Writer: Brian Micheal Bendis
Art: Alex Maleev
Now, this is what I expect from Bendis and Maleev. This is what I wanted more of ever since they left Daredevil. This is what I hope Spider-Woman would be. With all the anticipation I felt for this issue, I was sure that nothing could live up to my expectations. I was all ready to find some other issue to write about. But it was all over as soon as I opened the first page. This is a great, great first issue!
We first see Scarlet as she is choking the life out of someone in an alley. It’s a gorgeous first page and Maleev has not looked this good since Daredevil. (More on him later.) After killing this man, we get to learn about her history. Bendis is trying to do something different and instead of thought balloons, Scarlet looks right at the camera and speaks to us. Then there is a great montage where we see her grow up and face life’s trials. It’s done in three pages with a nine panel set-up and it is both funny and sad at the same time. (I couldn’t help but hear the “Montage” song from South Park in my head while looking at these pages.) By the end of the issue, we know what led to her becoming a vigilante, but that’s about it. She seems like a deep character that Bendis will take his time peeling back her layers.
Now on to Maleev. When I was reading him on Daredevil, I used to think that he could draw a blank wall every issue and I would enjoy it. There wasn’t any issue that was a disappointment to me. But his work on Spider-Woman felt stiff. It felt rushed and that he and Bendis were relying too much on the splash page. They’ve said that Maleev was burned out from having to do a web comic at the same time, so I can’t blame him from being exhausted. I’ve moved on from that title though. In Scarlet, Maleev feels fluid. It looks like he’s having fun again. And that means a better issue, story, and series. Maybe it’s because Scarlet looks at the camera a lot during the story, but it seems like he’s doing more with facial expressions now. I had a sense of what Scarlet was thinking in the panels that didn’t have any dialog. As with most of his work, red is the color that stands out. I’m not complaining, but all of his work that I’ve loved has had the main character with some red in their look. It always works well, my eye is drawn to that point in the panel and the action explodes from that point.
When I first heard about this project, I avoided everything on the internet about it. I didn’t want to know anything about the story, character, or design. I wanted to go into this issue expecting nothing. So I had no idea that Scarlet was going to talk to the camera. I didn’t actually catch it until the second page when I looked at the word balloon, caught on, and then flipped the page back to see if she started talking like this. My immediate thought was that she is crazy and is talking to herself. But then I saw what he is trying to do. This is nothing new, but it is different from every other comic that I read. And I think it worked because it didn’t bug me. It didn’t take me out of the story. It wasn’t annoying like his experiment with thought balloons in Might Avengers was. It felt right for the story that they are trying to tell. Then again, I’m not sure where their story is heading, so we’ll see how the use it in later issues.
I’ve been in this weird Bendis slump for the past couple months. I’ve felt like he hasn’t been writing up to his potential. This issue brings him back up to the level that he established all those years ago. I’m hoping it stays that way and extends into other things he’s writing. The character Scarlet is interesting, difficult, and strong. Everything that I expect from a Bendis creation. The book Scarlet is dark, funny, and full of great potential. Everything that I expect from a Bendis/Maleev project.
Bring on the next issue.