Review by Karl Verhoven
Over four previous Spider-Woman graphic novels written by Dennis Hopeless the tone has been light comedy. Yes, there’s been superheroics, mystery and danger, but the tone’s consistently illuminated that it might be hard work, but the life of Spider-Woman and her pals has been fun. Scare Tactics transforms that mood. Old Spider-Man enemy the Hobgoblin hasn’t gone legit, but he certainly keeps a lower profile, and much of his income is now derived from supplying hi-tech costumes to super-villains in return for a percentage of their business. That now comes home to roost as Hopeless flushes into the open what’s been hinted at over the previous graphic novels, and for anyone who’s come to love the cast there’s some pretty harrowing content over the first few chapters. Just in case it occurs, no Hopeless doesn’t take the easy route of placing baby Gerry in danger, although still has little idea of what to do with him.
New artist Veronica Fish has the occasional glitch with depth perspective, but otherwise passes the test with flying colours. Her style is looser and sketchier than we’re used to on this run of Spider-Woman, but equally effective, and not lacking for detail or dynamism when it comes to action. Several of the locations used, like an old car scrapyard, need the detail to make them work, and Fish supplies it. That’s the venue for a great “to hell with it” piece of storytelling after Hopeless has backed himself into a corner.
By the end of Scare Tactics not everything is the way it was. Some things, in fact, have changed considerably. The closing story displays how much. It’s broad farce, so contrasting the previous four chapters, but not very credible farce. A problem with the previous Civil War II and most of this collection is that Hopeless produced a convincing depiction of pregnancy and childbirth in Baby Talk, but then seemed to have little idea of how to incorporate the baby into the stories other than as a hindrance to Jessica Drew’s superhero activities. The final chapter reveals there has been a plan. It’s supposed to be adorable, and many will probably see it that way and it does bring a sentimental closure to Hopeless’ run on Spider-Woman, which is what we’d all want. It’s still a rare blip in what started unconvincingly, but has otherwise been a very enjoyable run. “Everything I need is right here” says Jessica in the final panel, and who would begrudge her that?