Last issue Jessica ‘Spider-Woman’ Drew fell in love with the mysterious Tim Braverman and captured the notorious underworld figure ‘the Gamesman’, only to discover the two men were one and the same! Braverman is now in jail, but Jessica hasn’t given up on their relationship.
As the story opens, Spider-Woman is visiting Braverman in prison. I’m surprised that the prison guards admitted her in full costume, especially as her face is partially concealed, but in writer Michael Fleisher’s world, women can walk around in spandex costume and the only attention they attract is mildly lascivious.
Braverman attempts to exculpate himself in Spider-Woman’s eyes by explaining how he came to be a criminal. Apparently he grew up in poverty in Brooklyn, his mother a prostitute and his father an abusive drunk. To survive, he and his brother stole milk bottles off of people’s stoops (this is back in the days when milkmen delivered the stuff) and shoplifted fruit from storekeepers... at least until a drunken cop shot his Braverman’s brother in mid-theft. He vowed to take his revenge on the law, and so became the Gamesman, Los Angeles’ most notorious criminal mastermind. And in one panel, too! I can’t complain: it took Bruce Wayne lots of panels to see his parents get killed and to swear revenge, but, just like here, only one panel to train himself to the physical and mental perfection necessary to implement it. It’s comics tradition!
Moved, Spider-Woman promises to use her influence, such as it is, to secure early parole for Tim. Gratefully, he professes his love while thinking to himself that “I always did have a way with women.” Well, with confused, emotionally turbulent women with daddy issues, at any rate.
Gliding home, Spider-Woman sees what she thinks is a car accident and stops to help, but it’s no accident, it’s an ambush. Four of the Gamesman’s thugs emerge from cover, each wielding the same stun guns the gang used to incapacitate our heroine last issue. What they don’t know is that Spider-Woman’s unique metabolism has adjusted to the effect. “In other words,” she thinks, “the first time I got hit with one of those stun-blasts, I went out like a light – but now, these mugs might as well be shooting rubber bands at me for all the good their fancy weaponry will do them!” I should mention that while she’s thinking this, she’s uprooting a tree and throwing it at the gang, who are shocked that their guns are proving useless.
This use of Spider-Woman’s spider-metabolism, which I had almost forgotten about, is a welcome nod to continuity and a refreshing surprise for the reader. It’s also fun to see Spider-Woman be effective in combat, after last issue’s uniform incompetence. Finally, the artwork here is particularly good, especially the panel on p. 10 which shows Spider-Woman, in silhouette, throwing the tree at the goons. You don’t see panels constructed that way today, which is a shame.
I really liked this sequence, is what I’m saying.
Nothing gold can stay. One of the thugs produces a conventional pistol and shoots Jessica with it, even as she retaliates with a venom blast. The criminals, who think they’re outmatched, retreat to their car and drive off, and Spider-Woman, who’s been putting on a brave face, lets them go, well aware she can’t fight them or even trail them in her wounded condition. She manages to glide to Scotty’s place, who fixes the injury somehow. It’s not quite clear what he does – extracts the bullet and sews up the wound? I dunno – but he does note that “Luckily, the bullet didn’t do any serious damage!”
It’s clear from the circumstances that the attackers were members of the Gamesman’s mob, out to get Spider-Woman for revenge. Knowing this, Scotty is outraged that Jessica spent the day visiting the Gamesman, and that she intends to plead to the police on his behalf. “Now look here, web lady!” he says, “when you came to me a few months ago, you told me that more than anything else, you wanted to become a crime-fighter—a professional! Well, fine! Start acting like a professional...! Stop eating your heart out over some nasty little felon!”
Jessica replies “I’ll handle my personal life myself, Mr. McDowell!” That’s really all she can say, I suppose, because she can’t give a reasonable account of why she loves Braverman. Or rather, Michael Fleisher can’t, but I beat that horse to death last issue. Anyhow, the issue skates over this omission by changing scenes to the Gamesman’s underground lair, as seen last issue. There’s a new Gamesman in charge, though, one who wears a sensible business suit rather than a jumpsuit. But he does follow his predecessor’s example by sporting an executioner-style hood, though.
He’s flummoxed by the fact that his lackey’s stun-guns didn’t work, and horrified that they then tried to shoot her with a regular gun. “If you were going to shoot her, you should at least have killed her!” It seems she has information he needs, or at least he thinks she does. But while that information is valuable, it’s not so valuable that her death would be an insurmountable obstacle. It’s a refreshingly moderate point of view for a criminal mastermind.
Back at home, Jessica is relaxing after a shower. This seems to be an excuse for fan-service, although she’s fully clad in bathrobe and towel. In pursuit of a housefly, she climbs a wall. This seems be an excuse for her making a lame joke about ‘climbing the walls’ when Lindsey McCabe calls. Lindsay has recovered from the injuries she suffered in Spider-Woman #22 and is inviting Jessica out for lunch.
Blah blah blah grounding agent. Now that we’re gotten our dose of everyday life, it’s back to ridiculous action, as Spider-Woman takes out the Zoot Suit McCandless gang. This gang – dressed in purple and black zoot suits, natch – tries to rob an Arab sheikh as he leaves the Saudi consulate. Unfortunately, the gangsters are so focused on their victims they fail to notice Jessica infiltrating their ranks! Fair enough, as she’s wearing a zoot suit over her costume and a broad-brim white fedora pulled low over her eyes. (Wouldn’t they notice the mask on the rest of her face, though?) A little roughhousing, and the entire gang is unconscious for Jess to deliver to Captain Walsh. While she’s droppin them off, she puts in a good word for Tim Braverman, but the Captain is unimpressed.
“Now look here, Spider-Woman! I know I act tough with you and sometimes I give you a pretty hard time! But I’ll tell you somethin’! Deep down, I like you! You got spunk! You got guts! You got what it takes to be a good cop, even though I know you ain’t officially a real cop! And I even like the way you catch the bad guys and bring ‘em up to my office late at night! So I’m gonna forget you just asked me to help you get an early parole for the Gamesman! And I’m gonna give you a free tip: the next time you feel like fallin’ in love with a crook – don’t!”
Apparently this pack of cliches is sufficiently interesting that Marsha, the eavesdropping cleaning woman we met last issue, has to call it in to the Gamesman right away. And, just like last issue, he dispatches a gang of crooks to ambush her as she climbs down the walls from the Captain's office. Actually, it’s the same gang from earlier in the issue, the ones who staged the phony car accident, and they’re still angry about “the broad who put [us] out of action for twenty-four hours with her one-handed electrified spider-type zapperini”.
Man, and I thought Captain Walsh’s dialogue was lousy.
Let’s cut to the chase. The gang knocks Spider-Woman out with their handy-dandy gas gun, which they remark worked better than the radiation-based stun-guns they’d used earlier. (Actually, according to Spider-Woman #23, the original stun-guns were indeed gas-based. Fleisher is losing track of the details – not a good sign...) Spider-Woman awakes in the Gamesman’s hideout, chained to a wall post. The Gamesman gloats over his prisoner and demands that she tell him all about $10 million that Tim Braverman stole before his capture. I’m not sure, but from the context it seems that Tim embezzled these funds, if that’s an appropriate term, from the gang’s loot. Spider-Woman doesn’t know anything about the money, and wouldn’t help the Gamesman even if she did. Unconcerned, the Gamesman explains that now he’ll have to kill her.
Turns out this conversation is not taking place in the Situation Room, but rather the titular Doomsday Room. In a moment, all of its metal surfaces will become electrified, which would be scary, if we readers could tell from the art where those surfaces are. Also in sixty seconds explosives will blow it up. I’m guessing the tension comes from the idea that if she breaks free from the pillar to which she’s chained, she’ll be electrocuted, but if she doesn’t, she’ll be blown up.
This issue is a moderate improvement over last issue because it has one nice action sequence. Still, that’s one sequence tucked into an issue filled with lousy dialogue, cliched situations like Tim Braverman’s tough childhood, pointless sequences like Jessica’s pursuit of a housefly, and boring, hastily-drawn art. Worst of all, it ends with Spider-Woman tied up and at the mercy of her enemies... for the second time in two issues. Thanks, Michael Fleisher, but we got enough sublimated rape fantasy back when Marv Wolfman was writing the title.
One good action sequence elevates it above its predecessor issue, but only marginally. One web.