Witnessing a strong, powerful and clearly still capable woman reluctantly walk away from her job to deal with days on days of boredom and tiredness becomes, oddly, empowering. That is exactly what Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez achieve with Spider-Woman #1 which follows Jessica Drew as she is visibly very pregnant and on the verge of her month long maternity leave. During a time when the overly sexualized images of women in comic books and their cinematic counterparts are ever-present, Spider-Woman #1 is pleasantly refreshing.
The initial radical act happens in the first sentence of the story. Jessica declares, “I never wanted children. Not even a little.” In the span of a page, she is shown caressing her pregnant belly. She is not judged nor does she offer an explanation. All that is said is, “Things change.” There is no long debate about her decision. There is no applause or condemnation but just the truth of her decision. Talk about subversive.
Admittedly, knocking up a female superhero and making her take a reluctant maternity leave doesn’t exactly seem pro-woman. Yet Jessica’s characterization in the novel isn’t the typical portrayal of pregnant women we are used to seeing. She isn’t crabby, moody, frustrated and complaining all the time. She jokes with her fellow porcupine themed superhero and is very content with her life. Her pregnancy doesn’t make her weak or infirm. She is clearly capable of handling the job even at eight months pregnant and is only supposedly leaving because she could go into labor anytime. In fact, she is even acting as an authority figure as she trains Porcupine to take over.
Jessica also deals with plenty of inappropriate and sexist questions and she takes them on without coming off cold. One such inappropriate question gets Tony Stark some food thrown in his face. Why? Because he asks Jessica if she knew who the father was. So not only does Jessica shut down this inappropriate question but she lets Tony know that the father is not necessary to her motherhood. Carol Danvers wing-womans Jessica as she handles more inappropriate comments from men (“You’re friggin’ huge”, etc.).
Jessica isn’t hidden away in the shadows either. Instead, she is front and center on the cover, her belly prominently emphasized and her fist defiantly in the air. Her decisions to have a child, to continue working throughout the majority of her pregnancy, and to go on maternity leave are only reaffirmed throughout. But let’s just say she might not get all the rest she needs. In fact, Spider-Woman #2 may see some very pregnant butt kicking. After all, crime never takes a holiday.