Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the sequel to the universally acclaimed animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, made a big impression at CinemaCon. Sony Pictures showed off just 15 minutes of the sequel, but the sneak peek proved to be a tantalizing teaser for the Spider-Verse to come. The animated film promises to introduce Miles Morales to an incredible cast of characters, including Jessica Drew, AKA Spider-Woman, voiced by Issa Rae.
But who is this storied Spider-Woman? Let’s meet Jessica Drew before she makes her big-screen debut in Across the Spider-Verse. We’ll talk about:
- Who Is Jessica Drew?
- Spider-Woman’s Origin(s)
- Spider-Woman’s Powers and Abilities
- Jessica Drew in TV and Games
- Across the Spider-Verse
Jessica Drew: Spider-Woman Explained
Who Is Jessica Drew?
Avenger. Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Private investigator. A member of the Order of the Spider. Captain Marvel’s best friend. Mom. Jessica Drew has been a lot of different things in her complicated life, but she’s always been Spider-Woman.
While she shares some abilities with Spider-Man, like super-strength and wall-crawling, that’s where the similarity ends. Jessica is a former Hydra agent who chose the superhero life even if she’s never quite sure she deserves to be called a hero.
“I’ve spent my whole life trying to be more than what I was born to,” Jessica says during the events of Spider-Island.
She has a villainous past, harbors some trust issues, and, okay, tends to be cranky. But Jessica Drew chooses to work hard for the life she wants despite her history.
Jessica is instantly recognizable in Spider-Woman’s red and yellow full-body suit and half-mask.
Here’s where things get complex. (Hey, it’s comics!) Jessica Drew flew into the pages of Marvel Spotlight #32 in 1977 — as a villain! Spider-Woman made her debut attacking S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters in the dark of night. And her past was a mystery not just to readers, but to herself.
Hydra dispatched the amnesiac “Arachne” to assassinate Nick Fury, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. director quickly showed her the truth about the organization she was working for. Angry at their deception, Jessica attacked Hydra and demanded to know more about who she was. They told her the High Evolutionary created her in the Genetic Accelerator from a spider species.
This was not entirely accurate.
In time, Jessica learned that she was the daughter of research scientists Jonathan and Miriam Drew. Miriam, while pregnant with Jessica, was caught in radioactive energy from a genome-manipulation machine. When radiation poisoning from the energy exposure started to affect her health, Jonathan experimented on his daughter with spider bio-material. Jessica was taken by her father’s secret benefactor, the High Evolutionary, and placed in a healing stasis.
When Jessica woke up years later, she hadn’t aged a day. She lost her memories and was brainwashed by Hydra into joining their ranks. She was trained in combat by Taskmaster before Hydra unleashed her against S.H.I.E.L.D. as Agent Arachne.
Jessica worked as a detective and spy after she freed herself from Hydra’s clutches. She met Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel), joined the Avengers, lost her powers, regained her powers, was replaced by a Skrull during the Secret Invasion, got into a fistfight with the Hulk when he was transformed into the Breaker of Worlds, and was caught up in the Spider-Verse. And, after all of that, she embarked on a solo career and had a son. Jessica Drew has been through a lot.
Spider-Woman’s Powers and Abilities
Jessica Drew, like the other spider heroes of the Marvel universe, has enhanced strength, speed, agility, and adhesive fingertips and toes. She also has unique abilities; Jessica wields powerful energy bolts called Venom Blasts. She can emit pheromones capable of creating fear or attraction in her target, although she rarely takes advantage of this power. She’s resistant to physical damage and quick to heal.
Jessica’s costume, originally designed by Hydra, gave her the ability to glide with its gossamer webbed wings. Her costume has undergone a few changes since then, but her long black hair paired with red and yellow has remained consistent.
Jessica Drew in TV and Games
- TV: Spider-Woman is arguably best known for her titular cartoon series that ran from 1979 to 1980. (All 16 episodes are available now on Disney+.) This Jessica Drew is a magazine editor and a high-flying hero “dedicated to fighting evil while weaving her web of justice!" Spider-Woman was the first Marvel heroine to star in her own animated series.
- Games: Jessica Drew is available in several video games as an unlockable playable character, including Marvel Avengers Alliance, Marvel Heroes, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Spider-Man Unlimited, Marvel Avengers Academy, Marvel Avengers Alliance 2, Marvel Puzzle Quest, and Marvel Future Fight. She also appears in Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.
Across the Spider-Verse
While we don’t know much about the adventures Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy are about to embark on, the early preview of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at CinemaCon offered up a first look at two of their allies. Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) and Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) are just two of the hundreds of characters the young heroes are reportedly going to cross paths with.
Jessica is pregnant in the preview footage, hinting at her solo career explored in the 2015 Spider-Woman comic book series.
It remains to be seen how large of a role Jessica Drew will play in the Spider-Verse, but her wit and experience will surely be fantastic additions to an already spectacular lineup.
Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who also contributes to StarWars.com, DCComics.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.