The Small Lebowski:
Issue(s): Spider-Woman #44
Satisfied for the moment that Sabrina is not corrupt, she settles into routine detective work, depicted in the print equivalent of a montage scene...
...and learns her current whereabouts. On her way there - on a motorcycle borrowed by her boyfriend David - she's visited by a vision of Morgana Le Fey, who taunts her and remind her that she rejected Morgana's offer to join her in the fight against the elder demon Ch'thon.
When Spider-Woman tracks down Viper...
...she learns that Viper has been possessed by Ch'thon for over 50 years.
Spider-Woman helps her break free of the possession and prevents the demon from manifesting on Earth. And in the process, she learns that Viper is her mother, Merriam Drew.
It's not clear how this revelation fits with Brian Bendis' Spider-Woman Origin mini-series that depicts Jessica's mother, shows her pregnant prior to Jessica's birth, and shows her later murdered by Whiplash. It's also worth noting that in Marvel Two-In-One #33, Modred the Mystic showed Jessica an origin story in which her mother died from hysteria. Marvel's official word on the subject is that Viper was mislead by Ch'thon into thinking she was Spider-Woman's mother. But even in later Bendis written Spider-Woman stories, Jessica refers to Viper as her mother. So it's all a little confusing.
On the other hand, the revelation that Viper was possessed by Ch'thon helps explain the shift in her personality. In her earliest appearances, she was extremely radical and unnecessarily violent. In her later (Claremont-written) appearances, she is much more sophisticated and calm. We can chalk that up to Viper's personality gaining more control over Ch'thon.
Claremont's scripting is good, but i think tying Viper to Ch'thon and to Spider-Woman is just a little too random and doesn't really add much to either character.
Leialoha's art continues to be a good fit for this book.
Quality Rating: B
Historical Significance Rating: 3 - revelations about Viper that later turn out to be... less than true?
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showCh'thon, David Ishima, Lindsay McCabe, Madame Hydra (Viper), Morgan Le Fey, Sabrina Morrel, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Chthon doesn't get mentioned at all when Viper appears in some New Mutants early issues.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 17, 2011 7:48 PM
That's because the events of this issue were retconned away as a trick by Morgan Le Fay in Captain America 281, which was published before those New Mutant issues.
Posted by: Michael | September 17, 2011 8:40 PM
The revelation about the Viper is just bizarre. It seems to be an attempt to tie Spider-Woman's Wundagore origin more strongly with Hydra, but there is no reason to do that. Her powers are already explained. And making Viper Spider-Woman's mother has to magically age Viper 20 years or more from what we assumed before. Instead of a young political radical, she's now someone approaching middle age. This isn't needed.
Claremont had an obsession with making characters back stories increasingly, and unnecessarily, complicated. This is one example of it.
He also kept reusing characters he'd written before in all of his stories. So we have all these Viper appearances over the years. It is obvious he must really like this character, but almost none of the stories he writes with her are any good. The Steranko issues are the most powerful depiction. She works best as an evil Modesty Blaise type. Saying, "Oh, she was demon possessed" is just nonsense. No wonder it gets overturned just a year later.
The Claremont era of Spider-Woman doesn't work for me. The overall quality has improved compared to the past two years worth of stories, and he is revisiting some of the stronger elements of the character (like Hydra). Yet ultimately there is no magic here. Claremont is pulling in too many elements of his other titles instead of building up a separate Spider-Woman mythos. The character still seems generic. Despite Claremont's strengths as a writer, all his books seem to be the same. Other writers are better at developing a different voice or style for the different books they write. None of Roger Stern's books (compare his run on Cap, Avengers, Doctor Strange, or Spider-Man) seem the same. Too often, Claremont's books do. This is why I think he never duplicated his success with X-Men with any of the other titles he wrote.
While Claremont noticebly improved the book, I don't think he's accomplished what was needed to save the title. Certainly not in creating enough interest to pass it on to the new writer who only has to maintain it. It's not a surprise this title would last only another six issues.
Posted by: Chris | July 24, 2016 3:55 PM
Viper says that she's been Chthon's slave for over 50 years- I think the idea is that Meriem was possessed by Chthon in the early '30s and never aged from that point forward. The idea that Viper arranged for Jessica's entry into Hydra doesn't work since she was supposedly on the outs with Hydra when Jessica was recruited.
Posted by: Michael | July 24, 2016 4:18 PM
Yeah, the idea is that Chthon endowed the Viper with supernatural longevity, which she may or may not still have. I always liked the idea that she was Jessica's mother, as it tied in with Jessica's connection to Hydra. Bendis later revisited this idea in his SPIDER-WOMAN series with Alex Maleev, showing that Ophelia/Viper sometimes still thinks of Jessica as her daughter due to the fact that she's a bit loopy.
I never read the Viper's first appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA. That was a bit before my time. I think the first story I read with her was in MARVEL TEAM-UP #81-85, and I always liked her and the Silver Samurai paired up.
I think the only Viper story I didn't like too much was that issue in SECRET WARRIORS when she was killed and resurrected with that squid on her head. Thank goodness that was fixed not long after that book folded.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | July 25, 2016 9:38 AM
And making Viper Spider-Woman's mother has to magically age Viper 20 years or more from what we assumed before. Instead of a young political radical, she's now someone approaching middle age. This isn't needed.
My guess is that Claremont wanted to tie Viper's origin -- her parents were killed in a revolution in Europe -- specifically to a particular historical revolution, possibly the Russian Revolution of 1917. Her origin story in Steranko's Captain America has sometimes been suggested as an allusion to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 26, 2016 12:07 AM
@Omar: If Viper didn't arrive in Transia/ Wundagore until the early 1930s, I agree the Hungarian Revolution doesn't gel with Claremont's inferred timeline here, so she more likely had fled the October Revolution. That part of her origin revealed her parents had been killed so was Claremont planning to reveal her to be Anastasia Romanov?
Also, if she didn't arrive in Transia/ Wundagore until the early 1930s and had earlier fled the Russian Revolution (1917), where had she been in the intervening decade and a half? Giving birth to Natasha?
It raises the further question whether she hooked up with Seraph and Logan prior to the 1941 period shown in Uncanny X-Men #268 and if so, was it before or after Wolverine's 1936 mission seen in X-Men: True Friends?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | July 27, 2016 5:54 AM
Andrew Burke, I thought that was a different character (as part of if the whole...confusing "Madame Hydra vs Viper" deal)?
Posted by: Jon Dubya | January 4, 2017 11:47 PM
I'd have to back to read the series again, but I think it was the real her. She just ended up being resurrected, and when she appeared again after this series she was back to normal with no mention of how it happened.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | January 5, 2017 9:08 AM
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