Review by Karl Verhoven
At the conclusion to New Duds Spider-Woman was whisked off back to the Avengers to take part in Secret Wars. That doesn’t matter. Follow her there or not, it has little relevance to Baby Talk. As it opens, Jessica Drew is pretty well full term pregnant, and is now the person who least contributes to the actual crime fighting of the cabal she has with former reporter Ben Urich and former costumed villain Porcupine. It’s not a situation she’s adjusting to well.
Pregnancy and having an infant child are uncommon topics for a superhero graphic novel, and certainly indicate that Spider-Woman passed being largely aimed at young male readers some while back. The ideas previously received an airing in Catwoman, where the father’s identity was also an issue, but it’s hardly something that’s been over-explored in superhero comics. Of course, it’s not getting an entirely serious airing when the primary theme is punching villains in the face, and for Baby Talk at least the pregnancy is a narrative twist. The order of the day is how can Spider-Woman punch villains in the face without endangering the baby? Except for the final chapter, where anyone who’s not experienced a baby in the house is provided with a full list of the trials and fears of new parents, presumably incorporating a large portion of autobiographical experience. “I routinely wake up in a panic, digging through my sheets for a baby who’s actually asleep in a crib across the room”. Don’t worry Mr. Hopeless, it’ll all turn out okay in the end.
As most of the story takes place in an alien hospital, Javier Rodriguez is able to let his imagination run riot with the opportunities, and in addition to well known Marvel alien species, he creates a fantastic selection of others. To his credit, these are far more than basic humanoid constructions with blue skin or some slight alteration to the bridge of their nose. Size is a factor, and there’s one full page illustration of an oddity to give Basil Wolverton nightmares.
While nowhere near a conventional superhero story, there’s so much that’s so good about Baby Talk beyond the contribution of Rodriguez. There’s the ongoing friendship between Jessica Drew and Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, the way Hopeless continually stokes up the tension, and the laugh out loud aspect of some twists. Baby Talk is written like a smart sit-com, and all the better for it.
For the next volume you can either head to Spider-Women, in which Jessica teams with Silk and Spider-Gwen, or Civil War II.