In “Spider-Woman” #1, Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez take the same street-level approach they established in the previous volume and drop Jess in the new Marvel Universe. More than most other books from the All-New All Different publishing initiative, “Spider-Woman” shows the new universe’s fantastical elements as they interact with Jessica Drew’s more everyday experiences, at least as “everyday” as they can be when she’s eight months pregnant and ready to go on superhero maternity leave. Hopeless pulls these parts together in a fun, matter-of-fact manner and Rodriguez — whose character work is as good as ever — steps up his color game, adding soft depth and gentle shading to his already gorgeous art.
If you were on board with the new version of Spider-Woman (and why wouldn’t you be, as it’s the most interesting and relatable take on the character in maybe ever), then you’ll be relieved to know this is the same Jessica Drew. Hopeless writes the character with all of the spunk and attitude she had in the past several issues. Drew’s friendship with Carol Danvers subtly guides the back-and-forth flashbacks as fans find out where Spider-Woman has been in the last eight months. Hopeless introduces a new spin on an old concept, which I won’t spoil here but will surprise fans and probably anger trolls. The million dollar mystery — the father’s identity — is not answered here, so we have to wait a little while longer for that particular Maury moment. Regardless, Hopeless has fun with this question, as it is asked in the issue but Drew’s answers are very in character and funny. Charm counts for a lot in this series, and the writer does a fantastic job of making Spider-Woman grounded and three-dimensional, letting her stubbornness get her in hot water as much as it helps her.
It also helps that the book is gorgeous, with Rodriguez and inker Alvaro Lopez adding more European influence to the page. They provide a steady pace in their panel layouts and perspective choices and turn in some really fantastic pages, particularly around the maternity leave party. There are a lot of close-ups and the facial acting is better than many independent films. Porcupine is still hanging around and looks great under their watch, though Ben Urich looks like he’s been de-aged by the same ray that turned Magneto into a baby, but it gives him the opportunity to emote more. The art team cuts loose in the final pages as the story takes a jump into some sci-fi territory, which lets them show off their skill in creating fantastic creatures. Rodriguez has added more dimension to his art through his color work, previously playing with flat colors and blocked shading that still looked awesome but now makes the work feel like a Disney-film-meets-a-French-picture-album. The cliffhanger makes the action very personal and readers who are aware of Spider-Woman’s past will know these characters picked the wrong time and place to show up.
As a first issue, it’s a little reliant on knowledge of the characters and their relationships from the previous run, but that’s not a huge barrier to enjoying this comic book. “Spider-Woman” #1 has charm, style and gorgeous art. It’s entertaining and unfolds a new direction for the character as well as the Marvel Universe’s setup.