence, and both penciler Giuseppe Camuncoli and his inker, Klaus Janson, give it their all with some well-executed images and enough technique to convey the book’s frantic pace without losing clarity or cohesion. If anything lets the book down visually, it’s D’Aramta’s rather plastic approach to the coloring. People don’t shine that much, especially when they’re made of rock.
Although it’s far from actively bad, “Spider-Island: Spider-Woman” is by far the weakest Spider-Island tie-in so far, which just goes to illustrate the generally high quality of the crossover. The story sustains itself for an issue, but it’s doesn’t offer a convincing advertisement for Spider-Woman as a series lead (which is a shame in itself). It’s the kind of comic that’ll entertain you if you’re in the mood, but unless you’re feeling charitable, give it a miss for now.