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Review Brew: Spider-Woman #1

Writer: Dennis Hopeless Pencils: Javier Rodriguez Inker: Alavro Lopez     It's weird that with Marvel's new and largely well-received diversity initiative, the new status quo for Spider-Woman has also been met with some resistance. No doubt that part of the controversy is the sheer absurdity of the situation: a pregnant superhero who's still active. But I've also seen some resistance to the very notion of the character of Jessica Drew herself being pregnant, apparently harkening back to some line she said way back in the 1970s about not wanting kids. Nobody's considered that maybe pregnancy and parenthood are another category of diversity that Marvel should consider catering to.

Times change, and our comics characters change with them. If we can welcome a black Captain America and a female Thor, maybe there’s room for a pregnant, mother-to-be superheroine as well.  (Jessica herself shrugs it off by the second change.) In fairness, parenthood is one of those aspects of life that isn’t covered much in superhero books, as the publishers seem to feel threatened by the concept of heroes “aging” and having kids is somehow indicative of that. Hence, with rare exceptions like the Fantastic Four, heroes have either been steered away from parenthood (hello “One More Day”) or else meet their kids as adults (Cable, Skaar, Legion), sidestepping the issue of actually raising kids altogether.

So Dennis Hopeless’ wacky, eight-months-later direction for the titular heroine is to reintroduce her in the thick of a pregnancy by an unknown father (the unanswered paternity being humorously addressed, but ultimately not important at this point).  She hasn’t given birth yet, but Jess is now pregnant enough that she’s not likely to be doing a lot of wall-crawling, much less combat.  At this point, Jess is having to balance between still being heroic, and devoting herself to the life growing within her.  Practically speaking, this means being a superheroic coach to the Porcupine as he fills her crime-fighting role with her on the sidelines. More down-to-Earth, it means Jess can’t do things like ride her motorcycle anymore, and deal with the boredom of maternity leave instead.

It’s not a bad start. Hopeless’ challenge at this point will be to tell a captivating story about a superhero who’s been sidelined because family life demands it. Part of that is covered by simple human dynamics, be it the humor of a superhero gathering at Jess’ maternity leave party, or her dealing with the boredom of not being able to do anything other than watch movies. On the other hand, it’s obvious that he’s not going to be able to keep her out of superheroics altogether, as Jess gets sent to an alien OB/GYN where–well, the last page should make clear that action for a pregnant hero is unavoidable.

Javier Rodriguez’ art is acceptable here. His art still hasn’t quite clicked with me, as I feel like it lacks some of the dynamism that many of Marvel’s other artists have right now. To his credit, however, he’s able to pack a lot onto a single page, giving you a fuller story in the same number of pages as other artists who do a lot of splash page work. He’s also good at capturing the emotion of the situation, particularly as Jessica agonizes over the lifestyle choices that parenthood brings. Parenthood brings changes in one’s life, and he captures it well in her face.

Overall, Spider-Woman brings the interesting prospect of parenthood and all its associated risks to a medium that’s meant for our inner child. A lot of comics’ readers right now are adults who have moved into parenthood themselves and have, to varying degrees, been through what Jess is now experiencing. That could be an interesting opportunity to outreach to readers who, at that time in their lives, might be tempted to start shelving the comic hobby. Let’s see where this goes.

Rating: Three and a half out of five baby bumps.

About Adam Frey (372 Articles)
Adam Frey is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. In the meantime, he's an attorney and moonlights as an Emergency Medical Technician in Maryland. A comic reader for over 30 years, he's gradually introducing his daughter to the hobby, much to the chagrin of his wife and their bank account.
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