Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing Spider-Women Omega 1, originally released June 1st, 2016.
Spencer: In the letters at the end of Spider-Women Omega, writers Dennis Hopeless, Jason Latour, and Robbie Thompson all touch upon one of the primary elements that has made this crossover so strong: its focus on character-driven storytelling, not spectacle for spectacle’s sake. Spider-Women‘s grand finale sticks with this winning formula, leaving every character in a far different state emotionally than they were at the story’s beginning.
Of course, the development here varies from Spider-Woman to Spider-Woman, and it doesn’t always mean they’ve grown, either. After her traumatic separation from her son, Jessica Drew’s responded by keeping Gerry with her at all times, unless she’s at “work.” Understandable, but I might’ve argued that this is a step backwards for Jess if not for the fact that she seems so at peace with the idea.
Jessica’s growth instead comes from the fact that, after everything they’ve been through, she trusts Gwen and Cindy to fight in her stead. That’s a level of trust that can only be gained after an adventure as grand as Spider-Women.
(I also just want to point out that shot of Gerry absolutely destroying Jessica’s meal in the first panel here. Nico Leon’s art is consistently great throughout the book, but to me, that‘s the highlight of the issue.)
Gwen, meanwhile, has gained some self-awareness (her line about making jokes so she won’t sound scared is remarkably insightful on her part), but at the cost of her confidence. Gwen seems to have staked quite a bit of her sense of self in her powers and Spider-Woman identity, and with their future uncertain, it’s clear that she’s floundering
In contrast, Cindy Moon ends this story in a far more peaceful place than where she began.
Discovering her Earth-65 counterpart rocked Cindy’s world, both by giving her access to a version of her beloved, lost family and by bringing her face-to-face with her evil doppelgänger, a figure who seemed to confirm all of Cindy’s worst fears about herself. By finally realizing that the Earth-65 versions of the Moons aren’t her family, Cindy’s also accepting that she’s not her evil counterpart either. That’s an important step for our dear Silk.
That said, the juiciest developments in Cindy’s life are the ones that take place off-panel. Last we saw Cindy she’d been arrested for her doppelgänger’s crimes, was freed by Black Cat, and gave Cat access to the Avengers’ vault in exchange for keeping an item for herself. That’s an awfully dark ending, especially in contrast to Cindy’s cheerful, heroic entrance in Spider-Women Omega with the Super-Adaptoid suit (no doubt the item she took from the Avengers’ vault). That casts a dark shadow over Cindy’s scenes in this issue; is everything Cindy expresses throughout this adventure just a front, a face she puts on to hide what she’s done and what she’s been through? Is Cindy still wanted by S.H.I.E.L.D., or has the arrest of Cindy-65 put an end to that? More than either of the other two titles, Silk‘s been radically changed by the events of Spider-Women, but really, I can’t wait to see what direction all three books take in the aftermath of this story.
It’s not just the heroes that benefit, though; Hopeless’ excellent characterization extends to the villains, as well. Throughout this story I’ve found the evil Cindy a bit flat as a villain, and Spider-Women Omega doesn’t exactly fix that aspect of her character — I’m still not sure what’s made her so cold, or why she wants power so badly, or really even what her interest in Gwen is, to be honest — but it does dive deeper into the similarities she shares with our Cindy Moon. The first, of course, is her temper.
Like our Cindy, Cindy-65 has some issues she needs to work on, with anger at the top of that list. Surprisingly, though, Cindy-65’s issues also seem rooted in the idea of isolation, even without having spent a decade in a bunker like her counterpart. Cindy-616 resents wasting a decade of her life in isolation, yet often returns to the bunker, almost treating it like a security blanket. Cindy-65, meanwhile, has her own bunker she retreats to whenever she needs to blow off steam or express herself, which she can’t do in front of her minions. Whatever their differences, both Cindy’s can only truly be themselves when they’re isolated and alone, and that’s awfully sad.
I still hope that the rest of the Spider-Women can help our Cindy change this aspect of her life, though. Cindy, Gwen, and Jessica have found a sort of family in each other (which was probably inevitable, considering that Spider-Women‘s is all about family), a group of women in similar situations who will come together to help at a moment’s notice, even if they don’t always like each other. It’s a testament to how strong this crossover’s been that I want to see these characters continue to pop up in each others’ books — they’re a natural fit for each other, and they’ve already proven that their presence won’t disrupt the momentum of the titles they visit.
Patrick, what’s your take on this finale? Do you think Gwen ending up as Cindy-65’s “final opponent” worked, or would you rather have seen a different take on that confrontation? What’s your thoughts on the art of Nico Leon and colors of Rachelle Rosenberg? After the jarring art on Spider-Women Alpha, I was pleased to see how well Leon’s work fit the aesthetic of this crossover and of these titles, and I was consistently impressed by Leon’s fight scenes as well — there’s some really clever, hard-hitting choreography there.
Patrick: I loved that punch-em-up finale, but I might push back against the idea that Gwen was the Cindy-62’s final opponent. All three of the Spider-Women bring their various strengths (and weaknesses) to bear on S.I.L.K., and while that’s such a hodgepodge of half-plans and improvised solutions, that also perfectly represents a) Gwen’s approach to heroism, b) Cindy’s approach to identity and c) Jessica’s approach to parenting. Oh and maybe d) this crossover’s approach to storytelling. Spencer noted that there’s something of a narrative gap — and even more of an emotional gap — between the Cindy we see at the end of the last issue of Silk and the Cindy we see bursting in in the SuperAdaptoid suit. I think there’s a similar gap in Jesse and Jessica’s relationship — they’ve gone from quiet understanding to actively scheming against Cindy-65. But those gaps are to the story’s benefit, insisting on the rich complicated inner lives of all these characters, even if that means frankensteining their individual stories together into one mega-story.
Actually, that concept plays out pretty well in the realization of Cindy-65’s power-emulating glove. She invokes the names of some great heroes of Earth 616 — Human Torch, Captain America, Reed Richards — but her go-to well of power seems to be villains. It’s a great opportunity for Hopeless to riff on some of Spidey’s rouge’s goofier powers and Leon delivers a sense of drama that commensurate with the respect readers grant those powers. EXAMPLE: When Cindy is using Scorpion’s tail to attack, it’s allowed to look stupid (and Jessica is allowed to make fun of the phallic imagery), but when she’s about to blast some Doctor Doom energy?
Not only does Cindy-65’s gauntlet take up most of the panel, we’re even treated to some faux-Kirby crackle around the edges of the energy field created by Doom’s borrowed power. (And, check out how that blue coloring has totally taken over the entire panel.)
Leon is on-fire during this battle sequence. Not only are his designs clear and bright and colorful, but the storytelling is delightfully paced, quick-moving and frenetic when blows are being thrown but then patient enough to land a joke about Cindy falling over in her EMP-deactivated armor.
I love that Gwen just sort of watches her fall over. What is she going to do?
Actually, that’s one of my favorite themes that emerges from Spider-Women Omega. Spencer mentioned that he thought Cindy sees the biggest change throughout the course of this story, but I might argue that Gwen discovers something more revelatory about herself: she’s coasting. Without her powers, poor Spider-Gwen is just Regular-Old-Gwen, and she’s not able to save the day until she’s re-Spidered. That’s an important point right there — I feel like any other series would have tried to make Gwen the hero, even without her powers, just to prove that Dumbo didn’t need the magic feather to fly after all. Gwen lucks out and her powers return, and she feels shitty about that victory. Who can blame her? That’s the wrong half of the Spider + Gwen equation playing the hero. Also, while I tend to avoid pulling other series into the mix when discussing unrelated issues, it’s hard not to see a connection to Gwen Pool, who is also currently struggling with the idea that she’s a powerless hero in a world of superpowered villains. Gwen is gradually becoming a vehicle for expressing that fear of being discovered as a poser, which tickles me because goddamn can I relate.
Oh and speaking of “goddamn can I relate” — I sure did love seeing the mega-90s care package that Cindy sent to her evil counterpart on Raft-65.
A Nintendo 64, a VCR and a six-pack of
Surge Jorge? Hey guys! Party at Moon’s tonight!
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Honestly, the great thing about the whole finale is that a constant challenge for all of these women is ‘Who are they?’. Jessica and Cindy faced the mirror and Gwen who she didn’t want to be. Each have had to question who they are and who they want to be. And I kind of love that the final conclusion is ‘Someone prepared to keep fighting until they can’t fight any more’.
Ultimately, despite everything, each woman ‘loses’. Victory comes from blind luck. But that’s not important compared to the fact that these women are people who will fight until it is impossible not to. It is made clear that Gwen, even unpowered, still gets up to fight. Patrick complimented this issue for not making an unpowered Gwen the hero. I want to compliment it for making an unpowered Gwen the hero. Because there is more heroism in trying your hardest when you are at your worst and losing than to succeed when you are coasting.
And that’s what Spiderwomen is ultimately about. All three women have chosen the hard way. Jessica refuses to be like Jesse, Cindy refuses to take use Cindy-65’s family as an easy proxy and Gwen refuses to coast. Because to choose otherwise wouldn’t be heroic. And whatever challenges they face, they wish to face them as their best selves. Even if it is harder to do that than run
This event did something miraculous. It made me enjoy each issue even though I’m really not interested in any of the characters. That is something.
It did make me realize also what a good job they’ve been doing on Silk because I only read Silk because of Black Cat (because I think Slott has mangled her beyond words), and this sort of left me confused about what the status quo will be in Silk’s regular comic, and I might not know for a while because of Civil War II.
I’m impressed that Marvel is doing this with two female characters created in the 2010s. That’s something, even if I’m not all that interested in the books. That’s really something.
That’s a great point about the newness of the characters. I know Jessica Drew has quite a bit more history, but her new status quo as a mom makes her feel almost completely fresh. Do people carry a lot of good-will for Spider-Woman pre-Hopeless?
Before this the only Spider-Woman comic I’d ever read was when she was in Avengers or New Avengers or whatever.
The cover for issue one of her new series was brilliant in idea and execution. It MADE people pay attention to the story. You couldn’t get past that. It needed to be done right, but it would not have gotten as much attention without a cover of that style.
Jessica Drew has a long history, but none of it really matters until Bendis got his hands on her. And even then, it wasn’t technically her for half the run.
I know of people who have a lot of goodwill for Spiderwoman pre Hopeless, especially Spiderwoman: Agent of SWORD (and I can see well, as Agent of SWORD is a deeply personal story that I can see connecting to people)
But with Agent of SWORD being so short, she was basically an Avenger second stringer until Hopeless transformed her. Which says a lot of the merits of Spiderwomen. None of these characters were big deals until the writers made them big deals, and in so little time they became strong enough to handle a crossover like this and excel due to strength in characterization.