As they say, all good things must come to an end and that includes Karla Pacheco’s incredible run on Spider-Woman. Spider-Woman Vol. 4: Devil’s Reign wraps up Pacheco and Pere Pérez’s run collecting Spider-Woman #17-21. This trade paperback also ties into Devil’s Reign, Marvel’s latest event which has Carol Danvers fight herself. The perfect way to wrap up a superhero story, unless you count the diabolical Anti-Arach…Nine!
This collection opens with Jessica Drew learning she can’t use her powers and really needs to rest. With her arm in a cast, she’s in no way ready to fight Thanos, but what are a few assassins anyway? Much of the issue is devoted to Spider-Woman perusing a movie set, eating the catered food, and learning a thing or two about stunt people. You can tell Karla Pacheco has done some research around movie sets as it all feels above board and legit.
Being a superhero comic, the informative nature of the movie set life is soon thrown into disarray when ninjas show up. There’s a clear and present character set up at work here, though this adventure feels like a side quest to a larger story. You get that sense thanks to the Night Nurse hinting at Jessica maybe not spending enough time with her kid, but the story quickly runs off to a movie set. Given Devil’s Reign is about to kick into gear, one can surmise a side adventure was necessary.
That roughly amounts to Spider-Woman fighting her Skrull nemesis, Queen Varanke, who has kidnapped her child on orders from Kingpin. This is a Devil’s Reign tie-in, but really it’s easily read without following that event. Pacheco uses the event to give reason to some rather bad times for Spider-Woman and now Jessica Drew is racing against the clock to save her kid.
When the fight with Varanke kicks into gear, a chase takes place to get a hold of Spider-Woman’s child. Playing into the Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe is Spider-Woman not knowing if heroes who pop in are Skrull or not, which is solidly played for laughs. Meanwhile, readers will root for Spider-Woman to punch everybody that shows up be it Spider-Man or Iron Man if it means she can save her kiddo. There’s a page or two that doesn’t quite work – the crash could have used more especially compared to the packed pages around it, for instance – but it’s a solid action frenzy.
Something this series does so masterfully is capture the high-octane action through clever layout design. When the action ramps up, Pérez starts using angular panels that seem to zig and zag with the action. Panels within panels, like a cutaway from a speeding van to show what’s inside, add interesting visual design to what could be an average fight scene by another artist. There’s an incredibly cool page with a curving panel structure that plays off Varanke morphing into different people, leading to a satisfying punch by Spider-Woman to shut her up. There’s always something visually interesting to look at and this issue continues that trend.
Wrapping up the collection is Pacheco’s excellent finale, which brings a lot of familiar characters that popped up in this journey right back into the fight with Spider-Woman. If this issue is proof of anything it’s that Pacheco should be writing Deadpool. From the self-referential jokes, the editors notes that pile up and in some cases involve conversations with Pacheco and the editors, to clever onomatopoeias, Spider-Woman #21 delights more senses than most comics are capable of.
From the opening page, this issue is wall-to-wall action. Perez impresses with some new tricks like double-page layouts that keep the action moving with panels overlaid. In one case, the double-page splash features an entire city block, for instance. You’ll laugh out loud at least once (the T-Rex got me here), cringe as bones are broken, and feel thoroughly impressed by the entire affair. This is as action-packed as any comic you’ll read this week.
Spider-Woman never tried to be anything more than action-heavy fun with a heavy dose of heart and it’s clear the creative team has pulled that off here and cranked it to 11. For the action aficionados, if you were paying by the punch, Spider-Woman Vol. 7 is the best deal on shelves. It’s sad to see this series go, but it’s made itself heard loud and clear that comics can be fun, violent, and have a lot of heart.
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