Sometimes you want to read an action-packed comic book that features all of your favorite villains against your favorite superhero. Other times, you’re looking for a deeply emotional issue that delves into who a superhero is underneath the costume. And when you don’t want either of those two things, you look for some mindless fluff, a comic that provides a touch of action, little plot, and next to no growth for your chosen hero. For that kind of book, look no further than Spider-Woman #12.
A day at the beach with Porcupine and their kids sounds like a simple premise, and I began the issue thinking writer Dennis Hopeless would elevate this foundation as superbly as he usually does. I was expecting something to show up out of nowhere and blow up in Jess’ face, challenging her to balance her life as a mom and as a super superheroine. Turns out this story is really just a day at the beach with a minor hiccup, nothing else. It checks off all of the characteristic boxes we’ve come to expect for Jessica and Roger, but without the depth we’ve become accustomed to in a typical Spider-Woman tale. I love Spider-Woman for its fun qualities, but this issue is a bit too mechanical for me.
On a brighter note, for just a brief moment within these pages the dissolution of Spider-Woman’s friendship with Captain Marvel is touched on enough for me to know that “Civil War II” will have long-lasting ramifications. Within the pages of Spider-Woman, “Civil War II” wasn’t the best even crossover ever, but if Marvel is going to commit to a big event I want to see it have an impact once the final issue is released. Despite the fact that I’m not following many Marvel books now, it’s nice to see that Hopeless brings the friction from #11 forward. It highlights his thoughtfulness as an author while also strengthening Jess as a well-rounded superhero. She isn’t just beating bad guys while raising a baby, she has a complicated life that an average person could relate to as well.
By focusing on Jess’ long-term friendship with Carol and the humor that breakout star Porcupine brings to the table, Hopeless has crafted yet another light-hearted comic romp, though I lament the exclusion of Ben Urich. He provides a balance to the team and as his role has become more minimal it feels as though this team is lacking of a certain book smarts. Young Clark Kent has Chloe Sullivan, the Human Torch balances out Mr. Fantastic, and Spider-Woman needs her Ben Urich. Although I don’t know if he could have seamlessly fit into this particular issue, since he hasn’t had a central role for quite a while now, #12 feels even fluffier. We’ve already gotten many comedic moments from Porcupine and Jess recently, and this issue pushes it over the top.
Even though I want artist Javier Rodriguez to stay on every issue of Spider-Woman forever, Tigh Walker lends his hand to this issue. As I’ve come to expect the fluid, dynamic work of Rodriguez, Walker’s boxier approach takes a little getting used to. The fight scenes are bigger than the sleeker work of Rodriguez, but for a villain like the Sandman, it works. This grittier art fits in well among the busy beach, big battle, and grisly Roger beneath his Porcupine mask. While we often hear about women constantly being drawn in one consistently unachievable state, Walker tends to do this to the men instead. Roger has a classic manly physique, and all of the guys here look the same. It’s a bit disappointing, especially since Roger has always been a slighter member of the Spider-Woman team. Nevertheless, his art is intriguing and he brings his own unique spin to this issue.
Spider-Woman #12 isn’t the hit that I’ve come to expect from Dennis Hopeless. He’s brought humor, wit, and fun action to this series overall, but this issue is just a little too light to enjoy. Spider-Woman has established itself as a fun comic, a hilarious comic, and an occasionally ridiculous comic, but it has never been undemanding, so I craved more. Still, if you want to read something easy and breezy that you can forget about a week from now, pick this one up. It’s not bad, it’s just not the issue for me.
Spider-Woman #12 is a light follow-up to the emotional last issue. Although it has all of the fun aspects we've come to expect from Hopeless, it lacks the deeper qualities that make Spider-Woman such a balanced, strong book.