Monday, 25 May 2015

Sussing Spider-Woman #7

Or a look at the genius of an inset panel in Spider-Woman #7
by Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Munsta Vicente, and Travis Lanham; Marvel Comics

Spider-Woman continues to be a fun, mystery driven detective comic with superhero elements. It's quickly become a staple of the lighter side of my comics reading habit. Part of this is due to the stories which blend a nicely constructed caper, a geek-eye for trivia, and the charm, humour, and scruffiness of the best down-on-her-luck detective characters. A lot of the credit, though, is the artwork in Spider-Woman which blends an effortless, clean style with some really clever layouts to make for a really great looking and effective comic. If you like good comics, Spider-Woman is something you should be reading.

There is one spread in Spider-Woman #7 that I think does a great job demonstrating what makes Spider-Woman such an infectious read.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Spider-Woman #7.

This double page spread does a great job encapsulating everything I'm enjoying about Spider-Woman. The story of the issue is that Jessica Drew, disguised as blackmailed criminal, the Porcupine, allows herself to be taken captive to track down the blackmailer. These pages depict how Jessica escapes her captor and stows away in her abductors car to get closer to the heart of the mystery. From a pure storytelling perspective this spread does a great job showing how Jessica Drew moves through her environment and transitions from the very different positions of being chained up to smuggling herself in a car. This transition could be a huge mess, or an unsatisfying muggufin, but because of the quality of the draftsmenship here, it is instead an intellectually satisfying and fun bit of story. I also really love how much character gets built into these events: we see Jessica go from looking kind of timid in the cell, to almost casually strolling across the roof (with a stretch even), taking a clever moment to survey where she is, before skillfully slipping in the car's trunk. While this complicated escape is happening, we get to see that special mix of in-over-her-head, bravado, and skill that makes Jessica such a compelling protagonist. This spread here is basically why you should be reading this comic. 

This spread is also interesting from a more wonky comics storytelling perspective, I think. The actual doublepage spread has an inset panel that overlays the eyecatching narration and gas station sign text in the top right corner. This is a really clever decision because it primes the sequence and makes sure the reader focuses on Jessica Drew slipping out of her disguise as the beginning of the sequence. It tells us, this happens before everything else, probably before the captor is in the window, and that all of the other Jessicas on the pages come after and happen in the sequence of the intuitive path from this starting position. It is a *really* smart choice. To try and illustrate just why I am hung up on how great this inset panel is, I crudely photoshopped it out of the page and included it above. Notice how much messier the page looks, and how much harder it is to find the start point. Without the extra panel, I find myself drawn first to Jessica popping out of the roof hatch and then having to swirl around and back track to the start, which is a much less effective way of experiencing the page. This sequence might seem effortless to read, but it's only that way because of really smart, really effective comics choices.

Which is yet another reason you ought to be reading Spider-Woman.

Spider-Woman #6: Guided chaos and multiple reading paths
Spider-Woman #5: Character Design and composition

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