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 super-hero!
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 a 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 a 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 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.
If you like this volume, try: reading the Alias series from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. Jessica Jones is a super-hero turned private investigator. She went to high school with Peter Parker. As the super-hero Jewel, she was once an Avenger. Now, life is just scraping by from one assignment to the next. Her circle of friends includes Luke Cage, Carol Danvers, and Jessica Drew. This series was part of the Marvel MAX line, which was designed to tell R-rated stories set within the Marvel Universe. The series ran for 28 issues, and was replaced by the short-lived title The Pulse, which really was Alias without the MAX heading. Alias has been collected in multiple formats, including an Omnibus. Jessica Jones is one of the featured characters in the Marvel/Netflix deal, so catch up on Alias now.