A quick house-keeping thing to announce first: I’m changing the name of my culling project, as it’s fairly obvious by now that I’m not going to finish the project in 2011, or even in 2012 at this rate. Maybe I should change it to the Great Comic Book Cull of the First Half Of The Twenty-First Century.
Yes, there’s a Spider-Woman. Why? Take a seat, and I’ll tell you her story.
Turns out that Peter Parker had a cousin that was born on his home-planet but was sent to Earth on a dffe…no, wait, that’s somebody else.
Ok. I’ve got it now. So the police commissioner that works hand in hand with Spider-Man has a plucky young daughter who decides to emulat…Nope, that’s still not it.
Ok, I think I’ve got this in the bag. Peter Parker’s cousin was shot and near death when Parker decided to give her a transfus….Still not it?
You mean that she’s not connected to Peter Parker at all? There’s a character with the same name as this guy running around and there’s no connection whatsoever? Oh Marvel. Is there anything that your particular brand of crass opportunism can’t do?
This character has always been a weird one for Marvel, in that she is relatively unused compared to other Marvel characters from the same era. She was created in the late 1970’s essentially to maintain a copyright, and her first original series was a weird little horror/spy/superhero title that didn’t last long. And so she essentially disappeared for the next few decades. She would pop up once in a while, usually in the sack with Wolverine, but she was basically MIA for 20 years.
Until Brian Michael Bendis came along. After becoming Marvel’s top writer, it didn’t take for him to start digging up all of his old favourite characters from when he was a kid, and so voila, we now have Spider-Woman back! Since Bendis took an interest, we’ve seen numerous major stories and series with Jessica Drew as the lead. Unfortunately, it turns out that she may have been better served by letting her stay under the rock she was living under, as other than having one of the hottest costume in superhero history, there doesn’t seem to be too much depth to the character.
Spider-Woman – Origin
This was Bendis’ first attempt at rebuilding the origin of Jessica Drew, and it’s actually a pretty good one. Bendis uses the secret spy-underbelly of the Marvel U as his backdrop here, and weaves a competent tale of weird science, espionage, and super-heroics. It’s basically Bendis’ take on the Island of Dr. Moreau, but instead of a bear/dog/ox hybrid, we get a hot chick in spandex. Plus, it’s got the only mainstream superhero work done to date by the Luna Brothers, and they show here why they’ve become two of the preeminent adventure storytellers in comics right now. Solid read.
Spider-Woman – Agent Of S.W.O.R.D.
So Marvel does the first mini. It’s well-received, and so they announce that they’re going to do a follow-up right afterwards. Only one problem: The Spider-Woman that we knew and loved, wasn’t actually Spider-Woman. It was an alien shape-shifter who was secretly leading an alien invasion of earth! DUN DUN DUUUUNNNNN!
And so this long-awaited series by the creative team behind one of the greatest Daredevil runs of all time was put on hiatus for a few years. And by the time it finally came out, no one cared, least of all the creative team. The problem with achieving greatness is that you’re expected to be able to repeat it, and the much-lauded team of Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev just couldn’t duplicate either the commercial or the critical acclaim they had achieved before.
And so the series ended after only a handful of issues. It gets unjustly criticized in my book though. This isn’t a bad comic, it’s just that it’s “just” a well-executed little spy/crime tale, and we had been told to expect epic brilliance from this particular team, on this particular concept. Maleev’s artwork is truly stunning here. Despite his lack of interest in the project, I don’t believe his pencils have ever looked better, before or since.
Next up: Squadron Supreme!