Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Javier Rodriguez have tackled one big question with the last few issues of Spider-Woman. What happens when you take a superhero who answers to no one and make her a single mom?
The answers to this question were sprinkled throughout the first four issues of this reboot, though this issue tackles it head on. After Skrulls and a hospital in a black hole, Spider-Woman #5 is surprisingly normal. There are no villains or crazy fights to distract from the main problem at hand; Jessica Drew is a mom now, and with that comes sleepless nights, a messy apartment, and a new set of worries about the career path she has chosen.
The strength here lies in the fact that despite having zero experience as a new mom, I still find Jess’ journey both relevant and intriguing. She is generally confident and faces life with little fear, but she is infinitely more human this issue. She doesn’t have any experience with babies, she’s living alone, and she is always afraid of what might happen if she makes the wrong decision. Instead of fearlessly taking charge, she questions everything. Unfortunately, her friends don’t have much more experience than she does, and when she relays these reservations to people like Carol Danvers, she doesn’t find peace during their conversations.
Persistently struggling to find a balance between what Jess considers a normal life and continuing to stand up against evil is the crux of this issue. More importantly, it’s a struggle she’ll constantly have to face as Hopeless demonstrates when Jess is unable to even go on a peaceful walk to the park with Hawkeye without landing in a fight. She is still capable of beating the bad guys, but she doesn’t always want to. She isn’t just Spider-Woman any more; she’s a mom whose wrong move could lead to leaving her child an orphan. Her motivations now lie in protecting her baby, and she only falls into action when her boy is in immediate danger. Scenes like this encounter with Hawkeye demonstrate just how much she’s changed in the short time since giving birth, and we’re just beginning to know this new superhero.
Despite Jessica being an exhausted new mom, Dennis Hopeless makes sure to sprinkle the book’s signature humor throughout the issue. Of all the people to be the saving grace, Roger is the last of her friends to come to mind. He’s the comic relief, and while he has grown since his first appearance as Porcupine, to see him calmly washing dishes while her otherwise boisterous baby naps in the next room is a shock to Jessica. Roger becomes her confidant because he’s the only one who gets it, and the fact that a D-list former villain is someone she trusts with her baby more than heroes like She Hulk and Captain Marvel is proof that this new direction can still be fun.
Although I’ve come to predictably praise Javier Rodriguez’s art every issues, #5 captures why comics are a unique medium of storytelling. The multi-page spread of Jessica’s night out with her superhero friends would not have worked through any other depiction. Seeing emojis pop up over characters heads would look awkward in a big live-action Marvel movie, and minutes of silence where moments of action are illustrated wouldn’t work well on an animated series. Yet, when Rodriguez focuses on the ups and downs of Jessica’s first night out without her little man, it flows. It also underscores the artist’s sense of humor. While Jess is fretting about what Roger could possibly be doing with her baby, Hellcat is preoccupied with cocktails and Hawkeye’s moods change faster than the current presidential candidates.
The only worrisome part of the entire book for me is Nick Lowe’s advice for new parents at the end. On the surface, this letter from the editor seems like a fitting end given the struggles Jess faces as a new mom; however, when he thanks everyone involved for creating this book and extends a thanks to readers for joining Jessica on her journey, it reads like a good-bye. It’s no secret that Spider-Woman is not pulling in great numbers for Marvel, and this makes me think this strong book will be dropped sooner rather than later. Given the upward trajectory of the content within each issue, it really would be a shame if the upcoming “Spider-Women” event is the end of Jess’ solo stint.
Spider-Woman #5 encapsulates who Jessica Drew is and how she has both changed and stayed the same since becoming a mother. When Spider-Woman was originally launched, I had significant concerns about her representation, lack of agency, and the overall tone of the book, but as time has passed, Hopeless and Rodriguez have won me over. Spider-Woman isn’t just a book for girls or parents or people who only read Spider-titles, it’s a book for anyone who enjoys a balanced, funny story, and it’s time more people to start reading it.