Five weeks ago, Jessica quit the Avengers, in order to find a more grounded, street-level life. Ben Urich asked her to investigate the disappearance of the wives, girlfriends, and daughters of New York’s small-time supervillains. She captured the Porcupine mid-bank-robbery and found out that someone is holding his daughter captive, to use as leverage against him. Further legwork revealed more pawns of the conspiracy, including Senor Suerte and the Big Wheel. Disguising herself as the Porcupine, Spider-Woman allowed the conspiracy to capture her, so she can find out who is behind it all.
A mysterious woman, posed such that we readers can’t see her face, is buying groceries when a photo of the imprisoned Porcupine arrives on her smartphone. She texts a quick reply - “Good. Do it.” - and then tells the grocery clerk that she always wants paper bags, never plastic. So she’s a friend of the Earth? Good for her, I guess.
In an-otherwise deserted subway car, Jessica feigns unconsciousness while her captor, dubbed ‘Raspberry Beret’ by Jessica’s interior monologue, watches. Jessica is fuming, in her now-typical mode of impatient fussiness, that she wants Beret to leave so that she, Jessica, can scratch her itchy nose. Be careful what you wish for: having received the text from the mysterious figure, Raspberry Beret leaves the subway car, tossing a grenade full of knockout gas behind her. Out goes our heroine.
I guess she’s never been exposed to this particular pharmaceutical before, or her spider-metabolism would have made her immune to it. She does still have that superpower, right? We haven’t seen evidence of it for a while. I hope writer Dennis Hopeless hasn’t forgotten about it.
Jessica wakes in what appears to be an interrogation room, as depicted in any number of TV police procedurals: cinderblock walls, sturdy metal door, ceiling lamp consisting of unshielded bulb, one-way mirror with mirror side out, and intercom speakers. She herself, still in her Porcupine suit, is suspended from her wrists from the ceiling by some sturdy metal chains.
From the other side of the glass, Raspberry Beret speaks via the intercom to admonish ‘Roger’ for being stupid and talking to the law, i.e., costumed vigilantes. Roger doesn’t respond, to Raspberry Beret’s mounting frustration. Finally, irritated past reason, Beret smashes the microphone, storms to her vehicle, which looks to me like a ‘70s muscle car, parked just outside, and drives off through a pretty rural landscape. We readers know, but Beret doesn't, that Jessica is using her spider-powers to hide undetected in the car’s trunk.
From there, Jessica calls Ben Urich. Ben, who’s sharing a meal at a greasy spoon with the real Roger, picks up. Jessica explains she’s locked in the trunk of a ‘68 Nova (I was close!) and is upstate somewhere. She asks Ben to track her phone and follow her, and to bring a pair of bolt cutters to retrieve the Porcupine suit from the gas station where she left it.
In a nice two-page spread, we readers learn “How she did it”, as per the caption box. She exited the Porcupine suit from behind, crept under the table to below the one-way mirror, spider-climbed to the ceiling unseen, went out an access panel to the roof, used her spider-agility to leap down by way of some abandoned gas pumps, and secreted herself in the car trunk.
It’s a slick panel. Well done, penciller Javier Rodriguez!
It’s so well done, it makes me put aside questions like, why does this gas station have an access panel in its roof? That seems like bad design to me; not only would it let water in a flat roof like this one, it also doesn’t seem like a good plan to have a secret exit from your interrogation chamber. And why has this gas station been retrofitted into an interrogation chamber, anyway?
Back to Jessica’s interior monologue, which is still stuck in ‘impatient fussiness’ mode. Right now she’s frustrated at being trapped in a trunk. When it finally parks, Jessica eagerly opens the trunk from the inside (how?), expecting to find herself in the HQ of a criminal conspiracy. Instead, she’s on Main Street of bucolic Moon’s Hollow, NY, a town filled with two-story buildings, including a sandwich shop filled with moms and tots. Bewildered, Jessica quick-changes into an off-the-rack summer dress from a nearby shop. She keeps her leggings, but her top and leather jacket transform into a leather tote bag - neat, that. As Raspberry Beret drives off - I guess she stopped for lunch - Jessica follows on foot.
She arrives at a large three-story place outside of town, grumbling to herself all the while that her new dress is nice, and therefore will get destroyed in the course of this case. Man, anytime Jessica is left alone with her thoughts, she’s grumbling. What a fun protagonist she is.
While peering through the windows, she’s surprised by one of the house’s occupants, who’s naturally suspicious of a peeper. This woman is Olivia, and she’s accompanied by her daughter Kalie, i.e., the Porcupine’s missing family. You would think that Jessica would use her leet spy-and-PI skills to get out of this, but no: Olivia says “Oh my God… you’re Erin, aren’t you? Erin Dyker?” And Jessica says “That’s… me”. And with that she gets herself invited in for coffee.
Meanwhile, Roger and Ben have retrieved the Porcupine suit and arrived in Moon’s Hollow. As they fill up with gas, none having been available at the fake station where the suit was stashed, they gradually become aware that the passersby - all women - are staring at them. And then, there’s a mysterious CHANK CHANK, and something frightening looms above them, just outside of the reader’s view.
Elsewhere, Jessica is taking a lazy walking tour of Moon’s Hollow with Olivia. Thanks to the latter’s oblivious conversation, Jessica has learned that the whole town is filled with the former wives, girlfriends, and companions of male supervillains, and their children too. They live in some sort of cooperative arrangement, bartering services to each other, which means everyone is living a peaceful and fulfilling life. Unsure what to make of all this, ‘Erin’ accepts an invitation to drop in on Cat, the mastermind of the whole scheme. Jessica, in company with Erin and some other women - the exes of Stiletto, Senor Suerte, and some other supercrooks - comes to a sweet mansion. Letting themselves in, they see, to their surprise, a ruined foyer, with broken floors and upstairs railings. In a corner sits a massive wrecking ball. Its chain has been strung up to the rafters, and from it dangle a beaten and bloody Roger, now back in his Porcupine suit but without his mask, and Ben.
As Jessica gapes and Olivia screams, Ben mutters “be...hind...you”. Jessica turns to see a woman strapped into a battlesuit fashioned out of heavy construction vehicles. Think Ripley in the exosuit from Aliens and you’ll be pretty close.
The ‘next issue’ caption box takes up a whole page, and shows Jessica being smashed through a window, with the text “Next issue: LADY EARTHMOVER ATTACKS!”
‘Lady Earthmover’ is a gag, right? I mean, ‘Earthmover’ would be just fine. The gender tag is superfluous.
This issue is pretty slight. The opening page is unnecessary, as is the bit in the subway car with the knockout gas. We could have opened with her waking up in the interrogation room, thinking “what happened? The last thing I remember, I was in a subway car…” The story moves along far enough, I suppose - we know now that the missing women haven’t been kidnapped, but instead are happily separated from their loser exes, much as Jessica first surmised. And we know they all live together in the same town upstate. Plus, we’ve got the mastermind exposed, Ben and Roger imprisoned and in peril, and Jessica about to throw down.
So the problem isn’t the plot failing to advance. The problem is, as always, Jessica and her attitude. Escaping from the Porcupine suit right under Raspberry Beret’s nose, that was ingenious, and delightful to read, thanks to Rodriguez’ art. And hiding in the trunk was good P.I. work. But she stumbles onto everything in Moon’s Hollow by accident, and she is sour and impatient the whole time. These stumbles vitiate her awesomeness by quite a bit.
I look forward, next issue, to learning more about this whole scheme the women have executed. Getting away from the dangerous men in their lives, I can understand. But manipulating them into committing crimes by pretending to be in peril? It’s not only a despicable thing to do, it’s a risky one as well, because it invites all sorts of people, like Jessica, to stick their noses in. Perhaps they didn’t think that far ahead? I doubt it. But we’ll find out shortly, I suppose.
The story advances, but Jessica only gets to be awesome for a brief moment, before her bad attitude, snarkiness, and fumbling ruin it. Let’s average it all out to three webs, with Javier Rodriguez’ amazing art doing most of the heavy lifting to earn the rating.
None of the supervillains on the cover appear in the issue, earning it the Miller Award for Honesty in Comics Covers of Mostly Inaccurate. The only thing keeping it from getting Totally Inaccurate is the fact that Spider-Woman appears most prominently on the cover and yes, she is featured throughout this issue.