Thursday, August 24, 2006

An 80s Marvel Heroine Chooses Sides!

(Spoilers to New Avengers #23 follow in abundance.)

In New Avengers #23, Jessica Drew (Spider Woman) makes several momentous choices, one of which involves where she stands in Marvel's Civil War.

There's a nice moment in the book in which we're shown the extent to which Drew has internalized the complexities of being a triple agent. When Nick Fury asks her which side she intends to choose, Spider-Woman doesn't skip a beat and replies: what side do you want me on?

One good thing about Civil War: Jessica Drew is now making her own choices, and how she goes about it made this a satisfying comic for me. There's action; there's intrigue; there are plausible twists and turns. And by the end of the issue, Brian Michael Bendis' transferral of Spider-Woman from the margins of the Marvel universe to its absolute center stands complete.

(Full disclosure: since a persuasive store clerk talked me into buying Spider-Woman #1 decades ago, I've been a fan of the character.)

However, the book has two draw-backs: (1) there's some of that pesky Bendis-style dialogue, and (2) there are the countless gratuitous crotch shots.

Goodness, Olivier Copiel certainly delivers the crotch shots, here. Jessica Drew is depicted in her underclothes when the issue begins, and, during the struggle that ensues with the SHIELD agents dispatched to bring her in, she engages in some serious, scantily-clad ass-kicking, which, as you might imagine, (given the logic of feminine comic book positioning and anatomical rendering), places her in a wide variety of peek-a-boo positions.

Believe me, I'm not exaggerating. I defy any objective reader to derive any other conclusion after reading this comic. Man, there's even a panel taken up entirely by the back of Drew's lower torso (actually it's a close-in shot of her panty-clad backside), and the placement of the word balloon actually makes it look as if Spider-Woman's ass is talking to Nick Fury.

Single question: would the comic have been less effective if Jessica Drew had pulled on a terry-cloth robe before she answered the knock on the door?

It's a little known fact that Spider-Woman's butt can, indeed, talk.

I was a big fan of the character in the Bronze Age as well, and Bendis does have a pretty good handle on her (creatively speaking).

I'm looking forward to her series next year, even with the prospect of more trademarked Bendis dialogue.
I was thinking the exact same thing throughout this issue - I love Coipel's art, but this was just gratuitious and seriously distracted from the story. Come on, would Jessica suddenly be unacceptably un-hot if she were wearing a bathrobe, or (better yet, since it precludes panty shots entirely) sweatpants/boxers? A little subtlety isn't a bad thing.
Keeper: They craftily left that factoid out of the character's Handbook entry. I'm looking forward to the SW solo monthly as well. (I've also enjoyed your Spider-Woman posts.)

Tinderblast: As far as I know, subtlety hasn't ever killed anybody.
I honestly didn't find it gratuitous because Jessica being in her underwear actually made sense - it was the middle of the night when the agents came for her, and she's not been in the mood to dress up to the nines for them. Also, Coipel still draws his women with proportions that are not grotesquely exaggerated, so it feels less like regular comics sexism in which the violence is overly sexualised and more like specific angles to try and make the panels more dynamic than regular comic art.

Or maybe I've just been reading too much manga, so my panty-shot-tolerance has been pushed higher than average.
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