Spider-Woman #3

There's trouble afoot for more than one spider-woman as Jessica Drew, Silk and Spider-Gwen try to find each other -- and a way out of some deadly universes -- in "Spider-Woman #3. Though most of the "Spider-Verse" developments here have already played out in other issues, Dennis Hopeless injects the plot with enough character from Silk and Jessica to make the issue feel less like a rehash. However, Greg Land's art continues to be a problem. All told, "Spider-Woman" #3 offers the same mixed bag as its predecessors.

In this issue, the plot around the Inheritors ostensibly thickens, though those who've been following "Spider-Verse" in its other titles will already know most of what's revealed here. Still, Hopeless does a fine job with the publication schedule he's been handed. Jessica Drew's inner dialogue is fun and fiery, driven by her trademark snark. (Though that poop joke is either going to land with the reader or not.) Spider-Gwen is mouthy and wry, and Silk is hopeful and enterprising. What I most appreciated, though, as I so often do with Hopeless, was that he doesn't treat any characters as disposable. Jess's insufferable Loomworld doppelganger not only gets an empathetic nod to her tough situation but also shows her pirate captors "how dangerous it can be when you underestimate Jessica Drew." Her very Jess-like resourcefulness was a nice touch.

The story itself suffices, but the thin imagining and haphazard design of Loomworld does make it difficult to immerse oneself in this world. It's meant to look like a composite world, an aesthetic that makes sense when the inhabitants can access anywhere in the multiverse, but that is conveyed sloppily. It does look like the room is full of random pieces plucked from other universes -- but not in an intentional, effective way.

Loomworld itself aside, I still think Greg Land is the wrong artist for this book. His busty, sexualized figures often feel plastic and posed, and some of his viewpoint choices are baffling and uncomfortable. (Why emphasize a character's legs when she's trying to avoid unwanted sexual advances?) Spider-Gwen suffers perhaps the most, as the color scheme of her costume gives both Land and inker Jay Leisten some trouble, and her chest looks misshapen. The figure work also detracts from the fight scenes. When Jess punches her Loomworld doppelganger, there is almost no force or vigor behind the movement.

That said, Land's framing can be quite effective. I really liked his storytelling while Silk creates her "websmat suit," as it draws out visceral details while still establishing clear perspective and forward plot motion. It's a well-assembled page, and Leisten's thicker inking on the outline of Silk's suit enhances it. When Land isn't drawing figures or faces up-close, his artwork is much less distracting and detracting.

"Spider-Woman" is a functional, sometimes fun piece of "Spider-Verse" - but it doesn't rise to much more. With a more appropriate artist for the tone and a script that's free to focus on Jess's own adventures, it could grow into a success. It's not there yet, though.

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