Spider-Woman under Dennis Hopeless has almost always been a comic about a female superhero kicking butt, balancing heroics with a personal life, and coming together with friends to solve street-level crime. Teamwork isn’t want I thought I would see when I picked up the Spider-Verse tie-ins, but it was the greatest strength of this consistently appealing book.
Although teamwork was the status quo, Spider-Woman #13 shook up what I have come to know and love about this book by leaving us with Porcupine’s death. Therefore, there are a number of questions #14 has to address. What kind of person is Jessica without her trusty sidekick? How will this change Jess’ resolve to have a work/life balance? Most importantly if this death sticks, will the fun still be there without my favorite D-list ex-villain?
As the immediate issue after Roger’s alleged death, Spider-Woman #14 doesn’t open with the usual snark and wit I’ve come to associate with this book. Instead Hopeless smartly focuses on emotion and Jess’ determination to do right by her friends. Though Jessica might distract herself with her baby, in moments when she’s by herself, all she can think about is Roger and how her friend is gone. From crying in the shower to hardly being able to hold herself up, Hopeless gets into Jessica’s head and captures those overwhelming feelings perfectly.
As though her physicality isn’t enough, her willingness to leave her baby with Carol Danvers in order to track down Roger’s killer cements the fact that Jessica is down enough to go against her instincts in the name of justice. To add even more emotional consequences to it all, Ben is there to spell out just how devoted Roger was to her. Jess is being hit from all sides, and she cannot ignore Roger’s role in her life. If there is one lesson Jessica will take away from all of is, it’s that she didn’t know what she had until it was gone.
While this issue revolves around Jess, we are also given a glimpse into the other lives that Roger impacted before his death. Roger wasn’t just Jess’ friend and frequent babysitter; he also had an ex-wife and a child with her. Whereas Jessica feels bereft without Porcupine, Hopeless highlights the angrier side of grief with his ex. In just a few panels, Hopeless demonstrates her utter contempt for Jessica as well as her frustration with Roger’s life choices even after his death. This more than any other scene gives the comic a real life feel. There are a lot of complex, ugly emotions and decisions to make when someone dies, and Hopeless doesn’t shy away from exploring that. Juxtaposing the two women shows us Roger’s faults as well as Jessica’s complete denial about their friendship. This decision to visit Moon’s Hollow again adds depth while also illuminating aspects of Roger’s life that none of us have thought much about before.
Even though this is an emotionally charged issue, #14 also includes a lot of action. Predictably, after hearing of the Hobgoblin’s involvement in the untimely demise of her friend, Jess is on a mission to take down her enemies. She will punch who she needs to in order to get information, and she has no qualms about it. Yet the best bit of action comes toward the end when Spider-Woman faces off against someone in a Porcupine suit who knows better than to try and tranquilize her. This is someone who could best her, and we don’t even know who is under the mask. Since Hopeless leaves off in the middle of an explosive fight, there’s enough anticipation placed on the upcoming issue to keep me coming back for more.
Granting that Hopeless’ script conveys this action well, it is Veronica Fish’s art that brings it into being. From zooming around cars to being thrown out of a villains club, there is quite a bit of movement to be found within these pages. Jessica is always a hero that uses her fists just as confidently as her brain, and her rage often manifests in battles with bad guys. Fish gets this, and she draws battles with a confidence that mimics Jessica’s own confidence in her abilities.
Despite the fact that it took me a little while to warm up to the art without Javier Rodriguez, Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors successfully underscore the grieving Jess and the more upbeat personality she has to take on for her child. When she is bathed in greys and other more subdued hues, it’s clear Jess is mourning the loss of Roger, but when the coloring shifts to the pastels she wears around the baby, her attempts at moving on from anguish are highlighted. The coloring throughout this issue is the perfect accompaniment to Fish’s art, and with each passing comic, I’m more on board with this new art team.
Like most comics that fall toward the middle of an arc, this issue is more filler that lays the groundwork for punchier issues later on. However, what it lacks in plot development, it makes up for with fluid action and high emotions. This book is less about Jessica as a human being. She’s not a perfect hero who balances everything effortlessly and never makes mistakes, she’s someone who feels pain like anyone else and rushes into things without always thinking it through. Between the cliffhanger, Hopeless’ stellar writing, and the lively art, this issue is a solid comic that promises more excitement for the future, and I know this team can live up to the expectations I have placed on them.