Before I even cracked the first page, I couldn’t get this thought out of my head:

“Spider-WOMAN?

[Comic Virgins is a recurring series where  Amanda fields comics chosen by Mike and Ben.]

Now, I’m all for girl power. I love super heroines, strong females and ladies generally kicking a whole host of ass. Nothing is sexier than a woman that’s unapologetically with it.  But why does Spider-Woman exist? Remember, I’ve done no research beyond reading the comic (sometimes a boon, sometimes helpful), so I apologize if I’m way off in the thought that she seems like an afterthought, a lazy attempt to continue selling comics in the Spider-Man universe once plot lines wore thin for our male hero. I feel that way about many of the female characters – Batwoman? Super-girl? You can’t tell me that, from their names alone, they don’t feel like a poor creation or an excuse to make money while sacrificing creativity.

It upsets me because I want women to have their own unique, independent story lines that  aren’t influenced (even if it is just in name) by a male character. Why does it have to be “Spider-Woman”? Especially after seeing that her super power isn’t spidery at all (lightning bolts and pheromones?). Her name could reflect any number of animals that use pheromones or some sort of electric charge. Honeybees use pheromones. Eels use charges. Why not Beesting or Ev-eel or something? Why spiders? Maybe I don’t know her history, but I don’t see how she relates to Spiderman at all. I feel like giving her a completely independent name would’ve made me like her a lot more from the beginning.

Seriously, she's so much cooler than a spider. Except for the whole peeing part.

Seriously, she’s so much cooler than a spider. Except for the whole peeing part.

So I had all of these thoughts running around in my head when I flipped open Spider-Woman Vol. 1. And then it just got weird.

Within the first issue, we find that Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew is not only a past agent for Hydra (a group of Nazi-like baddies that I know about thanks to the Marvel movies), but also Shield (the Hydra nemesis/good guys). She’s also got crazy parents, one of which killed the other, and a general bad attitude. And NOW she’s working for S.W.O.R.D. hunting down… aliens?

Okay, I realize she exists in a world that literally has Norse gods running around, but ALIENS? This series just has too much crammed into it. With the Avengers popping in for a few moments, as well as a foreign country, Hydra baddies and the mysterious SWORD, does it add anything to the story for Jessica to be pursuing aliens? She has a history with them, yes. I understand wanting revenge if the queen of an alien race steals your identity and basically ruins your life. But aliens on top of Norse gods on top of Nazi occult scientists on top of super heroes on top of world governments… It’s just too much.

BIG. ANGRY. GREEN. ALIEN.

BIG. ANGRY. GREEN. ALIEN.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like Jessica. I like that she’s got a gritty backstory. Jessica is a slugger – she reminds me of Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is a compliment that I don’t dole out lightly.

Honestly, she even looks a little bit like Faith. Which only makes me love her more.

Honestly, she even looks a little bit like Faith. Which only makes me love her more.

She can take a punch and uses her strength just as much (if not more) than she uses her awesome powers. She’s a great strong female character, and one that doesn’t have to show all of her bits to get a decent comic cover. Her costume actually covers her breasts, thank goodness. All in all, she’s probably one of the best female characters I’ve encountered, lame name aside.

Yeah, you take a punch to the jaw and tell me how many people you didn't beat up after.

Yeah, you take a punch to the jaw and tell me how many people you didn’t beat up after.

Besides my obvious problem with how much writer Brian Michael Bendis crammed into this volume, I like the pacing. It’s also not hard to understand, which helps. He’s got set goals for the arc that he establishes in the first issue (hunt down this big alien baddie) and concludes with the end (beat the hell out of big baddie). The characters are different enough in both visuals and attitude to keep them apart. That’s something you’d think would be easy, with how intrinsically visual comics are, but I often have trouble keeping characters separate.

But there’s ONE thing that sets Spider-Woman Vol. 1 apart from all the other comics I’ve read: a SUMMARY PAGE.

I think the fact that the summary requires four paragraphs is evidence enough of how confusing this f@#$ing volume is.

I think the fact that the summary requires four paragraphs is evidence enough of how confusing this f@#$ing volume is.

WITH EACH ISSUE. With how confusing of a storyline this could be, Bendis does his readers a favor with a handy-dandy cheat sheet. Truly, more comics need this, and not just confusing comics. Any comic could benefit from a system where the readers get a quick refresher before each issue – especially if there are long breaks between releases. (Editor’s Note: Amanda was lucky enough to read the single issues of Spider-Woman in which summary pages are–pretty much–the norm. Sorry Amanda! -Mike)

And, like the unique summary page, the art is also pretty unique – at least compared to what I’ve read for Comic Virgins so far. It’s very… realistic, especially in facial features. I feel like the artist, Alex Maleev, must’ve worked off photographs or something. And, actually, as I typed this and checked inside the front cover to find Maleev’s name, I noticed that Jolynn Carpenter is listed as the model for Jessica Drew. No wonder her facial features are so realistic. I’d say the same goes for Madame Hydra, another bad biatch (I say that will all the love the phrase can muster). It’s an interesting style, and one that I’m not sure could work everywhere.

So sassy. So realistic.

So sassy. So realistic.

Now, would I read more? I will not read more Spider-Woman if it involves aliens on top of all the other business that comes with the Marvel universe. There’s just too much going on. But I really like Jessica Drew as a character. I’d be willing to read more about her if the storyline was stripped down to something a little more mentally manageable.

Now, do you think I’m completely off-base? Are you as sick of aliens as I am? Let me know in the comments!

About The Author

Hey there! I'm Amanda, and I'm the managing editor for DetroyTheCyborg! I come to the job with a background in journalism, English, American culture and all-around interest in what makes up our site.

For a living, I'm a government reporter for a newspaper my hometown. Seeing as that can be a bit monotonous, I welcome the opportunity to write occasional book (and other) reviews for DTC. If you see a book coming up I should review, let me know!

My interests are many and varied. I love table top games, bad movies (and good films!), music of all genres and the occasional graphic novel. Ben P. is trying his hardest to increase my interest in comic books - stay tuned for the outcome of THAT adventure. When it comes to books, I've yet to find a genre that I won't read. I have a particular affinity to Lord of the Rings and non-fiction first-person explorations - see Mary Roach's Stiff or Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals for examples.

My other abilities? I find that I make a mean batch of cinnamon rolls, and I can (most of the time) keep the crayon inside the lines.

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