I now hesitate when I hear the words ‘event’ and ‘Jessica Drew’ in the same sentence. When Dennis Hopeless and Greg Land first signed on to launch a Spider-Woman series, it was tied to the confusing and ultimately disappointing “Spider-Verse” event, and once Hopeless teamed up with Javier Rodriguez to find Jess’ niche, Secret Wars came in to disrupt a strong title. Ultimately, Jessica has suffered from these events, so I did not know what to expect from “Spider-Women.” However, in the absence of Peter Parker, a billion characters to keep track of, and the threat of an event that will completely change Marvel as we know it, Jess has thrived.
Let’s face it; Jessica Drew is not a name that the casual comic reader knows. It’s not likely that she’ll appear in a movie anytime soon and she probably won’t ever be the lead in an event that Marvel throws millions of dollars behind, unless it turns out that she’s a Skull again. Now she’s the girl who investigates, fights at a street level, and rubs elbows with villains that go by the name of Porcupine. As such, she is also the girl who shines best in a simple setting, and simple is exactly the word I would choose for “Spider-Women.” The premise of the event, getting stuck in Earth-65 and dealing with the fallout of an evil Silk and Jesse Drew, isn’t convoluted, which allows us to learn more about our superheroes and our villains. Even though it does not mimic the strength of the earlier “Spider-Women” issues, with Spider-Woman #7 Dennis Hopeless stays true to Jessica’s roots and crafts a focused comic which highlights the strength of her character.
The smaller scale of this event ensures that there is more focus on characterization, yet Hopeless manages to create the fun action to which those who follow Spider-Woman have grown accustomed. Jessica Drew matched up against Jesse Drew is one fight that every comic lover should read. If the cover involving two ridiculously bickering enemies and a baby in a crib isn’t enough to sway you, all you need to see are the first panels after Roger leaves to realize this is on par with the “Kill Bill” sequence in #6. From stopping the fight to check on an upset baby to Jesse not understanding why anyone would want to be a hero, this action scene demonstrates just as much about the characters as it does their fighting styles. We learn about their commitment to family, their sense of right and wrong, and are able to grasp just how different these two are all within a few panels seemingly emphasizing fisticuffs. Those looking for a serious, high-stakes battle should look elsewhere.
Supporting Hopeless script is Joelle Jones’ delightful art. She is able to bring his action sequences to life and instills distinctive characteristics into each person we come across. Until this point, we haven’t seen much of Jesse, and Jones perfectly captures his distinctive grit and cunning through his blasé physical threats against Roger and his confident handling of her newborn. She also illustrates faces exceptionally. Using the previously mysterious Jesse as an example again, Jones is able to hone in on his nonchalant bad boy attitude in one panel and underscore his dedication to his family life the next. Her panels draw the parallels and disparities between Spider-Woman and her counterpart without Hopeless having to spell it out. The art brings this all to life just as much as the backstory we are provided toward the final pages. It’s the perfect marriage of art and script, and if I didn’t adore Javier Rodriguez so much, I’d be begging Jones to stick around.
Although Hopeless brings his magnetic writing and wit to this issue, the way it plays into the larger event is not as fluid. Issue #7 picks up immediately where #6 left off, yet two other installments have been released in the meantime. In an effort to test this theory that readers could read part of the event while still understanding the whole, I read Spider-Woman #7 before Spider-Gwen and Silk. Without the other two issues, the first half of #7 is coherent and fun, but by the second half, the appearance of a powerless Gwen is confusing and I’m left wondering where Cindy is. After reading the previous issues, it all makes more sense but still lacks the feel of an event. These individual issues now read as three completely separate series that are only held together by the thinnest of threads. Outside of the quick appearance of Gwen, this could easily read as a solo journey of Spider-Woman against her doppelganger, and while that is fun, it’s not what I was expecting from “Spider-Women.” If this were issue seven out of a ten or twelve issue event, it wouldn’t seem as out of place, but being one of the final issues, I question how this can all be wrapped up in the double-sized Spider-Women: Omega.
Additionally, Gwen’s impulsive choice at the end doesn’t seem deserved. Instead of being excited about her ability to grab her fate in her hands, I wonder what the point of Spider-Gwen #8 was. What were the consequences of Gwen losing her power? Was it all just a device to show the power of the Silk from Earth-65? Will Jessica’s points about Gwen having a chance at a normal life have any real purpose in the larger narrative? These are just a few of the questions I have after turning the last page. At this point, actions are happening and are resolved in a way that provides minimal satisfaction, and that’s the greatest weakness of an event that is focused on just a few characters.
Despite the strong beginnings of “Spider-Women,” this penultimate issue does not hold up as well. Since this event is not on the scale of something like “Civil War,” each issue has to count, and that isn’t the case here. Still, with Hopeless’ keen understanding of the major players and Jones’ signature charm, Spider-Woman #7 is worth a read, whether you’re a Jessica Drew devotee or not.