It seems this is a two-week period of relative introspection for the female-led Spider-titles under my watch, which is actually making for a fascinating look at how differently these situations are being handled by the creative teams. While Gwen takes a breather from the vicious fights she just won, Cindy is given a chance in this issue to work out her suspicions about her malfunctioning powers, courtesy of Spider-Man and his fantastic friends.
In a trope readers may well recognize from Spider-Man lore, she may not want to believe her super problems are stemming from within her own head, but when the brilliant and thorough Reed Richards says you’re physically fine, there’s not much else to consider. From her denial of Reed’s diagnosis to her tempestuous reaction to Peter’s concerned meddling, Cindy shows herself to be both flawed and charming in how she goes about dealing with her issues. Even her date with Johnny points out how uncomfortable she is with herself, as opposed to her costumed persona, a trait that Johnny fortunately shares.
From a writing standpoint, there’s plenty to like about this installment of Cindy’s adventures. Things are generally light and zippy on the surface, but astute readers will easily recognize Cindy’s growing self-doubt as she grapples with who she is, both as a person and a superhero. In an even briefer and more brilliant scene than his previous appearance, Jonah quickly and accurately concludes that she’s trying to avoid something, and boots her out of the office, while her friends point out to her that yes, you can go out dancing and still have anxiety issues that you aren’t facing.
When we see a potential major source of Cindy’s anxiety, it’s an understandable explanation, as we flash back to a younger point in her life, when she’s just been bitten by the spider and just received her powers–which she doesn’t know how to control. Surrounded by webbing spun out haphazardly all over her room, a tearful Cindy can only find solace in the arms of her parents, whose loss are pretty clearly connected to that spider bite and those powers. It’s easy to see her issues with her powers may stem from the idea that they were the cause of so much loss and isolation in her life.
Her date with Johnny was amusing from the get-go, including Peter’s idiotic attempts to thwart him asking her out. I’m going to go out on a limb and suppose this is still some holdover from the “Silk pheromones” phenomenon introduced by Slott and Company, but it seems Cindy has gotten enough control over them to not be terribly bothered by his presence anymore. At any rate, Peter looking depressed while Thing consoles him was also hilariously memorable. Parker luck indeed.
I like that the actual date between Cindy and Johnny began about as awkwardly as possible: with the two of them, plain clothes, sitting silently in a restaurant while having nothing to talk about (I particularly enjoyed seeing Johnny wearing a vest, even though I’m not sure he’d ever actually wear one). They’re finally able to relax around each other when they split from the restaurant, put on their costumes, and go off fighting crime together. From Cindy’s unfamiliarity with Googling to Johnny’s encouraging words to her about how to “beat” luck, the rest of the date takes on a fun, memorable air of joy that ends with Johnny receiving a kiss on the cheek.
Charming as the whole thing was, I’m not sure there was enough of a connection for the two of them to remain strongly interested in one another, but I wouldn’t be averse to seeing them go out again.
In what was the issue’s least memorable scene, we end things with Black Cat assembling what appears to be her own, updated version of Enforcers-style henchpeople to hunt down and take down Silk. I won’t harp on about my issues with her current characterization, but I do feel like this last page was more of an obligatory, “Oh yeah, she’s still here,” kind of scene than any kind of genuinely threatening build to what will likely be an impending showdown between the two of them. If anyone can turn Felicia around and make her an actual, interesting character, Thompson is it, but so far I remain unimpressed by Black Cat overall.
I will admit to being a little bit jarred to not see Stacey Lee continuing her art duties on this title, though AnnaPaola Martello does a strong enough job throughout most of this issue, particularly starting off with a full-page drawing of Galactus. The faces she draws do seem a bit off in several places, but she gets Cindy right in pretty much every panel, and her action scenes with the Human Torch are fun to look at. It’s a tough act to follow Stacey Lee, though, and while new readers may not notice what they’re missing, anyone who’s followed the first three issues of this series is sure to be somewhat taken aback by the sudden change.
Cindy is at an interesting place in her solo career, and as we continue to see more of who she is, as well as who she thinks she is, we’ll no doubt get to see her develop her own distinctive style, voice, and legacy from the wall-crawler on whom she’s based. If you’d asked me six months ago if this book would have stood a chance of sustaining itself, I would have certainly said no, but deft characterization and even-handed development have brought Cindy a long way. If you’re not already reading this book, it’s definitely worth checking out.