I’ve had enough distance from the iTunes version of “Spider-Woman” that I don’t even hear the poorly-cast Jessica Drew’s voice in my head when I read this comic anymore. And because I never got past the second episode of that motion comic series, I don’t have any idea which parts of that series overlap with this comic. When the series was in the early stages, Brian Michael Bendis announced that the iTunes episodes wouldn’t directly correspond with the numbering of the published issues. They are paced differently, as he explained.
That may or may not have ended up being true, but the pacing does seem like a bit of a problem with issue #5. I didn’t review the previous issue for CBR, but if I did, I would have given it four-and-a-half stars. It was a powerful piece of storytelling, with Jessica Drew confronting a Skrull in its natural state — a Skrull that had been tortured by Hydra, a Skrull that thought Spider-Woman was its queen. Maleev’s art looked amazing, and Bendis exposed the raw nerves and pain of Jessica Drew in a more potent way than the on-the-nose lamentations of issue #1. But while issue #4 was rhythmically sound, “Spider-Woman” #5 is a bit of an interlude. It’s a few scenes of dialogue and mystery stretched out to an entire issue.
Now, I’m in the midst of a reread of Bendis’s “Daredevil” run right now, so I know that this kind of decompression — this kind of cinematic pacing — works extremely well in the collected editions, but it is a slight problem as a single issue. Well, the slightness is the problem, I should say.
All we get in this issue is the resolution of Jessica Drew falling from the sky in the previous installment, then a bit of conversation with the police, then the arrival of some surprise guests on the final page. It’s not much. Bendis keeps the dialogue tight, and keeps the characters off-balance, as no one seems to know what’s really going on. But it’s slight.
What’s not slight is Alex Maleev’s artwork. It’s photo-referenced. It borders on the fumetti-esque. But it’s bold. It’s striking. It’s better than the work of anyone else playing this game of blending reality with fantasy. And his use of color is unparalleled. He has the most interesting color choices of anyone working at Marvel right now, and that gives this comic a unique, startling look. The pages are packed with life, which is ironically something that we rarely see in someone so intent on capturing the look of real-life models. It may all be part of Maleev’s process for the motion comic, but it works as a printed comic book. It works well.
The lead-time on this series has distanced it from Marvel relevance, what with “Secret Invasion” long forgotten by now, but it still has artistic relevance. It still has excellence within it. It’s worth more than a glance.