For years now, Brian Michael Bendis has been telling us how cool the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman is and, honestly, most of us scoffed at him, wondering if he was thinking of the same Jessica Drew Spider-Woman that we were. Well, in this week’s issue of her ongoing, Bendis and Alex Maleev do a pretty convincing job of demonstrating the appeal of Jessica Drew as she takes on the Thunderbolts in the streets of Madripoor.
So far in “Spider-Woman,” Jessica Drew hasn’t looked too impressive, getting arrested twice, not completely holding her own in fights, and pissing off Hydra again. She’s managed to stay alive, but hasn’t exactly proven herself a superhero or spy extraordinaire. By that logic, her fight with the Thunderbolts looked like it would have her making it out alive just barely with a healthy dose of luck on her side. However, she takes on Norman Osborn’s secret goon squad by using her brains to stay one step ahead of them, thinking things through as each new problem presents itself, and using her skills to their most. She’s never seemed incompetent thus far, more just not as competent as one would hope, and this issue turns that around as she gets better as she gains confidence.
The rise in Jessica’s confidence as the issue progresses and she outsmarts various Thunderbolts is interesting to read since she’s been very down on herself since the beginning of the series. Her narration has been depressing and whiny (with some justification) and her success against the Thunderbolts changes her tone. The shift is subtle over the course of the issue, but leaves her in a much better headspace than where she began. It’s refreshing to see that change and nice to know that Bendis can write the character as something other than self-loathing and semi-suicidal.
Working with that brightening tone is Alex Maleev’s art, which, for the first time in the series, depicts events happening during the day for the entire issue. The shift in the coloring makes from odd transitions throughout the issue as Jessica descends into the dark alleys of Madripoor to escape the Thunderbolts, going through the light and shadows, while also lit up by various energy projections from herself and her opponents. This leads to some garish neon-esque colors reminiscent of the oversaturated lighting in an episode of “CSI.” In some cases, that works to jar the reader and stand out boldly, while, in others, it simply looks ugly and out of place.
Maleev’s line work is strong and dynamic in this action-oriented issue. I love the drawing of Spider-Woman in motion on the fifth page, something that Maleev does well throughout the issue. His overly detailed style, like his coloring, is hit or miss at times. In those preview pages, you can see that some faces are overly rendered, like the Black Widow’s face on page five. Later in the issue, this use of lines is used effectively to showcase the energy-based powers of both Spider-Woman and the Ghost, though.
“Spider-Woman” #6 is one of the strongest issues of the series yet as Bendis and Maleev move the character from self-loathing and living in the shadows to fighting in the day and building her confidence. Jessica Drew is starting to look like the cool superspy/superhero that Bendis has been saying she is for years.