Review: Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. #5

Spider-Woman #5 cover by Alex Maleev

Jessica Drew, escaping again...

“Issue Five”

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Model for Spider-Woman: Jolynn Carpenter

I couldn’t find an official title for this installment of Jessica Drew’s adventures post-Skrull-captivity. As the first four issues have largely served to enumerate Ms. Drew’s considerable list of psychological challenges as she gets back into the heroic life, I guess “Issue Five” is as good a title as any.

Jessica’s issue of the month this time is simple. In trying to do the right thing by surrendering to the Madripoor cops after issues 3 and 4’s HYDRA rampage, she’s just managing to get herself and everyone around her in more trouble, this time with the Thunderbolts. And, really, that’s all that goes on here. Jessica escapes from Madame Hydra, spends a couple days recuperating from her injuries, turns herself in, and is confronted by the Thunderbolts, who have come to Madripoor to retrieve her.

The comparative lack of action here is a letdown after the tense and unsettling psychodrama between Jessica and Madame Hydra in issues 3 and 4, but I think that’s how I’m supposed to feel about it. Every good noir has a sequence where the plot stops moving, the exposition gets heavy, and then the guys with guns kick down the door and things get started again. Bendis captures that moment of fatalistic calm nicely in this issue; Jessica’s attempt to stare down a police inspector feels as futile as Sergeant James’ excursion beyond the Green Zone in The Hurt Locker. As Spider-Woman, Jessica’s useless when confined to the boundaries of the law (even in a place like Madripoor), and the cultural barrier between white super-heroine and Asian desk cop might as well be uncrossable for all the good it does either of them.

Jolynn Carpenter, Alex Maleev's model for Jessica Drew

...and Jolynn Carpenter, the woman behind the mask.

Art-wise, Alex Maleev continues to fit the book perfectly. His work is all grit and heavy ink, with very few bright moments. Plus, he’s one of the Marvel artists who’s upfront about his use of models, and Jolynn Carpenter provides Maleev with plenty to work from– her facial expressions are evocative and her poses are actually plausibly within the realm of normal. I feel like there’s more to the interior art than just “hey, look, Spider-Tits,” even if the covers are a bit gratuitous at times, and that’s a nice feeling to have from a comic.

All around, it’s a solid effort, even if it is really just 22 pages of getting people from point A to point B for the next big fight scene. Sometimes, that’s all you really need, but I can’t help wishing for a little more tension in this issue.