This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on November 17, 2015.
A lot of people are going to get hung up on one aspect of Spider-Woman #1: Jessica Drew’s pregnancy. It’s the topic that has dominated the discussion leading up to the release of this comic and it is a significant part of the comics. Focusing purely, or even largely, on that one aspect does a disservice to the comic though. Spider-Woman #1 is a story about a woman handling her first pregnancy, but it is so much more. It is a story about friends helping one another, about altering one’s career, about comedic party shenanigans, and about wild, space adventures. Spider-Woman #1 is one of the most colorful stories in the All-New, All-Different Marvel, a beautifully presented joy of a read.
While the new issue is a continuation of Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez’s previous issues, it also feels like an evolution. The artwork has been noticeably altered, some characters have dramatically changed their status quo, and the tonal jumps within the series are more consistent and better paced. Both creators are taking what worked from before (starting with Spider-Woman #4, at least) and pushing themselves and their collaboration forward. Even if certain elements may not jive as well as expected, there is nothing in Spider-Woman #1 that could be described as a failure and every alteration is interesting.
Alvaro Lopez is still inking Rodriguez’s pencils in this volume. They compliment one another very well with smooth, clear linework that emphasizes forms and action. The significant shift in artwork comes from the coloring. Muntsa Vicente has been replaced by Rodriguez himself as the colorist of the series. While both artists emphasize bold palettes to distinguish detailed layouts and dense sets of characters, Rodriguez’s work is more lush. His color design comes with a painterly quality that makes shadows run longer and more widely. In some panels this makes the faces of characters appear a bit too two-dimensional, but fits nicely with his work throughout most of the issue. Rodriguez and Lopez’s style on Spider-Woman encourages bold design choices and some of what is being done is simply too soft for what is being shown on the page, even in the light of a burning vehicle.
The fast-paced layouts that deliver both action and comedy with the rat-a-tat quality of a snare drum are still very much intact though. That’s significant because Hopeless’ script relies on concise delivery of beats (comedic and otherwise) and a clear sense of tone. In the course of only 20 pages, Spider-Woman #1 travels the span of a year, across space, and interacts with what feels like half of the Marvel Universe. There’s an incredible density to the contents, but it never once feels overstuffed or overwhelming. Instead it is simply fast and fun. Rodriguez is at the absolute top of his game when narrating two conversations at the same time as separate pairs of superheroes navigate across a rooftop party before converging. Not only is the information exceedingly clear (largely thanks to bold reds being used to distinguish the key bodies), but there’s a lot of fun to be found lingering in the surroundings without them becoming distracting.
What Hopeless does so well in each scene is to simultaneously recognize what is most important about the characters involved and what must be accomplished in the space. There’s never a wasted page as he always combines character and plot into an efficient machine. That economy of storytelling is what allows Spider-Woman to have such flare in a single issue. Whether it’s a diverse array of aliens resting in backgrounds or a montage of maternity leave, knowing what must be done on each page allows Hopeless to make his story feel more varied around key elements.
Spider-Woman #1 is one of the absolute best debuts of the All-New, All-Different Marvel line. It is an example of what a team of excellent creators can do when collaborating on a story and craft they clearly care about. The pregnancy storyline is handled very well here, but it speaks volumes about the quality of this comic that it is far from the only thing with discussing. There’s a lot of great things happening in Spider-Woman, and it would be a shame for superhero fans to miss out on any of them.