Characters Appearing: Antro, Arachne (Deathweb), Consuela, Elizabeth Cornwall, Manipulator III, Mike Clemson, Rachel Carpenter, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Therak, USAgent, Valerie Cooper, Walter Cornwall, War Machine
Issue(s): Spider-Woman #1, Spider-Woman #2, Spider-Woman #3, Spider-Woman #4
There isn't much of a story here. The main purpose of this miniseries is to make some nitpicky revisions to her origin:
1. Originally it was said that Spider-Woman was injected with a spider extract by accident while the government was trying to giver her super powers. It now turns out that she was injected by spider extract on purpose.
The plot of these issues is about the Manipulator and Deathweb going after Spider-Woman's parents (after killing the original project's scientist, Dr. Napier) so that they can get more spider extract and stabilize/improve Deathweb's powers.
Deathweb were originally created to go up against the entire West Coast Avengers team plus Spider-Man, so Spider-Woman by herself seems a bit out of their league. One member, Therak, is ionically powered and was able to more than hold his own against Wonder Man. I took a liking to Therak in his previous appearance due to his ionic powers. Spider-Woman handling him plus his two partners all by herself downgrades the characters significantly. Which may be why Deathweb as a group will never appear again, which is disappointing because they had potential. (Therak, thanks to the ionic connection, will get one more appearance.)
And since i'm harping on Therak being ionically powered, it doesn't really make sense that his origin is the same as Spider-Woman's. Another member of Deathweb, Antro, has basic teleporting capabilities. It's said that it's based on the capabilities of a trapdoor spider. That makes sense as a sort of retroactive justification for fitting yourself into a spider-themed group, but it doesn't make any sense if your origin is literally based on an extract of spider juice (Fun Science Fact: trapdoor spiders do not teleport). I've always been a proponent of the "x-factor" theory of super-powers (which says that a certain percentage of humans have the potential to become super-powered and the way their powers are triggered just determines the specifics), anyway, so it's not a big deal. But there was also no pressing reason to tie together Deathweb's origin with Spider-Woman's.
Anyway, beyond that the story is pretty standard. It's of course full of the usual Roy Thomas tics. As an example, in the previous telling of Spider-Woman's origin, Thomas thought it would be clever if the car that Spider-Woman lifts to prove that she has super-strength was a Daytona Spider. In this telling, he goes further with that, having Val Cooper asking Spider-Woman, "did you appreciate my little visual pun?". Like, yesssss, Roy, we get it.
I guess to my complaint that Deathweb should be too powerful for Spider-Woman alone, she does get beaten by them in her initial fight with the full team.
That's probably just standard "lose, then win" formula stuff, of course. But she has to be rescued by Mike Clemson.
We learn why Clemson has had a personal grudge against Spider-Woman and... it's really convoluted.
Meanwhile, the Manipulator uses the spider extract to increase Deathweb's powers.
But the Manipulator first used Spider-Woman as a guinea pig, so she also gets a boost.
It turns out that the Manipulator got his notes from Dr. Napier, who deliberately recorded false data to stop the Manipulator from getting what he really wanted. So Deathweb wind up passing out. The key apparently was taking a rest before trying to use your powers, and Spider-Woman did have time to rest, so she's ok. Manipulator is killed by Therak before he passes out.
The final panel is very weird. Manipulator had Spider-Woman's daughter, Rachel, as a hostage. After Therak kills the Manipulator, there's a panel of Spider-Woman freeing Rachel, and then two panels of Spider-Woman talking to Rachel, and then Spider-Woman yelling at two oddly specific-looking security guards (?) who had never appeared in the story before.
I don't know if Spider-Woman's power boost "sticks", but there are also a few other developments regarding her powers. The story starts off with Spider-Woman, fighting some generic crooks with USAgent. She tries out a new little power trick
She uses another power stunt against Therak.
John Czop's art starts off pretty decent, kind of like David Ross on a good day, which helps with consistency between this book and Avengers West Coast. On the later two issues, Steve Ellis is the artist. I didn't realize that the artist had changed and just thought that Czop got into deadline trouble and got sloppy. But considering (as Ben notes in the comments) that this is very early stuff for Ellis, the "sloppiness" is understandable.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The death of Mockingbird is mentioned, but Spider-Woman is still a member of the West Coast Avengers, so there's a relatively narrow range where this series can occur, in between Avengers West Coast #100 and the break-up/rebranding of the team in Avengers West Coast #102 (a footnote in #3 confirms that it takes place before #102). It can fit anywhere in that range, though. War Machine is said to be on duty at the Whacko compound when she borrows a Quinjet, so he's listed as a Character Appearing. Spider-Woman gets the details of her revised origin from Val Cooper (who is nearly unrecognizable thanks to miscolored hair and bad writing, but she's identified).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I think the whole point of Spider-Woman yelling at the guards is that they had not appeared before. "What kept you?" as in "Where have you been during the whole thing?" though I guess the idea was for them to be cops arriving to the place, not guards who would be supposed to have been there all along, but were miscolored.
Posted by: DAMartin | March 7, 2017 5:44 PM
I picked up a back issue of this a year ago just out of curiosity. Roy Thomas's writing of course didnt inspire me to pick up more.
The only comment I'll note is that Julia Carpenter is fairly unique in the world of super hero parents in that they are both still alive. Not many heroes can claim that.
Posted by: kveto | March 7, 2017 5:46 PM
Issues #3 and #4 are actually penciled by Steve Ellis. It's some of his earliest published work.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 8, 2017 10:03 PM
Oops, thanks Ben.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 9, 2017 7:23 AM
fnord, the inking by Fred Fredericks is pretty heavy, so it's sorta easy to miss the switch-over from John Czop to Steve Ellis on pencils.
Agreed with DAMartin that those two "security guards" must be late-arriving police officers who were miscolored.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 9, 2017 10:39 AM
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