Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
In many ways, the Big Two have had a renaissance lately with their female superheroes, with series like Batgirl, Thor, Spider-Gwen and Squirrel Girl attracting devoted followings with their top-notch characterization and artwork. But in many ways, Spider-Woman has the potential the stand above the rest, as Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez ease Jessica Drew into a new and profound role: a single, superhero mother-to-be.
A new father himself, Hopeless has seen first-hand how motherhood changes a person, and that verisimilitude is apparent in this first issue of Spider-Woman. While he teases us with superhero battles raging on the sidelines - after all, the Porcupine has been training quite diligently over the past eight months, ready to take on a new role as a superhero - but it's actually quite subversive that Jess doesn't actually throw a punch this issue. Instead, Hopeless shows us the frustration that can come with a pregnancy - while some mothers struggle to give up red meat or sushi, Jess has trouble letting go of driving her motorcycle or diving into a crowd full of supervillains.
And while Hopeless nails the realities of not being able to have coffee or tossing and turning after the baby kept her temperature up all night, he also takes a wonderfully feminist take on Jess by making her a single mother. While other authors might portray single parenthood as a derailing moment in a woman's life, Jess is made of sterner stuff than that. Not only does the idea of a baby not faze her, but when people ask her who the father is, she rightly tells them "none of your business." I'd argue it's actually a far more revolutionary twist than just the pregnancy alone, and gives Hopeless plenty of wiggle room to tease us with a mystery.
Javier Rodriguez, meanwhile, transitions seamlessly from street-level combat to superhero block parties to interdimensional maternity wards without skipping a beat. His page layouts are beautiful and evocative, particularly when he crams 12 panels of nighttime fistcuffs in just half a page. Rodriguez also nails the expressions on this book, ranging from Jess biting her lip when she has to give up something precious for the sake of the baby, or the dumbfounded look on Porcupine's face as an octopus sits lazily on his head. Rodriguez, who rose up the Marvel ranks as a colorist, knows exactly what shades are the most flattering to his work, and so he's able to effectively set the mood to all of his settings, ranging from a city sunset to an aquarium at night to the eerie white backgrounds of an interdimensional hospital.
If there's one thing that hampers this first issue of Spider-Woman, is that while Hopeless does a great job at setting up Jessica's all-new, all-different world, there's very little forward momentum in terms of plot progression. There's a lot of juicy characterization here, so decompression isn't necessarily the word I'd use here, but at this point in the story, Jess might be our point-of-view character, but she's not a particularly active protagonist at the moment. Additionally, while Rodriguez is great at the ever-shifting tone of this book, it does result in a fairly schizophrenic read - Spider-Woman had been such an excellent book when it embraced Jess's status quo as a private investigator, so bringing in the Avengers and all the crazy sci-fi elements to this book can't help but feel a little jarring, particularly with the slow burn of a story.
But perhaps we should consider these growing pains - and ultimately, growth is exactly what Spider-Woman is all about. She used to be a screw-up on the level of Hawkeye, but Jessica Drew is a tougher cookie than Barton will ever be. While this debut issue is a little on the sleepier side when it comes to its pacing, there's a ton of potential that Spider-Woman is carrying with its bold new status quo.