When Marvel announced that Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, would be getting her own title as a part of their ongoing program to launch more female-centric books, female fans were overjoyed.
Although she was headlined her own book in the ’70s, interest in the character waned and she was all but absent from the comics through much of the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s.
But that changed in recent years. Jessica turned from a bit character created to secure copyright to major supporting roles in the Avengers, Captain Marvel and Secret Avengers.
Her convoluted back story was swept to the side, and she developed a distinct sarcastic and world-weary personality that fit in well in ensemble books. It was time for her to be the star.
It was a slam dunk.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Spider-Woman #1. First, Marvel shot itself in the foot by unveiling a highly-sexualized variant cover to the first issue drawn by noted Italian erotica artist, Milo Manara. While Manara’s art has some critical acclaim, it definitely had no place on the cover of a book that was supposed to celebrate female power and bring in female readers.
And far from offering an easy “jumping on” point for new readers, Spider-Woman #1 tied into Marvel’s massive “Spider-verse” crossover event. The book opened with Jessica on an alien planet in another dimension chased by evil spider-devouring immortals –with three other newly minted spider-powered heroes in tow.
Instead of giving Spider-Woman a clean slate, the book was incomprehensible gobbledygook to anyone who had not been reading several Spider-Man titles and limited series for the past year. Readers stayed away in droves.
Which is what makes last week’s Spider Woman #5 such a pleasant surprise. Effectively a soft reboot of the series, it is everything that we had hoped for in Spider-Woman #1 and more. Gone is the form-fitting bodysuit with an arrow pointing to her crotch. It’s been replaced by a slick new costume designed by Kris Anka — much closer to practical clothing and much more useful for a woman that is supposed to be a spy and private detective.
Gone is the requirement that you know years of backstory to understand the plot or character. Jessica is starting a new life for herself as a crime-fighting private detective forging an uneasy alliances with a newspaper reporter looking investigating a string of unreported and unsolved crimes.
With a great script by the underrated and unfortunately named Dennis Hopeless and spectacular art by Javier Rodriguez: This is the Spider-Woman we’ve been waiting for. Stop by your local comics shop and give it a try.