Statistically, one out of every five heroes in the Marvel Universe is a Spider-Girl. But some of them don’t know it just yet… Your Major Spoilers Retro Review of Araña: The Heart of the Spider #1 awaits!
Writer: Fiona Avery
Penciler: Roger Cruz
Inker: Victor Olizaba
Colorist: Udon Studios
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Jennifer Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $35.00
Release Date: January 25, 2006
Previously in Araña: The Heart of the Spider: A headstrong teenage gymnast, Anya Corazon refused to back down under pressure from bullies, authority, or the pressures of being a teen. When a chance encounter with criminals left her mortally wounded, a magician transferred magical energies into her, transforming Anya into Araña, the Hunter of a secret cabal known as The Spider Society. The Society has been in a cold war with the Sisterhood of the Wasp for nearly a thousand years, with their main weapons being their Hunter and their Mage, putting Anya in the middle of a war far beyond her high school understanding. But, she’s still a freshman, and her father insists that she focus on her studies, unaware that his daughter is the chosen one of the arachnid worshippers. This issue begins in classic Marvel spider-hero fashion, with Araña on patrol in Brooklyn, off her game a bit, since she’s a little sick.
Full disclosure: I’ve perused a few Araña comics in my time, even following her adventures as one of the Young Allies a few years ago, but… I feel like I’ve never seen her carapace before. It’s a really cool visual, even though the garish coloring and over-production of this issue try hard to stop that. The overuse of digital tricks and insane gradients is something that I associate with Jemas-era Marvel books, and this one is an especially eye-searing one. Turns out that our hero (and her mage, Miguel) are tracking Judge Thomas Bander, a corrupt government official who leaks information to the Wasps that they use to manipulate the justice system. Trailing him to the courthouse, Araña and Miguel work their way inside to catch him in the act.
The judge opens fire (on a vigilante who is clearly a teenage girl, by the way) but his bullets are no match for her hard outer shell, nor are his middle-aged muscles up to fighting a couple of super-humans. But the incoming drones of the Sisterhood of the Wasp certainly are, leaving Araña at a crossroads: Fight or flight?
I mentioned that she doesn’t back down from a fight, right? Okay, good. Because this is where the elephant in the room shows its trunk. As much as I like the basics of Araña’s “armor” design, this issue’s art just DOES NOT work for me. While Roger Cruz is past his slavish aping of Joe Madureira by this point, there’s still a lot of that exaggerated aesthetic in these pages. Anya’s physique is barely recognizable as human at some points, while her father, Gilberto, doesn’t even look like the same species of creature.
Their relationship is cute as heck, however, as we see when Miguel orders her to take some time off from spider-activities to recover. Gil insists that she keeps up with her schoolwork, even though she’s taken her new “internship” with WebCorp, the public face of the Spider Society. He also has a job as a journalist, covering a case that ties into the Bander investigation, which bodes ill for Anya’s ability to keep her secret identity secret. It’s a nice parallel to the early days of Spider-Man, with a few tweaks to the “teen hero raised by a loving parent figure in spite of endless complications” formula, making for one of the best parts of the issue.
In those heady days of 2005, I remember seeing this issue on the stands, but never picking it up because it seemed clear that the art wasn’t going to be to my liking. Not quite twenty years later, Araña: The Heart of the Spider #1 proves that instinct correct, but also provides an interesting fusion of Amazing Spider-Man and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, creating something interesting despite major issues with the coloring and overly-stylized art, earning 1 out of 5 stars overall. Araña was designed to be the cornerstone of the short-lived Marvel Next sub-imprint, but never quite caught like stablemates X-23 or Young Avengers. Nonetheless, she’s been kicking around the Marvel Universe ever since, working with Ms. Marvel, becoming a new Spider-Girl, joining the Spider-Army during Spider-Verse and Spidergeddon, and recently returning to her Araña nom de guerre. I can’t help but wonder if a different artist could have made her into a full-fledged phenomenon back in ’05.
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ARAÑA: THE HEART OF THE SPIDER #1
I remember avoiding this issue fifteen years ago because of the art, and while it's enjoyable enough, my 2005 judgement was on-point.