Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Spider-Woman Agent of S.W.O.R.D. TPB

Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. collects Spider-Woman issues 1 to 7, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated Alex Maleev.  This story was also released as a series of semi-animated ‘motion comics’ and the paper comics were adapted from the motion comics, rather than the other way around.  It looks really good, though, and not at all like it was cobbled together as an afterthought.  I’m sure Alex Maleev’s digitally produced, heavily photo-referenced, garishly coloured art won’t be to everyone’s tastes – particularly the garish computer colouring – but I love it.  I also used to really like Brian Michael Bendis’ writing – Bendis and Maleev’s run on Daredevil was what got me back into superhero comics again, after a very long break – but these days I tend to find a lot of his work quite tiresome, and his work on this book was no exception.
This actually reads a lot like someone parodying Bendis’ work on titles like Alias – but without the sense of humour – rather than the work of the man himself, and I took against it in the very first chapter for that reason.  The book starts with Jessica Drew / Spider-Woman flying over the streets of London – we can tell it’s London because it’s raining and foggy, we see the silhouette of Big Ben, the London Eye is right next to Jessica’s hotel, and she eventually ends up on an open-backed London bus (you know, the sort that they phased out years ago).  She’s feeling rather sorry for herself and her internal monologue tells us that she thinks she has overtaken Wolverine as ‘the most screwed-over person in the history of the universe’, which seems like a bit of an exaggeration to me.  I mean, Jessica did not have a great childhood and this book takes place shortly after the events seen in Secret Invasion, where she was temporarily replaced by the Skrull Queen, so she thinks everyone hates her because she looks like the Skrull Queen did when she tried to take over the world, but ‘the most screwed-over person in the history in the universe’?  Really?  I mean, she’s attractive, she’s in good health, she’s got super-powers, and she’s in the friggin’ Avengers!  That sounds to me like the lot of someone who has been a lot less screwed-over than your average homeless person, for example, and from the point on the third page of the book where Jessica decided that she was the most ‘screwed over person in the history of the universe’ onwards, this book had an uphill struggle to get me to take it seriously.

Anyway, in the first chapter, on an open-backed London bus, the sort they don’t really make anymore, Jessica meets up with Abigail Brand from S.W.O.R.D., who offers her a job Skrull-hunting – yes, the ‘most screwed-over person in the history of the universe’ gets offered a well-paying job with S.W.O.R.D., to help her top up the meagre income she receives from the Avengers, the poor cow – which she accepts.  From there, she heads off to the fictional south-east Asian island of Madripoor, fights a Skrull, gets arrested, spends quite a lot of time talking to Madame Hydra / the Viper, fights another Skrull, fights Hydra, gets arrested again, fights the Thunderbolts, and then fights another Skrull, this time with the help of the Avengers – Captain America, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Ronin, Mockingbird, Ms Marvel, and the second most screwed-over person in the history of the universe, Wolverine (who is over 100 years old but only looks about 40, is pretty much indestructible, can drink and smoke without any ill effects, and has at least seven jobs). 

To be honest, although some of the dialogue was surprisingly bad, this wasn’t a terrible book, but like most issues of Bendis’ Avengers run, there was way too much talking, not enough really happened, and the whole thing seemed a bit dragged out to me.  I mean, if some of the repetitive dialogue and Jessica’s self-pitying internal monologue had been cut down a bit, this story could have quite easily been told in two or three issues, rather than seven.  It looked great and it was perfectly readable, but I didn’t feel like this was an essential read in any way.

This has a recommended retail price of £14.99 / $19.99 but Amazon have it for £9.91 at the moment.  I got my copy on eBay for £7.32 (including postage), which wasn’t bad, I suppose, but I wish I’d bought something else instead.   


  1. Maleev is a great artist but I've never really understood Bendis' affection for Spider-Woman. He's never really successfully sold her to me either.

  2. See, if you'd bought the copy I sold on eBay a few weeks back, you'd have got it even cheaper!

    I hated this book, to be frank. I used to be a big Bendis fan too, but like you say he's become a bad parody of himself and doesn't even write witty dialogue any more. This whole story could have been told in one issue.

    I'll have to stop now or I'll end up sounding like one of those message board trolls who spend their life emailing Tom Brevoort that "BENDISS SUKS".

    I do have a lot of time for Spiderwoman though. I reread her original book in Essentials a few years back and found much to enjoy. So when I heard Marvel were giving her her own title again, I started thinking about how much potential there was - particularly for modern day versions of her bizarre rogue's gallery. Shame none of that was ever even considered for this book.

    I am not looking forward to Moon Knight.


  3. I actually bought the first issue of this series when it came out and disliked it then but thought I'd give it another chance, as it's Bendis and Maleev, so I've only got myself to blame, really. In my defence, I didn't like the first issue of Alias when that came out, either, and that turned out to be rather good (although I don't think I liked it as much as everyone else did and I don't currently own that series in any format, but I would like to read it again). No, Moon Knight doesn't seem as appealling now. Was Scarlet any good?

    I bought and enjoyed Spider-Woman when I was younger (I bought and enjoyed most Marvel Comics when I was younger) but can't remember much about it at all now. Not sure if I would have picked up a copy of Essential Spider-Woman under normal circumstances, but if you reckon it's good, I'll have to look out for one on the ration (not that I need to add anything else to my reading pile / mountain at the moment).

  4. I enjoyed Alias, but I'm not sure I dare reread it as I suspect I won't enjoy it as much now. I haven't read Scarlet and I recently gave up on Powers completely and sold the lot. I'm sticking with Avengers for the moment, but I'll probably jump off Ultimate Spider-Man once they kill Peter Parker. I reckon it's time Bendis went to DC for a bit, he's been ruling the roost at Marvel too long and he's got to that stage where nobody dare tell him the stuff he's writing today isn't a patch on what he was writing 5-10 years ago.

    Like most Essentials books from 70s Marvel, Spiderwoman was inconsistent - but at its best (the later issues) it really did become quite different.

  5. I've never re-read my Bendis / Maleev Daredevil books, which were always my favourite Bendis comics, and am worried they might not seem as good now. I was never that keen on Powers (it was okay but I only really enjoyed one or two of the books and sold them all ages ago), I gave up on the Avengers after Siege (I would still like to read his Avengers titles, I just don't think they are good enough to buy), and I have mostly enjoyed the Ultimate Spider-Man books (but am a bit behind with them at the moment and, again, it's not a series I have ever felt any great desire to own). I have thought for quite some time that his main problem is that he seems to be writing books he is not really suited to, like the Avengers and big event books like House of M and Secret Invasion. However, I would have thought that Spider-Woman would be something he was very well suited to, and it just wasn't that great. I don't think Bendis has ever really been able to end a story well and his comics were always too talky, but at least a lot of that talk was funny and this book was almost entirely lacking in humour. A move to DC could be interesting (which is more than I can say about most modern DC comics - I just don't get the Green Lantern at all!).

  6. No, I never got Green Lantern.

    Except for a very short time when Dave Gibbons was drawing him.