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.