First Published: December 2005
Contents: Marvel Spotlight #32 (February 1977); Marvel Two-In-One #29 (July 1977) to #33 (November 1977); Spider-Woman #1 (April 1978) to #25 (April 1980)
Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, Mark Gruenwald, Archie Goodwin, Sal Buscema, Carmine Infantino, Jim Mooney, Ron Wilson, and others
Key First Appearances: Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman, Jonathan Drew, Merriam Drew, Jerry Hunt, Magnus, Brothers Grimm, Madame Doll, Needle, Gypsy Moth, Lindsay McCabe, Scotty McDowell
Story Continues In: Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 2
Overview: Living with her parents near Wundagore Mountain, young Jessica Drew becomes deathly ill from uranium poisoning. Jessica’s father injects her with an experimental serum based on irradiated spiders’ blood to save her life, but it puts her into suspended animation while her body heals. When she comes out of it as a young adult, she finds that she has powers similar to that of a spider – climbing walls, gliding on wind currents, and a venom blast. Recruited by Hydra, Jessica Drew takes on the name of Spider-Woman and is assigned a task to kill Nick Fury. So begins the adventures of Marvel’s newest superhero!
Jessica eventually flips sides, and works for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a double agent, spying on Hydra. She gets involved in a convoluted adventure with the Thing in Marvel Two-In-One, which lead into Jessica getting her own title and returning back to the United States.
Early on in the series, Spider-Woman battles an assortment of macabre characters, such as Magnus, Morgana le Fay, and the Brothers Grimm. She develops a friendship with actress Lindsey McCabe, who would become a long-time companion even after this title ended. She also opens an investigation agency with Scotty McDowell, who does the office work from his wheelchair while Jessica does the leg work on the streets.
What makes this Essential?: My personal opinion is that this collection (and character) is a train wreck. “Spider-Woman” was created solely to protect Marvel from having an another comic book publisher creating a character with that name, by trying to sponge off of the Spider-Man property. (To protect other possible trademark infringement, other debuts in this era also include She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel.) Originally, Spider-Woman was to be a spider that had been evolved into a human – thankfully that origin went away. Despite the namesake, writers Marv Wolfman and Mark Gruenwald avoided using Spider-Man in a cameo appearance, although he finally did show up in issue #20 towards the end of Gruenwald’s run. Even though she wore a costume, this title felt more like a horror or monster book, along with the lines of Werewolf By Night or Tomb of Dracula. Despite all of these handicaps, the Spider-Woman character has survived and flourished over the years, most notably under the direction of Brian Michael Bendis in the pages of New Avengers. If you are a big fan of Jessica Drew, consider getting this just to understand how far the character has come since she first debuted.
Footnotes: Marvel Two-In-One #29 to #32 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2.
Marvel Two-In-One #33 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2.
The full review can be found at Essential Showcase.
To find the original issues, or reprints, of Spider-Woman, check with your local comic book store. In the Midwest, I strongly recommend Clint’s Comics in midtown Kansas City. Clint’s has been in business for nearly 50 years at the intersection of Main St. and Westport Rd. The back-issue selection is incredible, and what you see in the store is just a small fraction of their total inventory. In addition to the back issues, Clint’s stocks current issues, trade paperbacks, toys, T-shirts, and more. Check out Clint’s Comics to build your own essential collection!