Spider-Woman 13

spiderwoman-13

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Spider-Woman 13, originally released November 2nd, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!

Patrick: “It takes a village” is perhaps a imprecise idiom about what it takes to raise a child. After all, it’s not just that it takes volume of people to effectively care for a tiny, helpless human being and mold it into a functioning member of society. It takes the emotional investment of that village, not just in the child, but in each other, to raise a child. That’s how friends, strangers, and even enemies, become family. As Spider-Woman transitions into the next chapter of Jessica Drew’s life as a new mom, writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Veronica Fish examine that interdependence, and the huge emotional cost that comes with it.

Also, f’real: spoilers ahead.

Things are looking up for Jessica Drew. Sure, there’s are not enough hours in the day, but she’s got a strong enough support network, and is adept at compartmentalizing, so her double-duty as mom / superhero is less an impossible task and more a feat of impressive dexterity. Hopeless even has Jessica express her life in those terms, introducing a useful juggling metaphor in the first couple pages — don’t think about the balls in the air. It helps that the superhero side of this equation seems to be taking it kind of easy on her. An early-issue run-in with The Blizzard has the minimal consequence of requiring her to take a nice warm shower to recover.

This is the issue at its most careful and kinetic. Fish sets up an amazing turn in this fight, showing both The Blizzard’s attack and Jessica’s counterattack in a beautifully seamless page. Sure, we get little inserts close on each of their faces, and you could make the argument that the rest of the action takes up an additional three panels, but the lack of dividers gives this scene the impact of a splash page.

spider-woman-vs-the-blizzard

Also, check out the way the motion lines from The Blizzard’s ice blast imply movement in one direction in the first panel, only to be reversed by the third for Jessica’s uppercut. Also, I love that detail of the banana peel flying off his head — it’s a comedic beat, but it also helps sell the passage of time (albeit only seconds) between these non-panel panels. The shape of this page is also going to be called back at a crucial point later in the issue, with same key differences. But let’s work our way up to it.

Things aren’t going quite so well for Roger. He’s not at Jess’ apartment when she stops by for the shower, and neither the reader nor Spider-Woman herself make much of this until Ben loops back around to it. Ben frames it like it’s something they need to be careful about confronting Roger about, but stops shy of saying why exactly. Hopeless is dropping hints like anvils here: it’s no incidental absence, but a meaningful and risky errand that Roger’s running.

It turns out that the Porcupine is handing in his letter of resignation… or, whatever the criminal-lacky version of that would be. He suits up and enters the bar that presumably acts as Hobgoblin’s hideout. The scene is weighty-as-fuck, but again Hopeless and Fish are only in the game of dropping enormous hints, rather than spelling everything out. The panel of Roger entering the bar is another great bit of foreshadowing, showing us several of the players that are going to be instrumental in the visual callback I mentioned earlier.

porcupine-quits

Roger’s decision to formally quit is tied up in a lot of messy emotions, including his love for both Jessica and her baby. The former is a bit of unrequited love, but that may not even matter to Roger, who at this point has found meaning in his life with the Drews.

He’ll protest later when he’s face-to-face with Hobgoblin, but it feels like Porcupine knows that he’s forfeiting his life here, doesn’t it? When he’s up on the roof with Ben, he’s nakedly honest about his feelings, and totally at peace with his role as sidekick and not the love of Jessica’s life, which he’d no doubt prefer. He’s also prepared to hide Ben when Hob’s goons — who we all saw earlier at the bar — arrive on Hobgoblin flyers. They pummel him, in a heartbreaking spread that plays out on a page with a shape almost identical to that fun one I first posted.

porcupine-is-jumped

The inserts are more plentiful, but then again, so are the combatants. There’s also no continuous direction of motion lines, because there’s no way for Roger to reverse any of these. He’s outnumbered and overwhelmed, and there’s nothing quite so devastating as that bottom panel, with Rachelle Rosenberg’s simple color cues announcing each of these characters that turned on Roger.

By the time Hobgoblin shows up to make this loss permanent, we’re already reeling. Hopeless has been so good about growing and developing this character, that it was always going to hurt to see him go, but it’s even more heartbreaking to consider what the death means to this makeshift family, which is only holding together through sheer force of will as it is. Spencer, I didn’t mention Jessica’s pilgrimage to Moon’s Hollow, but I can’t help but wonder what we’re supposed to get out of that. In one way, it’s a demonstration of how Jessica’s past is a boon for her, while Porcupine’s past ends up getting him killed. In another way, it’s suggesting that there’s even more support for the Drews out there. Let’s look at it a third way: this is what Jessica was doing — hanging out with friends out of town — while her friend / sidekick was murdered. What’s your take on that, Spencer?

Spencer: It’s all of those things, Patrick, but it’s also another: a reminder that Roger Gocking was important to more than just Jess, Ben, Gerry, and the readers. He’s got an adorable daughter who loves him to death, and an ex-wife with…complicated feelings for him.

moons-hollow-hmm

I’m actually really happy Hopeless and Fish stopped by Moon’s Hollow this month, because I’ve been wondering about Roger’s relationship with his ex-wife for a while now. I wasn’t sure if they were even still in contact for a while, and while Kalie’s visit in Spider-Woman 12 implied that there was some sort of split-custody deal going on, there were no further details to be found until this issue.

Even then, the only thing Olivia’s appearance really clarifies is that she’s a bit cold towards Jess. Why? Maybe she just doesn’t like being reminded of Roger — after all, she fled to Moon’s Hollow to begin with to get away from his then-life of crime as the Porcupine. I’m thinking it’s more than that, though. Bec and Cat’s refrain that this “isn’t about Jess” means that it’s absolutely about Jess. My guess, then, is that Olivia feels some kind of way about Roger’s feelings for Jess — after all, Jessica’s puzzled “hmm” even calls back to earlier in the issue, when Ben’s enigmatic hints about Roger and his desire to never disappoint her similarly baffles Jess.

shower-hmm

Detective or not, matters of the heart continue to elude Jessica Drew.

Anyway, I’m not sure whether Olivia still has feelings for Roger — and thus views Jessica as a threat — or if she doesn’t like Roger bringing their daughter around the woman he likes, or if she just resents Jess for keeping Roger and Kalie closer to danger through her work. They all seem like viable options, but no matter what, it means that Olivia’s grief is almost definitely going to be directed towards Jessica. Between Olivia, Kalie, and Jessica, there are going to be a lot of women devastated by Roger’s death, and the burden of doing something about it is very clearly going to fall on Spider-Woman. The only other time we’ve seen Jessica with such a personal, emotionally charged case was when she was protecting her unborn child, and she wasn’t exactly at her physical best then — I don’t think we’ve ever seen Jessica go full-tilt before, and I’m afraid that’s exactly what’s going to happen as this arc continues. God help anybody who gets in her way.

Patrick, this issue was absolutely devastating, but I actually spent the first half of this issue scared to death of what potentially could have been an even more tragic ending: I was afraid that Roger was returning to a life of crime. In retrospect, none of the clues really pointed towards it, but I’d already been spoiled that there was something heartbreaking in this issue, and when I saw Roger enter the Hobgoblin’s lair, that’s the scenario my mind immediately leapt to. In a panic, it was the worst possible scenario I could consider.

In a way, then, Roger did score a victory by turning his life around, by gaining the respect of friends, families, and heroes, by doing some good for the world, and by standing up for what he believed in even when he knew it could mean his doom. I don’t know if that’s much solace for anyone else, but it does make me feel a little better. In Roger Gocking, Hopeless has crafted a unique, lovable character whose path to heroism is so compelling because he’s just so darn human. Becoming a hero was never easy for Roger, so he persevered anyway.

That same humanity, though, is why his death hurts so darn much.

tik-tik

Roger’s expression destroys me. He’s so scared, so utterly terrified. I agree with Patrick that Roger seemed to know this was coming, but that doesn’t mean he’s prepared. He’s not the cool untouchable hero who can finagle his way out of the death trap at the last second or even face his death with detached, grim resolve — he’s just a guy who tried his best, and is petrified in his final moments, as any of us would be in the same situation. Roger Gocking didn’t deserve this, and while I can’t wait to see Spider-Woman bring the hurt to the guys who did this to him, it’s not going to make things better.

Oh god, I just realized — this is Grills all over again, isn’t it? I…I don’t know if I can deal with this again…

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

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10 comments on “Spider-Woman 13

  1. First of all can we just all agree that Veronica Fish & Rachelle Rosenberg are the perfect duo for Spider-Woman art? Because wow. I really love how Fish draws Jess especially.

    This issue was a killer. There were so many great moments. Jess in the shower is one of my favorite scenes ever – and really hits home just how hectic her life is right now. And then to follow up Roger’s death with that adorable scene of her “reading” to Gerry – I just couldn’t take it. Hopeless hit me right in the feels in every way you can. It was fantastic.

    I can’t help but wonder why Mockingbird was in that bar and if that’s going to be addressed later (There’s a theory that Bobbi got wind of the plan and managed to save Roger at the last minute. No body = no death?)

    After the events of CW II with Banner dying and Jess breaking it off with Carol, Roger dying is the last thing poor Jess needs. We saw how she was in SW 11 – is this going to push her even more in that direction? Is Ben next on the list of people to leave Jess? I feel like Hopeless is stripping away all of Jess’ supporting cast (minus the baby) to what end? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

    Of all the Spider-people out there, the one I’d be afraid of pissing off the most is Jessica. And I REALLY REALLY REALLY hope we get to see that in the upcoming issues.

  2. The great thing about how Hopeless has done his run is that the addition of Jessica’s story as a mother is additive to the rest of the stuff he is doing. All the same elements are there, and the baby is just another element. That’s what makes this work.

    Hopeless has made such a complex tapestry, and that is what makes it hurt. A powerful world has been developed, and we see Jessica navigating every part of it. Things aren’t easy, as Jessica’s shower makes clear, but we have a fantastic status quo, that we deeply care about. And that is what most of this issue is about. Showing us that lovingly crafted world and how it all interconnects. That is why it is important to see Roger’s family. We need to understand every part of the complex world of Spiderwoman, and Roger’s attempts to rebuild his life is part of that.

    And then Hopeless blows it up. Because that is what you do. No status quo, no matter how complex, can be sustainable. Because as great as Jessica beating up Blizzard is, it isn’t a plot. You have to blow things up.

    And the great thing is that Hopeless has created a world where his instigating incident hurts. The stakes are true. We truly care, and what we have is one of the best starts of a superhero comic in memory. Honestly, Superhero comics can struggle with stakes simply because superheores are, in many ways, visitors to the story. A variant on the wandering Knight/Ronin, who arrives and sees an injustice and fights it, instead of being in the middle of it to start. And while comics are getting a lot better at their inciting incidents, this is in a class of its own. Sensational.

    Honestly, this issue has to be considered one of the best of the year. The only reason it isn’t my favourite this week is that Sheriff of Babylon concluded. Still on my top ten.

    • I’ve been thinking a lot about this question. I don’t think so, but that may be because I’m already assuming he’s not dead. Like Seren said above, no body=no death. On a grander scale though, I think I now approach every death in comics as something that may be reversed. I suppose I can’t know if my emotional response would be stronger if I didn’t have that idea in the back of my head, but I tend to still find these stories pretty compelling. Peter Parker’s death was moving. Damian Wayne’s death was moving. Heck, Jason Todd was revealed to be not dead in the same issue he died in and I still thought it was effective. Comics are so immediate that I think it’s perfectly fine to have an emotion one month reversed the next month. I certainly think death should be used sparingly, but I also think Hopeless and Fish earned the emotions here.

      • I’m actually beginning to wonder about Roger actually being alive. Newsarama posted some unlettered/uncolored pages from Spider-Woman #14 and one of them is absolutely heartbreaking. I can’t help but feel if there was a remote chance that Roger is alive that that particular page would exist.

        • I’m not sure I agree — so long as Jess thinks Roger is dead, those previews make sense. It still seems possible to me that he’ll be revealed to be alive further down the line than next month’s issue. I mean, if he was dead, why wouldn’t they show his body?

        • Well. The only reason I can think of is that there’s no body left to show. I mean – the bomb was in his lap.Not saying that it’s not possible to see him alive in a later issue – it certainly is.

          But we’ll have to wait and see. I hate waiting. (Also, there’s a note in the margins of one of those pages that we do indeed have Madame Hydra/Viper around too. Wonder if she’s gonna play a part here too. I don’t really consider her a low level villain)

      • I would prefer it if Roger is dead. You are correct, about how comics work. Loss is still effective, even if the loss is temporary. We all knew Peter Parker was going to come back, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is sad to see him go. This issue certainly won’t be less effective, because this issue is all about the singular moment.

        But there is a power in sticking with a death, and letting it be something that isn’t reversed. And considering what Spiderwoman is, I’d much rather see Kalie and Olivia made more prominent and use Roger’s death as a true turning point.

      • I mean, maybe it depends on what we mean by “this story.” Because I think Spider-Woman 13 remains a powerful and impacting issue regardless of what follows it. But if we’re looking at a story arc, or the series as a whole or something, I could see the argument that the story would be made less powerful for a psych-out death.

        Oh wait, fuck. Unless this is an in-universe psych-out. Has this idea been explored at all? Is it possible that Roger needed to escape from the emotional position as Jess’ sidekick and ASKED HOBGOBLIN to help him stage his own death, right in front of Ben?

        • This seems entirely possible. Or it could be that Hobgoblin wanted to bait Jess into attacking him, so staged a “death” to lure her there, only to reveal that he actually has Roger hostage, forcing Jess to stand down (and possibly capturing her, too). Or that this was a genuine attempt on Roger’s life, and he’s just laying low so the Hobgoblin doesn’t come at him again. I think there are a lot of ways Roger might still be alive, but basically all of them hinge on the fact that we haven’t seen his body.

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