Written by Dennis Hopeless
Art by Tigh Walker, Rachelle Rosenberg, & Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: October 19, 2016
Maybe it’s not so much fun in the sand and sun.
Jess has decided to take a break, and you really can’t blame her after the fall-out with her best friend. With Gerry in tow, she takes to the beach with Roger and Kalie. Their peaceful moment gets blasted by the arrival of the Sandman, aka William Baker, leaving Roger to don his costume in order to let Jess step away from the action on her day off. William has choice words for Roger, who has to rely on his wits and his training from Jess to keep their day at the beach as peaceful as possible.
I don’t like the beach but I love it as the setting for Spider-Woman #12. The issue starts with a cool vibe, even as Jess is discussing the balance between her role as a mother and as a hero. Of course, she’s no stranger to random chaos, but I liked that she got to be the calm force of the story, even though her anxiety did rise at key moments.
Roger as the outer frame for the story is interesting, because during his fight, many people are oblivious, though some because acutely aware of William’s presence. Instead of Roger keeping things calm as he has in previous issue, their roles switch, and I think this was a great way to modify their dynamic.
Speaking of how Jess and Roger interact, this issue was an awesome way to take things full circle. Spider-Woman #12 is the culmination of Roger’s development, going all the way back to the previous volume. Jess has the name of the series but in this issue, he’s the star, and it’s important as to why. He gets to be with his daughter again, he gets to take the solo fight so Jess can chill, and most of all: he gets to be the hero.
Roger’s ineptitude has transformed from being a bit villain to someone who’s capable in his own right thanks to Jess’s training. This showcases the capacity for change and Jess’s talent for being a mentor to younger heroes, which feels new and refreshing for the Spider and one of Marvel’s absolute best heroes.
I admire Dennis Hopeless’ ability to write Jess without trapping and reducing her within the confines of motherhood. As a man writing about a man writing a woman, I have to be careful in this analysis, but the way Hopeless writes Jess looks like what I’ve seen from women in my own life, especially those who are single mothers, including my own.
The duality of work and motherhood and managing crises is tricky to convey when you don’t share that exact same experience, so I admire the delicacy with which Hopeless handles Jess’ life and it makes me infinitely curious about what his writing process is like when he’s the scribe behind her life.
Hopeless also crafted this story without relying on the reader suspending disbelief. Jess is quick and she’s a thinker, so her decisions make sense in keeping some semblance of serenity amidst playing children and beachgoers. The parallel is in Roger’s fight with William and its intensity. Even boiling down to interactions, Hopeless has the joy and smiles of Jess and the kids while Roger has the aggression of battle.
This dynamic could easily be problematic in the context of gender roles, but it’s framed by the extended relationship between Roger and Jess through the series and the fact that this conflict is essentially a test of his abilities and knowledge, whereas Jess is leagues above him in handling villains who are in tiers beyond William himself.
I almost feel ashamed that my favorite part of Tigh Walker’s art was Roger, but then I’d have to have shame to begin with. Beyond Roger being a very very pretty man, Walker is adept at showcasing movement and disarray in the context of images that are still and tranquil. I love the extended fight scene and its use of lines to convey action, as well as other elements within the environment that fill panels with excitement.
My favorite panels, and the ones which I feel best illustrate Walker’s skill, are when William grows to a gargantuan size. This physical change represents a crescendo in the story leading to the climax where Roger comes out on top. Such a narrative and visual parallel was powerful and it held power and artistic range in image and in storytelling.
Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors move us from the earthy brick, wood, and mortar of the city to the airy space of the beach. I like the schemes in these pages for a couple of reasons. Most notably in the second half of the issue, shadows and dark hues are used to frame Jess, immediately drawing your attention to her.
Roger and William’s fight panels tend to be much darker in image. Such a juxtaposition emboldens each page through the use of foreground and background emphasis of color. In one page near the end of the issue, William is looming over Roger, these shadowy colors denoting his sinister motives. Rosenberg creatively utilizes darkness to push the story forward and to set a distinction between the disparate events.
Both Roger and Jess are at their best in Spider-Woman #12, even if in incredibly different ways. Jess gets to take a break, and Roger jumps into action, even if other emotions get into the mix. This issue was an excellent continuation of the series and plays on many of the themes that were present from its first issue.
The creative team for this story is absolutely stellar, and each of their talents are uniquely put to use to set up an issue which helps Roger and Jess shine, both narratively and artistically, and that deepens their relationship without relying on common tropes of motherhood and relationships between men and women.
The Verdict: 10/10