Jessica Drew and I have a complicated relationship. When I first agreed to start reviewing this series all the way back around “Spider-Verse,” I took a couple of months to better acquaint myself with the character. Subsequently, I made it through two volumes of Marvel Essential titles that pulled her first series together, and then I picked up the random comic here and there that highlighted her time with the Avengers. I wasn’t immediately enamored with her inconsistent character, but I could see the potential there.
Then, I opened Spider-Woman #1. Not one to sugarcoat things, it was pretty awful. At the time, I probably rated the first four issues much higher than I should have, wanting to see the series I had been assigned continued. However, there is no denying that the bombshell work Greg Land produced and the bathroom jokes that Dennis Hopeless originally rolled out read as uninspired as the majority of “Spider-Verse.”
Luckily, before the series became as lost as Atlantis, Javier Rodriguez stepped up, and he and Hopeless found a rhythm that provided Jess with agency as well as an offbeat ensemble cast. Once these two got into the swing of things, the book got consistently better, and this latest issue is no exception. Spider-Woman #8 is the perfect balance between action, comedy, and family life, cementing the mastery with which Hopeless and Rodriguez produce this hectic chapter of Jessica’s life.
After seeing Jess mentor her way through “Spider-Women,” it’s exciting to see her back with the inquisitive Ben Urich and her bumbling, well-meaning friend Porcupine. Jess tries to find an equilibrium between her need to protect people and her desire to be home and relieve her semi-permanent babysitter Roger. These two parts of her life couldn’t be more at odds with each other and this is where Hopeless is able to mine comedy from. In this particular issue, Spider-Woman confidently battles King Shark in the middle of the street, but at the exact same moment Roger is in her home fretting about seeing her underwear. It doesn’t get odder than that, and Hopeless juxtaposes these types of scenarios in order to highlight just how bifurcated her life is now.
It’s not all battling bad guys in ridiculous scenarios though. Hopeless strives to demonstrate how Jess’ public life intersects with her private; however, he also is sure to underscore why she chooses the life she leads. She goes after people like King Shark to keep the streets safe, and while she doesn’t need praise, she receives it. That desire to help and the gratitude she sees in return shows why she can’t give up her Spider-Woman persona. Yet, on the other side of things, as she gets to go home and cuddle with her baby while enjoying homemade pancakes, we see why she wants this element of her life as well. The last few pages of Spider-Woman # 8 emphasize the more personal moments of Jess’ life while making the readers feel good about this crazy journey she has embarked on.
Tender moments aside, Javier Rodriguez’s work is the real star of this issue. The standard panel does not exist for him, and he constantly plays with the art in a way that keeps me on the page much longer than I typically intend. Meanwhile, Hopeless brings humor to this comic by having Roger ring Jessica, just as King Shark smashes his way through New York cabs. Rodriguez adds another element to it all by crafting a page that makes it look as if Roger is walking through the battle, surreally demonstrating the intersection between Jess’ two lives. One specific panel where King Shark chomps his way toward Spider-Woman highlights Rodriguez’s ability to depict movement in a unique way while also illustrating the incredible danger Jess faces.
Additionally, throughout Spider-Woman #8 there is an unmistakable texture that elevates Rodriquez’s already stylish pencils. It’s not just the unique paneling that keeps his art interesting, but the details and dimensions he adds, especially through his coloring. As Jess clings to an Upper East Side apartment building in the heavy rain, it’s as if you can feel her straining against the downpour. His use of water in general adds intriguing elements to this story, from shattering glass releasing tons of water into a fancy apartment to the little droplets of rain he takes the time to include while the kerfuffle takes place outside. Any panel he features seems ready for a movie screen, and if I had any confidence in Marvel wanting to use any Spider-person besides Peter Parker, I would campaign for these scenes to be included in Jessica Drew’s cinematic debut.
Simply put, this issue is one of the best comic books I’ve read in a very long time. The action is thrilling, there are enough tender moments to keep the story grounded, and the humor adds the lighthearted elements that make Spider-Woman the charming series it is. This is what a superhero comic should be, and if you haven’t read this issue yet, you’re the one who’s missing out.