Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Spider-Woman 7, originally released May 18th, 2016.
Michael: “What comes before anything? What have we always said is the most important thing?”
George Michael: “Breakfast?”
Spencer: Family is a common theme in most works of fiction, but that makes sense — everybody has a family, and for better or for worse, they tend to become inextricably intertwined with our personalities and our view of the world. “Family” has been a major theme of the “Spider-Women” crossover as well, and not just because Jessica Drew’s a new mother. Every single Spider-Woman here — as well as our one kinda-sorta “Spider-Man” — is defined and driven, in one way or another, by their relationship with their family.
Cindy Moon, of course, is desperately searching for her lost family, and in her loneliness, even attempts to co-opt her family’s alt-universe doppelgängers. Gwen Stacy’s family serves as a tether to normalcy in this lunatic superhero life she’s chosen (more on that later). Even our evil Earth-65 Cindy gets in on the action — she may be an inter-dimensional despot, but as far as the creators behind this crossover are concerned, her greatest crime is abandoning a loving, devoted family for no reason other than her own disinterest.
In Dennis Hopeless and Joelle Jones’ Spider-Woman 7, though, that theme is most evident in Jessica and Jesse Drew, thanks to their both being parents. Jesse Drew makes a fascinating figure — in many ways he appears to be almost sociopathic (cooly threatening Roger with a gun to the head, working for S.I.L.K. without a single moral qualm), but he cares about and works to protect his family as fiercely as Jessica does hers, regrets involving Jessica’s kid in their spat, and is more than willing to call off the fight altogether for the kid’s sake.
What their tussle makes clear is that Jesse’s priority is his family above all else. S.I.L.K. is just a day job, and one he only keeps because evil-Cindy is blackmailing him — which makes his decision to defect when evil-Cindy’s deception is revealed an easy one.
It’s interesting to look at how much Jesse and Jessica have in common, but ultimately, how different they are as well. Jessica too has made it clear that her son is her top priority, bar-none, but she views her superheroing as much more important than Jesse does his work with S.I.L.K. — it’s a calling, something she hopes will inspire her son some day, and unlike Jesse, her empathy isn’t something she can just turn off. As this issue reiterates, Jessica can’t help but to care about this “alternate universe nonsense,” even if it is exactly the kind of situation she quit the Avengers to avoid; she can’t stop caring about people in danger.
It seems like this difference in our dopplegangers’ empathy levels has to do with their upbringings as well. Hopeless treats us to Jesse Drew’s origin story this month, and it’s an inspired riff on Jessica’s — the story is similar in spirit, yet different enough in the details to not be an exact ripoff. Neither exactly had normal childhoods, which is likely why they so closely cherish their families now, but the darkness surrounding Jesse’s childhood had a permanent impact on his view of life.
I suppose that’s a fairly understandable reaction to such a situation, but I want to point out that Jessica’s childhood had its fair share of darkness as well, and she too unwittingly wound up in a villainous organization — Hydra, instead of S.I.L.K. — before becoming a hero. So, might Jesse’s team-up with the Spider-Women be his chance to achieve the same kind of redemption Jessica once did? I don’t know if it’s quite in his nature, but it’s certainly not out of the question, either.
Jessica’s unconventional childhood is also why she latches so strongly onto Gwen’s more traditional upbringing, and why she seems so concerned about Gwen being able to enjoy it (although there’s definitely a little of her “mom” instincts coming out here too).
So what does it say about Gwen Stacy that she so eagerly restores her spider-powers without a moment’s hesitation? Much of that no doubt has to do with the responsibility Gwen feels she has to be Spider-Woman and the redemptive figure she’s turned her alter-ego into, but I’m also thinking that Gwen just has a different view on family than Jessica does right now. After all, while it may be foreign to Jessica, Gwen’s “normal” upbringing is exactly that to her, and we all tend to take “normal” for granted, even when it’s great.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Gwen’s much younger than Jessica; Jessica’s at the stage of her life where she’s building her own family — and thus feeling more nostalgic about the concept than ever — whereas Gwen’s at that age where she’s looking to establish herself separately from her family. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love them — she’s not evil-Cindy — it just means Gwen’s family isn’t her all-consuming focus right now the way it is for Jessica.
Drew, I’m really enjoying how strongly the idea of family runs through this storyline, and how thoroughly it defines each and every major character. It’s something I didn’t notice until reading this issue, yet it’s clearly been there since the beginning of this crossover, and I just love that kind of focused, unified storytelling. How about you? And do you have any thoughts about the work of the art team (penciller Joelle Jones, inker Lorenzo Ruggiero, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg)? Also: Jessica’s tyke’s finally got a name now! What do you think, Drew: does Gerry suit him? It immediately made me think of Parks and Recreation‘s Garry Gergich — hopefully that means the lil’ guy will have a long, happy, unassuming life? I can’t help thinking that would be exactly what Jessica would want for him.
Drew: You know, I wonder how “normal” Jess can reasonably expect her kid to be. Both her origin and Jesse’s reiterate how important parents are in the development of children (duh), which suggests to me that having a mom who sticks to walls and fights crime might give a person a different outlook than having a “normal” mom. But, then again, what is “normal,” and what does it mean to have “a different outlook”? I recently learned about the concept of the “good enough parent,” that is, you don’t need to be the perfect parent to raise happy, healthy kids; you just need to be good enough. There’s really no doubt in my mind that Jessica would do anything for her son, so I think she definitely qualifies as “good enough parent,” even if that sometimes means she leaves her kid with a sitter for days on end.
But I do kind of wonder if he’s going to be called Gerry going forward — and not just as a Parks and Recreation homage. It sure seems like that was a name Jesse bestowed upon the kid, which would be beyond presumptuous. Of course, I don’t even like it if someone eats some of my fries before I’ve had a chance to try them, so maybe I’m off on this, but naming your child certainly seems like one of those sacred things that should probably be left to the parents. I mean, Jessica had explicitly held off on naming him, so it’s hard to imagine her embracing a name picked by the alternate universe version of herself she had heretofore hated. (That’s not to say she definitely won’t keep the name — it might be a “good enough name,” something she can accept now that the seal has been broken, or she might want something to remember Jesse by when all is said and done — but she might not.)
Speaking of her relationship with Jesse, I think I feel some of that familial tone there, too. Jesse’s cover story is that he and Jessica are twins, and while that story gets complicated a bit by Jessica’s flabbergasted arrival, it’s too convincing for Roger to ever really question it. Somehow, I find myself believing it a little, too.
Their rapport is just so casual. I mean, while Jess is tending to the baby, Jesse returns to his position on the couch, nonchalantly sipping a beer. They understand each other; they have similar upbringings and family-first priorities. There’s obviously more to sibling relationships than a list of similarities, but it might still be the best way to describe Jessica and Jesse’s adversarial-yet-understanding truce. I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t blame Roger for believing Jesse’s line about being Jessica’s twin.
Actually, the way they both relate to Gwen might be the best way to illustrate their similarities. Jesse and Jessica don’t see eye to eye on morality, but that seems to be okay. Jessica never tries to convince Jesse to be a superhero, and he never tries to convince her to be a corporate spy. They may be similar in a lot of ways, but neither presumes to know what’s better for the other person. Gwen’s relationship is totally different. She bursts onto the scene knowing what’s best for Jesse, literally armed with information he doesn’t have. In a way, this act gives Jessica permission to question Gwen’s options when she’s about to re-spiderfy herself. I tend to thing these moments come from these characters not understanding each other as well as Jessica and Jesse do — Jessica can understand Jesse’s decision to de-spiderfy, but she has a harder time swallowing Gwen’s decision to do the opposite.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I like thinking about siblings as alternate reality versions of ourselves. They’re not exactly you, but it’s close enough to see what you would be like if you were a few years older, or a girl, or if you had pursued a career in a different field or whatever. Jessica doesn’t have any siblings, but she does have an alternate reality counterpart, which is close enough for me. Turns out, family is even a theme of this issue when there are no familial bonds to be spoken of.
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