Spider-Women Alpha #1
By Dennis Thompson, Jason Latour, Robbie Thompson, Vanessa Del Ray, Jordie Bellaire, and Travis Lanham
Spider-Women Alpha #1 is the starting point of a new crossover mini event from Marvel starring our favorite Spider-themed female heroes. There are many Spider-related female-led titles gracing the shelves of comic stores from Marvel these days and you’re most likely familiar at least with Spider-Woman from Earth – 65, affectionately known as Spider-Gwen, who has taken on a cult-like following her appearance from the Edge of Spider-Verse #2 from 2014. Then, we have the Earth – 616 Spider-Women of Silk, Cindy Moon, and Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew. Together, these three ladies comprise a tight-knit trio of friends, who from past events we can assume share a bond over their affections for arachnid-themed costumes, and kicking bad guy butt. The three ladies each have their own individual title out these days and the creative teams are collaborating to shape this event so it that falls into each one’s present continuity.
The story comes together with the three women going on a Spider-ladies only night out to catch up on the going-ons of Spider-related superhero stuff, but it really feels a bit forced once the action starts to amp up. The writing is credited to all three writers from Silk, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Woman (Jason Latour, Robbie Thompson, and Dennis Hopeless respectively), but the main writing seems to be credited toward Thompson for this issue. The foreshadowing of what is to come was a bit much and often made the writing feel sloppy, but it really felt like we were being spoon-fed as a reader to follow this convoluted plot to get all these super-heroes stuck together to warrant a mini-event. The three ladies head out for a girl’s night out on the town, and unsurprisingly things take a turn for the worse. The ladies are forced to tackle a big bad guy together, but who is behind the attack is the big reveal at the end of the issue. We can only presume then that the mini-event will start to unravel more around who attacked them, why they did it, and what happens from here. The interactions feel forced between the three main ladies, and the main villain reveal felt obvious and uninspired. The only thing that keeps these ladies interacting with one another are the continuing Spider-related events that seem to happen every year and cause crossover events with these women. Jessica Drew just had a baby, so it is not believable that she would want to take time away from her newborn to hang out with her two protégés as a night away. Hopeless tackled this topic in the latest Spider-Woman issue, and it felt natural there where we saw Jessica with Captain Marvel or Patsy Walker, who are more her contemporaries. It has to be said, but this book just feels really forced without a clear voice or purpose apart from trying to get three popular characters together for an event that will put more books on the shelves for people will buy. This is very disheartening, especially with the great work we have had with Hopeless’ run on Spider-Woman and the clear distinct progressive vision he has for the character.
The art from this issue is going to be a polarizing issue; either you will love this art style or you will despise it. This issue features Vanessa Del Ray on art with Jordie Bellaire on colors and Travis Lanham on letters. There is a kinetic energy that this art style exudes that can be described as frenetic and gives a level of urgency and calamity to the story. The pencils are heavy and thick throughout the issue, and there is little background detail apart from the heavy lines and pale to neutral colors. Even the character’s lines feel haphazard with lines crossing into one another, colors not evenly filled in, and little to no details with mostly far off perspective panels. Maybe this art style was intentional to complement the story, but it did make it distracting from the story because there was little emotion expressed. The close-ups of faces were poorly done and were the most disheartening aspect of this art style, because there were a lot of missed opportunities to convey emotions and add depth to the story and dialogue with character reactions. The pages looked good in splash page contexts, but for tiny detail work on individual panels, the perspective lost all the energy and we were left underwhelmed with sloppily drawn faces that were essentially indistinguishable from one another.
Keep looking for the heart of this story and maybe you will find it in the coming issues of the Spider-Women crossover issues, but it certainty was not to be found in the first issue. With a lot of the good work these creative teams are producing independently on the singular titles, it was surprising to see it all go to shambles with their combined efforts. Some will find the energetic and unique art style can compensate for the lackluster story and spoon-fed plot, but for others it was just appears to complement the sloppy and lackluster story. At the end of the issue, all readers will be in agreement that the big reveal was a big dude and the central plot of the crossover story loses its original appeal.