Spider-Woman 16

spiderwoman-16

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Spider-Woman 16, originally released February 22, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

“…as for Ellen and me, we were finally joined into a new element — much, much bigger than anything we had ever known. We didn’t know what the future had in store for us, but what did it matter? We fulfilled our destiny.”

“Day of the Dot” The Adventures of Pete and Pete

Patrick: Action movies and will-they-won’t-they romanic stories have a lot in common. Both rely on the promise of something big and meaningful just on the other end of the narrative. It’s a sense of longing — either for a pair of soulmates to recognize each other or for explosions and motorcycle chases — that drives like 90% of the story. When the lovers get together, or the fists start flying, that means we’re just about at the end of the thing. The Adventures of Pete and Pete got its two teenage leads together in a special before the series even got started, which made for a weird transition to a regular serialized romance. It was kind of neat though, to actually see the glory of their romance (in all of its innocence) before having it awkwardly revoked a few episodes later. Spider-Woman 16 moves us to those goal posts on both the romanic and action fields, showering the reader in destinies fulfilled.

And the issue beautifully starts out with a statement of the storytellers’ commitment to delivering on both action and romance — the glowing, love-sick smile of Roger… suspended upside-down from Hobgoblin’s flier.

romance-and-action

I love this issue because it gives exactly what writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Veronica Fish have been teasing for four issues. And Fish is absolutely on-fire in this issue — and I mean that in an NBA Jam kind of way and not in a tire-fire kind of way (even though a tire-fire features prominently in the climatic battle sequence).

I want to get a little nitty-gritty on why and how the composition of Fish’s layouts are so damn compelling, so bear with me while we zoom way in on one key example. First of all, Hopeless assists with a slam-drunk set-up: Spider-Woman riding a motorcycle through a flaming scrap yard, battling Bruin on the ground and Hobgoblin in the air, while also trying to protect Roger. High stakes, threats everywhere. Fish keeps Jessica in the center of every panel, spinning her camera in a 360 degree orbit to take in all of Jess’ heroic acrobatics.

jess-in-action

Follow the lines from Hobgoblin’s lasers in that first panel, and it leads the eyes simultaneously to that little insert of the bike’s gas tank leaking and Jess poised to take action in third panel. Also check out the way the lenses Fish approximates in panels one and three allow a curved perspective on the scene, making the fire take up a ghastly amount of space on the page. There’s also a subtle hint of disorientation associated with the near fish-eye quality of that first panel. But by panel four, Jess totally has her bearings and the coolest-looking plan you can imagine, and the lens flattens out. At the same time, the camera drops lower, showing more sky than fire and subtly insisting on Jess’ control of the situation. Panels four, five and six are incredible — Spider-Woman stays facing left, even as she — and the reader’s natural eye movement while reading — moves her to the right. Jess is so cool and confident that she doesn’t need to look at what we’re looking at. There are also these opposite-twin vectors expressing low motion to the left and high motion to the right as the motorcycle takes out Bruin and Jess jumpkicks Firebug off his flier. Jess, however, is never content to rest and casts her eyes skyward, still trained on Roger and Hobgoblin.

It’s such artful badassery! And it is perfectly matched by a happy ending which delivers on all the reunions and reconciliations you could ever want. This isn’t quite as virtuosic on Fish’s part, but it is goddamn effective.

a-happy-ending-for-spider-woman

I can’t tell if my critical faculties are being blinded with sheer joy or what — but this issue reads as just about perfect to me. I know there may not be as many complex statements about human psychology or even the need for community or whatever, but hotdamn if it doesn’t just feel good to see Roger, Carol and Jessica all fulfill their destiny.

Spencer, did you love this one as much as I did? Seeing Roger as the Dude in Distress was a delightful flipping of the script, even if he does stand up for himself in the end. Also, is it a narrative cheat to have Carol come in and save the day or is that finally resolving their fight in a meaningful way?

Spencer: Well I mean, it’s not as if Carol came out of nowhere — she’s made multiple appearances throughout this arc, making her a part of its vocabulary, and therefore giving her sudden arrival here a lot more legitimacy. Besides, her rescue (and the subsequent restoration of her and Jess’ friendship) is just straight-up cathartic, and now that this storyline has reached its conclusion, it feels safe to say that catharsis is what it’s been all about.

Anyway, Patrick, you’re right that seeing Roger as the Dude in Distress (who eventually stands up for himself) is a lot of fun, and appropriate to the already-established relationship between he and Jess. It’s also a nice counterpoint to the more traditional choice to have Jess fall in love with the man who’s been quietly pining after her from afar, but even that often-dicey trope doesn’t bother me in this case, thanks to the work Hopeless and Fish have put into fleshing Roger out. The audience has seen Roger grow and evolve, become a man worth loving, so when Jess realizes her feelings for him, it’s not her falling in love because she somehow owes Roger or because it’s destiny — it’s because she’s finally seeing in Roger what the audience has seen for a while now. I think we can all root for that.

The opposite is true, as well. One of Hopeless’ greatest strengths as a writer is crafting distinct voices for his characters, and Roger’s especially shines in this issue. His internal monologue clues us into the exact reasons why he loves Jess so much — the sentiment rings true not just because his affection comes from a very personal place, but because the readers likely love Jess for the same reasons. I’m sure we don’t need to be reminded that we love Jessica Drew, but Roger’s listing every detail that makes her special — every detail that make him love her — makes the appeal of Spider-Woman clearer than ever. It helps, of course, that Jess lives up to Roger’s view of her, consistently backing up his praise with action and results.

injuries

Side-note: I like the little detail of the fists next to each of Jess’ injuries here. While it’s never specified, I’d guess they indicate how painful each wound is. Notice how even a three-fist injury — or the combined six fists! — can’t slow her down.

Again, it all comes down to character. Aside from being about as thrilling as humanly possible (I’ve got to echo Patrick’s praise for Veronica Fish — she’s doing career-defining work here), the action sequences work to emphasize how these characters think and act, both separately and as a team. Jess is rather indefatigable as a standard, but especially so when Roger’s life is on the line, and Roger’s got his “turn things around at the last minute after being helpless for far too long” shtick down to a science. Their team-up, likewise, helps to emphasize the chemistry they’ve built up over this run — from their casual acceptance of an impending glider crash to their not-so-badass taunts, they’re clearly made for each other, and have a mutual affection that leaps off the page.

trick-or-treat

And boy, how fantastic is Fish’s body language? I love Roger’s expression in that first panel — his jaw is such a fun touch, an expression that’s equal parts goofy and tough, which describes Roger in this moment perfectly. These two look haggard yet ready for anything, but that’s a facade that falls once Carol comes to their rescue, in yet another scene Fish just nails.

relief

Jess’ pose especially is a bit exaggerated, but it’s immediately clear how relieved she feels, and perhaps even how, now that the threat of Hobgoblin has subsided, her fatigue is hitting her all at once. Fish makes it perfectly clear what her characters are feeling at all times, dialogue or not, and I can’t get enough of that.

I’ve gotta admit, as much faith as I have in this creative team, I still came into this issue somewhat nervous. After the gut-punch of Roger’s supposed death and the heart-shattering aftermath, there was always the chance that his survival could end up feeling cheap, or the whole thing exploitative. Ultimately, though, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Losing Roger, no matter how short-lived, helped Jessica understand the depth of her feelings for him, and likewise, showed readers how much they’d miss Roger if he was really gone. This issue is all wish-fulfillment happy ending, but I’ll be damned if these characters and this creative team haven’t earned this happy ending.

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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2 comments on “Spider-Woman 16

  1. I have to admit, when I initially read this issue I was a little disappointed because I wanted more Carol and Jessica time. That said, I am completely over it now and I absolutely love this issue. I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw Roger’s inner monologue as him reminding us all why we love Jessica Drew – she’s such an amazing character and sometimes it takes a character in the story to really nail that home.

    I really hope Marvel hires Veronica Fish for more work because I absolutely adore her art work – and she’s only gotten better. I don’t know whose idea it was to have her replace Rodriguez, but it was BRILLIANT. Rachelle Rosenberg colors almost everything it seems like and doesn’t get enough credit. She and Fish are a great team. Also kudos to Dennis Hopeless for letting his artists go wild on his scripts.

    The next issue is the last issue. I am SO excited to read it because I kind of want to see if there’s any reconciliation between Olivia and Roger and I am hoping (because I can never get enough of them) for a heart to heart between Jess and Carol. But I’m also crushed because once April comes around, Spider-Woman won’t be there and I don’t look forward to any other comic as much as I do Spider-Woman.

    Al Ewing. You’re on the line with Royals.

    • Didn’t realise that the next issue was the last. The fact that the next issue’s cover (which is amazing and going to be one of the best of the year) was so bittersweet and nostalgic made me think that something terrible was going to happen. A final gutpunch in a story full of twists and turns.

      I still kind of feel like something bad is going to happen. It is interesting that this issue ends with ‘To be continued’. There is one last turn to this story, and I don’t think it will be a happy one. Hell, the fact that Roger is visible only in the rear view mirror is not a good sign. And honestly, I’ll be happy if things don’t end up going well. Roger’s crush on Jessica has been written exceptionally, with a complete lack of ego that usually makes this problematic trope so annoying. But it still feels like the wrong ending for this book. It feels like the sort of ending that won’t satisfy. It doesn’t feel right that this series should end with Jessica paired up. It always felt important to me that in this book, she didn’t need a boyfriend. And I don’t think the book has gone far enough to seperate itself from the problematic parts of the trope. But then, the story isn’t over yet. They’ve made very clear that there is one last part. One last thing to happen.

      My reaction to this issue is… weird. Ultimately, it comes from waiting for the shoe to drop, and being surprised it isn’t this issue. The issue itself is exceptionally written and drawn. A true showcase of why Jessica Drew is fantastic. Basically all the praise given to the writing and art is deserved (Spencer, I also love the page showing Jessica’s injuries, especially the fists). Everyone is extraordinarily emotive, and Carol’s moment is a fantastic twist on expectations, while being clearly set up. So, so much good stuff.

      But it felt like whatever turn is about to happen should have happened here. Exceptionally written as it was, there felt like there needed to be more story. There is honestly little progress from last issue, and I think that lack of progress has distracted me from all the fantastic stuff and instead got me focusing more and more on the upcoming turn. Or what happens next issue. This issue still proves that Spiderwoman is one of the best books on the stand, but it is kind of the issue that proves how Spiderwoman’s worst issue is better than most series’ best.

      Also, I’m tempted to give Inhumans another try after IvX, but I am really nervous about Ewing on Royals. He is apparently going to use the Universal Inhumans, which would be fantastic, but I can’t help but look at his recent work and wonder if the right choice is to give him another ensemble book. He seems to really struggle with them, and creates books that are weightless and without depth. At his best, his team books work only because they are moving so fast that it basically distracts you from its own weaknesses, until he tries to resolve everything. I really hope that ROyals will be a return to form, but he has done little recently to demonstrate that he will do anything to the level of Loki soon

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