This one is a bit hard for me to review. I have a little angel on either shoulder— one wears Lennon-style tinted glasses and a beret with his elbow-patched jacket; the other is a bit overweight with an ill-fitted T-shirt sporting a superhero logo. My Serious Critic and Fanboy sides keep whispering different things to my ears.
The Fanboy side just can’t believe what’s happening. I mean, the Porcupine, of all people? Really? But I’m not complaining to be dismissive! The original Porcupine had an amazing, affective story that ended in tragedy in a Captain Amercia story over 30 years ago. For some reason, though, they got to keep bringing “him” back? That final tragic story redeemed the “joke” that the Porcupine was, so to keep bringing him back *because* he’s a joke just cheapens it. Why not use Frog Man, for gosh sakes? At least that guy’s still in the Spider-Man’s wheelhouse, and is the joke we all love to love.
And, please. My Fanboy angel snorts. Even with Spider-Woman’s “expert” advice, how the heck does the Porcupine take down a whole team of supervillains single-handedly? There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s freeing disbelief from the hands of gravity and flinging it into outer space. A team that includes the Griffin, who is supposed to be able to go toe-to-toe with Wonder Man or the Thing? Yeah, good thing your are tying up the Griffin in that neon green tape you got from… somewhere, Mr. New Porcupine. That’ll hold him.
The Fanboy is also ranting something about the unnecessary changes to a classic costume, but that’s probably an argument for another time and is best left ignored.
Mr. Serious Critic speaks in a relatively calm tone, with hints of an East Coast accent. He notes that the comic is less about the typical superhero tropes of the genre, and more slice-of-life reality, in the tradition of Kurt Busiek’s Marvels or Astro City. It’s almost like a realization of the original pitch for Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias series, a.k.a. Jessica Jones, whose original pitch was to feature Jessica Drew, but without the deliberate atmosphere or an artistic style to match.
Instead of a tone of heavy-handed existential dilemma that was for Alias, though, the creators for this Spider-Woman series are aiming for humor and whimsy. In a market that also includes Howard the Duck and Squirrel Girl, among others, it’s either part of some subcultural zeitgeist or a tide mark that brings us one more step to oversaturation. Who knew that an intergalactic hospital filled with crazy character designs for a multitude of aliens could feel so… tired.
It’s obvious that Spider-Woman’s world is what we are meant to keep in focus, but unfortunately it’s at the expense of devaluing other moments of the book. I love the villain Ruby Thursday, but she isn’t even mentioned by name. Likewise the Griffin, of whom the Fanboy already had his say. If villains are so disposable, why have them at all? Also, I have no idea what motivates this new Porcupine, since his function here is merely in relation to Spider-Woman. Even moreso with Ben Urich. It must be nice to have so many supporting characters, but the only one that interacts with meaningful ways is Captain Marvel.
(My Fanboy angel just exploded to interrupt— shouldn’t there be some more nuance to Captain Marvel’s reaction to a pregnancy, seeing as how when it happened to her, it didn’t exactly fare very well?)
Ultimately, while the character of Spider-Woman is very well drawn, both artistically and narratively, I’m at a loss to explain the particular purpose of this new change of status quo. It’s all fine and good, sure, to have a slice-of-life superhero-gets-pregnant story, but it comes across as merely a gimmick, and one that forces certain demands on our hero. Sure, a nice story can come from dealing with such demands, but I’m certainly not the audience for it.
Actually, it’s a pretty solid showing for Spider-Woman, if you are looking for a whimsical kind of Everyday Superhero story. Even the hardships of pregnancy are met with relative aplomb and good-nature. Could the fault be that it’s own innocuousness is getting in the way? Or is it simply that I don’t care if Spider-Woman is pregnant and really couldn’t care less to see that story explored? Yeah, probably that.