There’s a lot of drama bubbling up in the industry about the Spider-Woman series Marvel is planning this year. From the variant cover by erotic artist Milo Manara, to the choice of interior artists, the series has been a veritable lightning rod for controversy. In light of all of that going on, I figure now is the best time to dial back to 2007 for a relatively simpler time in the life of Jessica Drew’s tenure as Marvel’s Spider-Woman. That’s when some of my favorite creators teamed up to craft an origin story for Spider-Woman that’s empowering, creative, and – in retrospect – ready made for adaptation as a Marvel Studios blockbuster.
That story is Spider-Woman: Origin.
First, we’ve got the Bendis factor. Brian Michael Bendis was in the thick of his New Avengers run when he co-wrote this series with Brian Reed, who he would also collaborate with on New Avengers: Illuminati, which serves as the basis for Hickman’s current universe-breaking/making run on the same title. Bendis’s New Avengers title was well-known for bringing Spider-Woman to prominence in the modern Marvel Universe, so it made perfect sense that he’d be one of the scribes to give reinvent her origin and attempt to raise her profile even higher. What initially drew me to the book, though, was the choice in art team – it’s crafted by the Luna Brothers, who are best known as a powerful voice in indie comics. Their revenge saga, The Sword, is among my favorite works of all time, and their expansive library of work includes Girls, Ultra, as well as other series that they work on independent of each other, such as Alex + Ada and Whispers. I’m in love with the character design, the simplicity and realism of their pages, and their depiction of women in general. Matched with Bendis’s knack for character-driven stories, I dove into this Spider-Woman tale hoping for the best.
The story, which is set over the backdrop of the long-running conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, follows Jessica Drew from her childhood to the natural end of most origin stories: the embracing of her role as a superhero. However, the delicate art adds a nuanced, sad tone to this story that sets it apart from your cliché superhero bildungsroman. Like any Bendis comic, even the supporting characters have a voice and are likable, and the Luna brothers flesh out Spider-Woman’s world with distinctive, realistic characters. One thing I did notice, however, is that Jessica’s father has the exact same design as the father from The Sword. Both of these guys are lead characters, so that struck me as strange, but didn’t take away from the story in any substantial way.
Packed with twists and turns, the plot takes Jessica through her complicated birth, her troubled childhood, a coma, her time as a Hydra agent, and finally a mission of all-out revenge with a side dish of self-discovery. Jessica spends much of this comic learning who she is when the everything she knows is challenged by those wishing to shape her – Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D, her parents. Everyone she meets tells her how the world works and what her role in their world is… and it’s inspiring and fun to watch her deny them all and evade their attempts to control her. Part-superhero origin story, part-spy drama, Spider-Woman: Origin gets just about everything right.
I’m only left wondering one thing… did Nick Fury ever get his Dr. Pepper?
PAT SHAND is a comic book writer best known for Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten, and Grimm Fairy Tales. Pat currently lives in San Diego, where he does ten sets of squats every day, hoping to one day attain a butt as bootylicious as Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman. He should stop writing bios.