Marvel's New #1 Ladies

We may have lost She-Hulk recently, but Marvel is still intent on giving us engaging female-led books, and that's a very good thing. This week, I take a look at 4 such new titles, or really, 3 + a new direction for a title that was already very new. Coming off the Spider-Verse event, three of these are Spider-related; the other doesn't take place in the Marvel Multiverse, but in a franchise far, far away. Let's start there...
Princess Leia by Mark Waid, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson. Obviously, I'll try anything Mark Waid writes, and will very rarely be disappointed. And I'm not here either, even if Leia is hardly my favorite Star Wars character. Now, all of Marvel's Star Wars books to date have taken place just after A New Hope, and this 5-issue mini-series literally does that, starting with the medal-giving ceremony at the end of that seminal first film. The trick is getting the royal Princess from that movie to the rebel fighter of The Empire Strikes Back, and that's this book's agenda. Leia struggles to find a role to play in the wake of the Alliance's first victory, and with the help of another resourceful woman from Alderaan (and Artoo), she undertakes a quest that should show everyone she's not meant to sit quietly on a throne. That's a worthy plot, and it looks like it'll take her on a tour of the Star Wars universe, beautifully rendered by the Dodsons, who are a great art team for this. As with the Star Wars core book, all the likenesses are recognizable without having to be traced off awkward production pics.
Recommended? I know some are still smarting from Dark Horse losing the license, but Marvel really is putting its best foot forward on these series, with big names at the helm, fun stories, and nice art.
Spider-Gwen by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez. Another book that doesn't take place in the standard Marvel Universe, Spider-Gwen (just what we call her, her actual codename is really Spider-Woman) is the spider-powered Gwen Stacy from a parallel Earth (and I imagine coming to a universe near us thanks to Secret Wars?). You loved her in Spider-Verse and the response spawned a whole series. Or maybe it's Emma Stone and her giant man-eating eyes that makes you crave more Gwen Stacy. Doesn't matter. Here she is, and in a pretty fun book. Part of the appeal is seeing how her Earth reimagines various Marvel characters - Ben Grimm and Frank Castle as cops, etc. - but that's also its weakness. We shouldn't be playing "What if?" all the way through, but investing in the characters. Still, this Gwen is a techno-savvy, engaging rocker chick who’s just left her band in a lurch, is on the run from the police who are pulling a major JJJ on her, and is having to troll the Vulture so she can get close to him. Plenty of fun. The art won't make everyone happy, but I like this crop of Marvel artists who like thin lines, a bit of expressionism, and lots of panels per page. This is the same creative team that worked on Wolverine & the X-Men, if you know that one.
Recommended? I wonder how long a book that doesn't take place on Earth-616 can last, or if it'll all be jettisoned by Secret Wars anyway, but what's here certainly packs enough entertainment for this reader.
Silk by Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee. The other new Spider-woman on the block, Silk was designed to be Spider-Man's bride (in the whole "spider-totem" sense of the term) - in fact, she and Spidey can hardly keep their hands off each other when they're together! Giving Silk her own book is a statement, in my opinion. It says she won't become Spider-Man's girlfriend, or be relegated to the status of love interest in his own book. She's just spent 10 years in isolation (so should be 28, a lot older than she looks), and wants to discover what life is all about. She wants to be her own woman. The links to Spider-Man are nevertheless multiple: She works for JJJ in his new job as the local Bill O'Reilly, the Black Cat is interested in her, etc. But Silk's quest (and various, character-building flashbacks) to find her family is all her own. Tonally, it feels - and looks - a little like the new Batgirl stuff, taking cues from Manga, showing modern attitudes towards minorities, and infusing the stories with humor and charm.
Recommended? I confess Silk had potential, but didn't necessarily interest me on an iconic level. Unlike, say, Spider-Gwen. But it's definitely the book I prefer of the two. Give it a shot.
Spider-Woman #5 by Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez. A new direction? Already? Let's all agree that Jessica Drew's new book, to date, was just a Spider-Verse mini-series, and THIS is her actual new book. Only Marvel seems to have failed to recognize that. After all, issues 1-4 of Spider-Woman threw her into a crossover with no hope (pun not intended, sorry Mr. Hopeless!) of telling the audience what to normally expect from the title. Wouldn't you know it, with issue 4, Spider-Woman made a break with the Avengers and SHIELD, allowing her to finally bloom into a solo heroine. She's just not very good at it yet. And that's not a put down, it's the book's actual direction. It's funny (Hopeless had Jessica's brass & sass down pat in the previous issues as well), it's got pathos, and it's visually well-designed. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking of Mark Waid's Daredevil while reading this issue, because that's the really the vibe I get off it. Well okay, Ben Urich is in it too and looks to be a recurring supporting cast member. Rodriguez's art is very good and along with the costume (again, the new Batgirl is echoed), makes a clean break from Greg Land's first four issues, which were okay, but for me, kind of a drag. Even Spider-Woman is of the opinion the old costume was sexually objectifying. Like I said, she's hilarious.
Recommended? If you like cool superhero comics with well-balanced elements of comedy, mystery and action, this is the book for you. I hope the Spider-Verse issues didn't sink its chances for survival.

Hm. Looking back I hope you like spiders as much I do.



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