Though it seems as if the buzzword is Secret Wars, Spider-Woman is finishing off an arc that deals with happenings occurring before this big event. As Jessica finally unravels the mystery, Dennis Hopeless takes his story to another level and tries to balance the humor for which Spider-Woman is known with the somber impact that a life of villainy can have on a family.
With the quasi-villain finally being revealed last issue, this one delves deeper into Cat’s story and how Moon Hollow came to be. In the issues leading up to Spider-Woman #8, the book felt lighter and fun, but it takes a quick turn for the more grave here. This is a story about women who have been pushed to the brink and seek shelter in a land of their own making. It’s not all easily black and white either, as evidenced by the Porcupine’s relationship with his wife. He’s not a terrible man, but his decisions still led to his wife seeking out this paradise. Issue #8 deals with serious issues and there are many panels that are uncomfortable to read, but that showcases Hopeless’ commitment to writing important superhero stories that tackle real world issues, which I find admirable.
The biggest hindrance to #8 is the pacing. It jumps from backstory to battle before it winds down to a conclusion that’s a bit too perfect for me. All it’s missing is a pretty bow. There are gritty scenes that portray the real life horrors that many women go through, but Hopeless only touches on the topic. The women who live here, even Cat, don’t feel real enough yet. Just when we begin to learn about Cat and why this land is a utopia, the issue is over. We get a flash of their struggles and start to understand them, but we need more time with them. There isn’t enough characterization of these women who cling to this paradise, and Cat is all but forgotten once the battle’s done. It’s as if their suffering doesn’t matter once the climax hits, and they become placeholders instead of people that deserve better treatment. Such a big subject needs more than one issue to be handled well, and I think that’s the chief problem here.
Additionally, Jessica doesn’t seem all that important and demonstrates little development at the end of this arc. Ben Urich shows the most growth, which is great, but also disappointing since this book is Spider-Woman’s. It feels as if this isn’t an issue meant to be about her, but the quickness of it makes it difficult to decide who the comic is meant to be about. Is this specifically about Cat’s journey or all the women of Moon Hollow? I’m still not sure, and the potential of this twist isn’t fully fleshed out by Hopeless. Jess does what she feels is right and then moves onto her next case, and it’s almost as if none of the events of that day even happened.
While I have mixed feelings about the turn this arc took, Javier Rodriguez’s art and coloring is unfailingly dynamic and engaging. He’s able to bring these characters to life, though the artwork is best during action sequences. His most exiting work appears during the fight scene between Spider-Woman and Cat since he captures the movement of it perfectly. He has an innate understanding of how the human body moves and how to translate that to the page, which makes his artwork incredibly appealing for readers who enjoy comics for the stories and the art. Instead of distracting us from the story, Rodriguez is able to provide us with another medium to appreciate it.
For as excited as I’ve been about Spider-Woman since issue #5, I finished #8 feeling much more conflicted. The intent behind it is good, but the execution is a bit shaky. Comics don’t have to be fun all the time, but the gravity of the story does not consistently match up well with the tone. There’s a responsibility to readers that Hopeless took on when he decided to conclude the arc this way, and it just falls short of successfully handling that obligation. Given his previous work though, I have faith that Hopeless’ upcoming issues will capture the magic of Spider-Woman again, and I’m not willing to write him off yet.