Beware the Spider-Woman — Bounty Hunter!
Script by: Michael Fleisher
Art by: Frank Springer & Mike Esposito
Originally published: December 1979
Bring on… the Clown!
Script: Michael Fleisher
Pencils: Frank Springer
Inks: Mike Esposito
Letters: C. Robins
Colors: B. Sean
Originally published: January 1980
Enter the Gamesman
Script: Michael Fleischer
Artists: Trevor von Eedon, Mike Esposito
Originally published: February 1980
Trapped–in the Doomsday Room!
Script: Michael Fleisher
Art: Trevor von Eedon, Mike Esposito
Letters: Jim Novak
Colors: Glynis Wein
Originally published: March 1980
To Free a Felon!
Script by: Michael Fleisher
Art by: Steve Leialoha
Letters by: Diana Albers
Colors: Glynis Wein
Originally published: April 1980
The Blades of the Grinder!
Script: Michael Fleisher
Art: S. Leialoha, M. Esposito & Associates
Originally published: May 1980
I needed to read six issues of Spider-Woman. For the first five of these I’m pretty iffy on placement; the sixth also has Spider-Man in it, so I was pretty sure where it had to go. I decided to just read and review them all in one big bang.
So… I haven’t read any of these comics in about a year. I do not remember much about what was going on with Spider-Woman in her book, except that I remember not liking it and thinking it was full of weird pervy rape fantasies…OK, I just reread some of my last few posts on Spider-Woman and it seems like my memories are pretty much correct. I guess the last one I read involved Spider-Man and Spider-Woman meeting, so that’s something. Luckily, I also put a bit of a recap of what’s been going on in there.
When we last left Jessica Drew, she was about to embark on a new chapter of her life. Basically jobless and homeless, she was given a second chance by Spider-Man. Now (apparently a few weeks later), we open on her life having “changed suddenly and drastically, and never again will it be the same.”
Issue 21 actually starts out interesting, with a robbery and the revelation that JD is working undercover nearby, ostensibly to catch the thieves. It turns out Jess is making a living as a bounty hunter, working with a guy named Scotty McDowell. Just by capturing the jerks involved in that one heist, she made a cool twenty grand. Not bad work if you can get it, I guess. It makes my wonder how Pete Parker is always so broke. Stupid moral high ground doesn’t pay, I guess.
In addition to the new-found riches, we also learn that Jess has somehow inherited (I think?) a costume shop, and is living in a new place by herself. So she’s got that going for her, too.
OK, so this issue wasn’t bad at all. It did still involve Jessica getting naked, but I guess that’s just how this book rolls. At least it was in a fairly innocent manner this time — a shower after a long night — and not something lurid and sexed up. Not that lurid and sexed up is bad per se, but… I don’t know, this book certainly never seemed to do it right. ANYWAY WHATEVER.
It ends on a weird note with Scotty having dinner with Jess and pining after Spider-Woman. I can’t tell if he knows they’re one and the same.
ONWARDS TO ISSUE 22!
This issue starts off with a welcome piece of news: Jess is not just crime-fighting for the money. Her and Scotty — who figures shit out behind the scenes, and does research/analysis — decide to go after a serial-killing clown for which no reward is posted. Money and moral high ground! Best of both worlds!
(BTW… So far, Scotty’s character definitely brings to mind DC Comics’ Oracle: both are disabled crimefighters with computer/technical expertise, who provide valuable information to their superhero pals. Also, it’s hard to think of serial-killing clowns without thinking of the Joker. Especially when one of the victims in this comic says “What the heck are you, anyway? Some kinda Joker?!”. This Spider-Woman stuff was written years before The Killing Joke and Barbara Gordon’s transformation into Oracle. I’m definitely not implying anybody copied anybody, I just think the similarities, though slight, are interesting. COINCIDENCE CITY, USA.)
The issue follows Spider-Woman and the Killer Clown as their paths cross a few times — including a clown attack on JD’s friend Lindsay. Clown serial killers have the potential to be super scary, but this one ended up being more on the pathetic side. I would have preferred a little more creepiness. Also, the clown is a total woman-hater, and we end up with lines like “My wife thwarted me! Women thwarted me! Women destroyed me, as I shall destroy you!”. In isolation — fine, a woman-hating villain, no biggy. However, this totally fits in with the rest of the misogynistic vibe this comic has had for its entire run, and it really derails the whole thing for me. I guess it’s good that Spider-Woman usually triumphs over shit like this?
The end of this issue felt entirely rushed, but by that point I was glad to see it end.
In the beginning of issue 23, Spider-Woman gets called a bimbo by the chief of police and has some street toughs attack her so she can “show [them] all a good time”. She is unable to actually successfully fight off these common thugs, but luckily a (non-super-powered) man shows up to save her. And get this: the dude’s name is Mr. Braverman. Spider-Woman rewards the Brave Man for his brave manliness with a date and some french kissing. Stay classy, Fleisher.
Well, it turns out Tim Braverman is actually the Gamesman, a criminal matermind who has recently been a problem in LA, and who Spider-Woman and Scotty had been after. Tim hired the goons to attack Spider-Woman, and he set up the rescue to get close to her. Scotty, jealous genius that he is, figures this all out but insta-love-struck Spider-Woman ignores him and gets herself into a whole heap of trouble. Luckily good old Scotty and his six-shooter bust onto the scene in time to save the day!
But — even after Tim/The Gamesman dupes Spider-Woman, has her stun-gunned, ties her up to a pole, and lights the building she’s in on fire — even after that, Spider-Woman still thinks he’s a swell guy and makes out with him for a bit. Meanwhile, poor Scotty (who actually saved her and actually is a swell guy) gets rejected. Ain’t that always the way?
When issue 24 starts up, Tim is in jail and Spider-Woman is visiting him. Tim goes on to explain about his shitty upbringing and why he turned to a life of crime. (IT’S CAUSE HIS DAD WAS MEAN, YO.) Then he plays up how much he loves Spider-Woman and begs for her help in getting him out. Stupid idiot that she is, she goes along with it. I guess I should cut her some slack. I keep forgetting that mentally she’s actually quite young and naive, which might explain why she’s so easy to manipulate. And a shitty crimefighter.
Later, Spider-Woman gets ambushed and shot. There’s now a new Gamesman and he is after her. You see, the new Gamesman thinks Spider-Woman knows the whereabouts of the old Gamesman’s $10 million. But she doesn’t. So, he sets her up in an insanely convoluted death trap and leaves her alone without actually verifying that she’s died. Such a damned cliché. Dumb issue.
Issue 25 opens immediately following the end of 24, and Spider-Woman is in deep trouble. OF A DEADLY NATURE. The setup is thus: Jessica is chained to a stripper pole in the middle of a metal room. The floor, walls, ceiling and door of the room are electrified, and touching them will kill her. There is a bomb at the top of the stripper pole that will explode in one minute that will also kill her.
Spider-Woman escapes thusly: She notices that the door has a glass panel that is not electrified and that she could probably fit through. She climbs up her stripper pole to near the top, and snaps off the bottom of the pole. She then leaps off the top stub, using the snapped off pole as a pole vault thingy, and lunges towards the glass. She manages to smash all the way through it without actually touching any of the metal.
Since the new Gamesman foolishly assumes Spider-Woman is dead, he makes a fake Spider-Woman that he uses to bust the original Gamesman out of jail, in an attempt to find out where that $10 million is. Meanwhile, Jessica Drew lounges around her apartment in sexy lingerie and bathrobes. ZOMG THE FAKE SPIDER-WOMAN IS ACTUALLY JESS’S ACTRESS FRIEND LINDSAY MCCABE! When Lindsay inadvertently drops some hints to Jess, Jess is able to figure it all out and eventually save everyone. (Except the bad guys, they go to jail.)
Steve Leialoha’s art in this issue is really sucky, BTW. Lindsay McCabe, especially, looks like she’s a had a really bad collagen injection in her lips. And her eyes are crazy.
Finally we reach issue 26, in which Spider-Man briefly appears. The issue starts with Spider-Woman hanging out at the LA port, going after some hoods — The Desmond Boys — stealing a fur shipment. She gets them.
Meanwhile we’re introduced to Rupert Dockery, who has purchased the Los Angeles Courier newspaper. The guy is a creep. He almost gets fake kidnapped, but then Spider-Woman shows up and saves him. Dockery writes up the incident in his new newspaper, and I guess the story gets picked up by the wires or something, because next we see Spider-Man reading about it in New York. CAMEO OVER.
Dockery realizes that Spider-Woman sells papers, so he organizes a crime spree, turning a goon named Brute Bashby into a villain named the Grinder. Grinder then publicly challenges Spider-Woman and she goes after the guy. Bingo bango, there are your newspaper sales. They fight, she wins, Dockery is a douche, the end.
Whew! That was a lot of Spider-Woman! Lots of dumb clichés, lots of dumb plot holes, lots of unrealistic and out of character behaviour, occasionally shitty art, misogyny — and still an improvement over the older issues (or at least how I remember them). I’m glad to be done with these for a short bit.
I love the word “presently”, but Michael Fleisher uses it way too much.