Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Greg Land
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: November 19, 2014
Since I started reading Marvel with the 2012 Marvel NOW! titles, no character connected to me quite like Jessica Drew. I cosplayed as Jess at my first NYCC, overcoming a personal phobia of being out in public in spandex. I have commissions of her. A figure of her sits on my desk at work. When they announced the Spider-Woman book, I was overjoyed. When Dennis Hopeless said fans of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s & Ales Kot’s takes on her would be pleased, I was excited. And then they announced Greg Land for the art. Let’s be real: Land’s style lends itself to highly-sexualized porn-women. It’s not a style I enjoy. I tend to avoid his work – and if you don’t, that’s fine – so in all honesty, I was braced for disaster. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Dennis Hopeless’ writing is, for now, strong enough to overcome Greg Land’s obsession with canyon-sized thigh-gaps and unchanging botox faces.
I know that wasn’t the most ringing endorsement, so let’s start with the good stuff: this book is very readable, as a story. Hopeless is a marvelous writer. I’m not even reading Spider-Verse (not a Spider-gal) but I was going to pick this up because SW is my fave and you support your faves. The recaps and the dialogue provide the context you need to jump into the story. Bonus points for appearances by Spider-Gwen and Spider-Girl, Anya Corazon – I loved the Avengers Assemble storyline that teamed up Anya, Jessica Drew, and Black Widow. Maybe Widow can drop by for a team Spider-Lady reunion? Hopeless has a good balance between dark humor and genuine caring. Jessica’s “I’m so done” attitude shines even when she’s hitting an alien in the face with a flying motorcycle. I wish I got to know 1930s Spider-Man a little better, if only because his costume was super cool. Silk herself was a bit irritating, but then I find most teenagers irritating because I am a hardened crone of 29.
I’m immediately drawn to the idea that this story will take us to multiple playgrounds, giving Jessica a number of settings to show off. I enjoyed her as much in the space-based Infinity tie-ins as I did in the mad-science hilarity of Avengers Assemble. She can do noir, comedy, action, sci-fi – give her the biggest selection of backdrops you can and go nuts. I want to see her in snow booties and a parka next issue punching a giant arachno-monster in a frozen Manhattan boneyard.
To get the elephant in the room out of the way, I know I’m not Mr. Land’s target audience, and he’s not my chosen artist. I’m used to highly idealized bodies in superhero comics. That’s the point. But with women, there’s a tendency to make them objects of desire as opposed to objects of strength. This is not a point of argument – this is a cold fact. Accepting this fact, and looking at Land’s portfolio as a whole…I was actually impressed. This could have been much worse. Now, Jess still has the same paralyzed open-mouth pout in every panel, and everyone has giant thigh gaps and boyish, almost non-existent hips. Silk looks like a sex doll, and someone needs to let Mr. Land know that Anya Corazon is a young girl, which, to be fair, his depiction is open to interpretation. I think he makes her look at least 23.
All that aside, I’ve seen much worse in books drawn by Land, and whether by his own initiative or editorial’s, I appreciate that he reigned himself in for this book. As someone who came to Jessica Drew fandom through the Carol Corps, I’m pretty sensitive to depictions of women, and Jessica in particular is a character who has been over-sexualized way too often as a plot device.
That said, his art makes it impossible for me to give this book a really high mark. While the writing is a 9, I wouldn’t put the art above a 5. I need expressive faces to help me feel the story, and Land just doesn’t deliver that. It’s my sincere hope they replace the artist with someone more suited to the subject matter. My vote is for Marcio Takara, personally, but there are plenty of others I think who could do the job well. Hopeless has a great handle on my girl Jess, I trust him with her, but comics are a visual medium. The art should tell the story as much as the words. Spider-Woman is presently leaning heavily on the latter.
The Verdict: 7.0/10