Silk Stalkings.

6 02 2015

Silk-Spider-Gwen-850x560*Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this article has nothing to do with the wonderfully salacious 90s television series that starred Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes.*

Spider-Verse is rapidly approaching its conclusion and it will, undoubtedly, result in a final culling of the various Spiders that have banded together to battle the Inheritors. Once the dust settles and the dead are mourned, one thing is certain, the Marvel Universe will be +2 in regards to female-led titles. Notable newcomers to the Spider-Man mythos, Silk and Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy) are set to star in their own ongoing runs beginning this month.

For those readers not in the know, here is a brief origin breakdown of both characters:

Cindy Moon (a.k.a. Silk) was in high school when she happened to attend the same exhibition as Peter Parker when he was bitten by the radioactive spider that resulted in him gaining his powers. Coincidentally, after biting Peter’s hand, the same spider went on to bite Cindy’s ankle before dying. Once her powers manifested, Cindy was briefly trained by Ezekiel Sims before being locked away upon the discovery that the Inheritor, Morlun, was tracking her. Following the release of Uatu the Watcher’s secrets, Peter Parker discovered the existence of Cindy and, bearing false news of Morlun’s demise, released Cindy from the bunker.

Gwen Stacy (a.k.a. Spider-Woman, dubbed Spider-Gwen by fans and Marvel editorial) originates from Earth-65. In this reality, not only is Gwen a member of Mary Jane Watson’s band, she was also the one bitten by the radioactive spider and developed super powers. Following a failed experiment in order to become “special” like Gwen, Peter Parker mutated into a lizard-like monstrosity only to perish following a confrontation with Gwen. This would lead to Spider-Gwen being wanted by her father, the head of the NYPD, and local authorities.

With the recent loss of both She-Hulk and Elektra, perhaps these ladies can help fill the void left behind on the monthly pull list. But, what is a Strong Female Spider without a Spider Rogues Gallery. Thanks the the long history of Peter Parker and the various empowered folks that team up with him on a daily basis, Silk and Spider-Gwen may not have long to rest, after their current battle, before a Strong Female Villain comes calling.

Who deserves to be the recurring nemeses of Silk and Spider-Gwen? Here is a who’s-who dossier on some of the obvious and not-so-obvious dastardly vixens that would probably enjoy a row with one or both of our new Spider-heroines:

1703387-shriek_._amazing_spider_man_393_vFrances Louise Barrison/Sandra Deel (a.k.a. Shriek): Following years of abuse at the hands of her mother, drug use, a gunshot wound to the head, and obtaining powers of sound/emotion manipulation while trapped in Cloak’s dark dimension, it’s no wonder that Shriek’s sanity leaves a lot to be desired. Introduced during the Maximum Carnage event, Frances escaped Ravencroft mental institution with Carnage and, together with their “adopted children” (Carrion, Demogoblin, and Doppelgänger), took part in a homicidal murder spree throughout New York City. This was obviously thwarted by Spider-Man and co. Later, she attempted to force her “son”, Carrion, to kill his birth mother in order to be acknowledged as his true mother. Most recently, following a reunion with Carnage where the couple was pursued by Deadpool, Shriek was hired by Owl and Boomerang to join the ranks of the Sinister Sixteen.

1532411-ruby_thursdayThursday Rubinstein (a.k.a. Ruby Thursday): A member of a villainous team of geniuses, the Headmen, Thursday Rubinstein developed a surgical procedure to replace the head of a human with a malleable, organic computer. Her early encounters with the Defenders and She-Hulk would solidify her as a formidable foe. Later, she would survive an assassination attempt by Bullseye and battle Hellcat during the events of Civil War. At one point, Ruby was broken out of The Raft by Wolverine to assist him in taking down Romulus. This plan was foiled when Romulus threatened the life of Ruby’s daughter, forcing her to turn on Logan and impale him with the spiked tentacles which she was able to mold from her head. Her recent attempt to assist Dr. Bong in opening the multiverse was stopped by a surprisingly silent Spider-Man (laryngitis can’t keep a good hero down).

482801-ff1Elizabeth Rawson (a.k.a. Knockout), Danielle Forte (a.k.a. Mindblast), Beatta Dubiel (a.k.a. Bloodlust), and Leeann Foreman (a.k.a. Whiplash): The quartet known as the Femme Fatales’ first physical encounter with Spider-Man came when the women were hired to attack a Baltic ambassador’s plane as it arrived in New York City. Knockout’s superhuman strength coupled with Bloodlust’s feral ferocity, Mindblast’s telekinesis, and Whiplash’s retractable whips almost proved too much for Peter Parker to handle. Nevertheless, they were defeated and went on to join Superia’s Femizons in their battle against Captain America. Following the events of M-Day, Bloodlust was depowered but Mindblast retained her mutant abilities, joining Caroline Le Fay’s Doom Maidens and recently being spotted in Madripoor. The whereabouts of Whiplash and Knockout remain unknown.

202163-45888-aspCleo Nefertiti (a.k.a. Asp): The mutant villainess known as Asp has the ability to generate bioelectric energy blasts that cause both paralysis and death in her targets. As a member of the Serpent Society, Cleo has battled the likes of Alpha Flight, Captain America, and the Eternal, Sersi. During the Dark Reign era, Asp was picked by Norman Osborne to serve as part of Delaware’s Initiative team and took part in the assault against Asgard. Despite her criminal past, she has proven loyalty to her friends, namely the reformed villain, Diamondback. Her staunch opposition to the Superhero Registration Act led to her joining Captain America’s team of “Secret Avengers” during the Civil War event. All good deeds aside, Asp was most recently prevented from completing a bank heist by the mutant messiah, Hope Summers.

177788-22950-calypsoCalypso Ezili: The psychotic Haitian voodoo priestess known as Calypso gained her mind control and resurrection abilities after sacrificing her younger sister. Early appearances saw Calypso associated with Kraven the Hunter and she found sport in fueling his hatred of Spider-Man. To her dismay, this would lead to Sergei’s suicide. Later, she asserted her influence over Curt Connors, the villain known as the Lizard. Together, the duo almost successfully killed Peter Parker. Still distraught over Sergei Kravinoff’s suicide, she went on to attack his illegitimate son, Aloysha. Following her defeat at the hands of Spider-Man and the Hunter’s son, she was taken into custody by Aloysha under the guise of acquiring information about his father. Instead, the priestess was slain by Kravinoff. As she has demonstrated a regenerative ability in the past, it is likely that her demise is not permanent.

scorpiaspdrmn1Elaine Colls (a.k.a. Scorpia): While undergoing psychological treatment at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, Elaine Colls was recruited by Silverman to retrieve the cyborg, Deathlok. An enhanced suit worn by the original Scorpion was given to her and she attempted to complete the mission with Beetle and Hydro-Man. The ambush was stopped by Spider-Man despite Elaine proving herself to be quite a competent enemy. She later sought revenge against Silvermane, after her employer betrayed her, and went on to join the Sinister Six in order to prevent Peter Parker’s clone, Kaine, from killing any more of Spider-Man’s rogues. During her attack on Carnegie Hall, in order to fulfill an assassination order by a local drug cartel, Elaine was defeated by both Spider-Man and Black Cat. Her last know location was within the ranks of the Doom Maidens as they battled Valkyrie and her Fearless Defenders.

150827-44979-gypsy-mothSybil Dvorak (a.k.a. Gypsy Moth/Skein): Raised by Gypsies, the mutant known as Gypsy Moth possesses the ability to telekinetically manipulate fibers and fabrics. An actor filming a remake of Dracula in Romania wooed the young woman and brought her back to America. It wouldn’t take long before fears about her lover’s infidelity began to boil over, resulting in Sybil attacking various social gatherings in Hollywood. A confrontation with Jessica Drew at one such gathering would lead to a long-standing rivalry between Gypsy Moth and Spider-Woman. Much later she joined Hawkeye’s team of Thunderbolts. Her decision to eventually leave the group was due to her inability to seduce Songbird, a challenge that she had set for herself. Like Asp, Sybil was a member of Delaware’s Initiative team during Norman Osborne and H.A.M.M.E.R.’s time in power. As of late, she has teamed up with the White Rabbit as part of the Menagerie, a group of animal-themed super villains. Spider-Man was able to prevent the team from completing a diamond heist in Manhattan.

378072-81106-quicksandQuicksand: The Vietnamese villainess known only as Quicksand was once a scientist employed at a nuclear facility. An onsite accident granted her powers similar to Spider-Man’s nemesis, Sandman. In retaliation for her transformation, Quicksand attacked the nuclear reactor of the plant in an attempt to cause a meltdown. This disaster was prevented by the arrival of Thor when the Asgardian hurled the entire facility into another dimension. During the superhuman civil war, Quicksand was apprehended by the Thunderbolts and registers under the Superhero Registration Act. After escaping from The Raft during the Fear Itself event, fisticuffs would ensue between Quicksand and former Initiative members, Thor Girl and Cloud 9 in Philadelphia.

Regardless as to what villains emerge from their hidey holes to scrap with the new webslingers, it is certain that they will have their work cut out for them. Both Silk and Gwen have been thrown right into the proverbial deep end of the pool in the current battle against the Inheritors. Let’s see if they can keep swimming.

What baddies would you like to see make the ranks of Silk and Spider-Gwen’s rogues gallery. Feel free to voice your wishes in the comments section!

Follow Shaun N. on Twitter at @datura1979.

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Fearless: A Requiem for the Defenders.

18 10 2013

tumblr_mteam7F0V11qzidaoo1_1280In February of 2013, if you were to tell me that my favorite book of this year would be mainly comprised of C and D-List superheroines and villainesses, would I have believed you? Yes. Yes, I would. If you’ve had the opportunity to speak with me about my love of comic books for at least five minutes, you would quickly find out that my unwavering love for underused and underutilized female characters knows no bounds.

For those of you not in the know (yes, I hold you all mostly responsible for the book’s cancellation), Fearless Defenders  spun out of the events of Fear Itself: The Fearless, arguably the only good tie-in associated with the Fear Itself crossover event. The first issue hit store shelves just prior to Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle which, coincidentally, would be the first time that I had the priviledge of meeting the book’s scribe, Cullen Bunn. His excitement about the new book was palpable. I remember discussing Misty Knight with him and stating that she doesn’t get the love she deserves even though she’s pretty much Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown with a robot arm!

battleThe book brought together a ragtag group of female superheroes to battle the love child of Doctor Doom and Morgan Le Fay as she and her army of Doom Maidens attempt to usher in world-wide destruction. The team leadership role was split between Brunnhilde (Valkyrie) and Misty Knight. As the story progressed, the team’s ranks would expand to include a bookish archaeologist (Annabelle Riggs), a resurrected Amazonian warrior (Hippolyta) a depowered mutant (Danielle Moonstar), a snarky British monster hunter (Elsa Bloodstone), an exiled sorceress (Clea), and a newly activated Inhuman (Ren Kimura). Even with such a large and diverse cast, Bunn had no problems adding to each character’s development within the story and giving each lady her own, distinct voice.

Caroline Le Fay’s team of Doom Maidens was also made up of a veritable who’s who of “where the hell have they been?” villainesses… Ruby Thursday. Quicksand. Sylvie Lushton (The Enchantress). Titania. Scorpia. Mindblast. Shriek. When a creator pulls characters like this out of “comic book limbo”, it’s pretty safe to say that it has more to do with his/her affinity for the character and less to do with editorial mandate.

titaniaWill Sliney handled the pencilling for the series (save for issue #7 in which Stephanie Hans took the helm for Clea’s return). To say that his work was consistently enjoyable would be an understatement. His characters’ facial expressions were crisp and clearly demonstrated the appropriate emotion required for the panel (the pseudo-condescending looks and side-eye that Elsa would throw Misty were some of the most memorable). During some of the epic smackdowns and battle scenes, characters were never lost due to murky artwork which is more than some other artists on the top-tier books can boast. Sliney’s pencils, coupled with both beautiful coloring from Veronica Gandini and Mark Brook’s absolutely stunning covers, made for some unforgettable visuals.

If we have learned anything from Marvel Comics over the years, it’s that nothing this good ever lasts forever (read: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s Alpha Flight reboot, Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas and Atlas) It’s easy for folks to say that books that lack an A-list character like Captain America or Iron Man will never make it. I don’t necessarily believe that to be true. Books featuring these characters are going to sell, regardless, and yet they are the titles that generally receive the most promotion and the heaviest push from Marvel. It’s well beyond time that publishers give the underdogs a bit more of a boost instead of leaving them to tread water until they’ve become exhausted around issue #12. The fans and creative teams of these books deserve better.

FDWhile the fanbase of Fearless Defenders may not be as large as that which reads any one of the sixty Wolverine-centric titles that Marvel pushes out on a monthly basis, I can safely say that we are a dedicated and vocal fanbase. Perhaps my memory deceives me, but I don’t recall seeing any Savage Wolverine readers organizing a cosplay photo shoot based on the book at this year’s NYCC.

Fearless Defenders was one of those rare gems that my eyeballs eagerly gobbled up each month on the day it was released. It represented both female and queer characters in not only a positive but also a powerful light. Saying it will be greatly missed just doesn’t seem appropriate enough of a sentiment.

My hat goes off to Cullen Bunn, Will Sliney, Ellie Pyle, Stephanie Hans, Veronica Gandini, Phil Jimenez, and the entire team involved in the title. I know I speak for many others when I say “thank you.”