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Spider-Woman #7

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010
By: Dave Wallace

Brian Michael Bendis
Alex Maleev
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Spider-Woman #7 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 17.

As many readers may have heard, issue #7 of Spider-Woman is going to be the final issue of the series for the foreseeable future. Yes, the book that took literally years to appear after first being announced has been cancelled after just seven months.

According to Brian Michael Bendis's afterword to this issue, the reason for this is that the workload of artist Alex Maleev -- who was also working on the "motion comic" that ran alongside the series -- was just too great. Bendis explains that Maleev had to turn in around 22 issues' worth of art for just 7 issues of the printed comic in order to meet the demands of the "motion comic" animation, and that the process ultimately burned him out on working with the character. It seems that so much effort was put into the "motion comic" that it effectively killed the book itself -- which seems like a particular shame given how disappointing the animated version turned out to be (I won't repeat myself here, but you can find my thoughts on that failed experiment in this review).

It might be worth taking Bendis's explanation with a pinch of salt, however. Sales figures from The Beat suggest that the first issue of the series sold around 50,000 copies, and that figure dropped to 28,000 by issue #5, which is surely disappointing for a book that's written and drawn by two such high-profile creators. Bendis has suggested that this slump in sales may be due to people who have already experienced the story in the "motion comic" skipping the print version, but to be honest, I think that there's a simpler explanation: the series just hasn't been particularly good.

This issue is a good example of the strengths and weaknesses of the book. First, I'll talk about its strengths: Alex Maleev's artwork has been mostly excellent, mixing vivid neon colours with street-level sci-fi grittiness to create a visual sensibility that doesn't feel a million miles away from Ridley Scott's classic Blade Runner. I almost want to read an oversized hardback edition of this run just to appreciate the detailed textures that the artist has poured into his work, but even in the regular format, this is beautiful stuff. Maleev's action sequences still aren't the smoothest in the world, and there's an occasional sense that certain scenes have been framed with an eye to the motion comic rather than the printed page, but the artwork remains a highlight of the series even when the writing hasn't matched it in terms of quality.

Unfortunately, the disparity between the quality of the writing and the quality of the artwork has been rather large. Bendis has given us a sci-fi detective story in which the protagonist doesn't actually have to detect anything, instead being content to rely on her alien-detector-device to sniff out Skrulls and to have major plot developments dumped in her lap by secondary characters that waltz in and out of the story on the writer's whim. Bendis's characterisation of Spider-Woman seems to rely on a mixture of constant self-pitying whining and a remarkable lack of intelligence: even after being told by Abigail Brand in this issue that she needs to be smarter, she waltzes straight into a bar to pick a fight with an incognito Skrull that is far more powerful than she is, even as her internal monologue tells us that she knows how stupid she's being.

It's difficult to feel sympathy for a character that doesn't show any kind of interest in her own self-preservation, let alone in the mission that she's been given by her new employer. Luckily, another group of guest-stars is on hand to save her life in this issue, reinforcing the impression that the character simply isn't competent enough to sustain a superhero career in her own right. The heroic splash page that ends the issue can't help but feel somewhat sarcastic, since it seems that all that Jessica Drew has done since the series began is to stumble from one samey Skrull confrontation into another, doing battle with an alien race that was already suffering from severe overexposure before the series even began.

Bendis and Maleev have done great work together in the past: their Daredevil run is still one of my favourite superhero runs ever, and I look forward to their new creator-owned Icon project together. However, I have no desire to see any more of their Spider-Woman, and so the news that the series is coming to an end doesn't bother me. I'm far more upset to have seen the likes of Captain Britain & MI-13 and Immortal Iron Fist fall victim to cancellation whilst they were still better than the majority of books being produced by Marvel. In the case of Spider-Woman, however, it looks as though the publisher might have been right to put the series out of its misery.







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