BIOGRAPHY - page 6
Julia maintained a low profile upon her return to the States but, when the children of Kraven the Hunter began their “Grim Hunt” against Spider-Man and his spider-allies, Julia (or rather Arachne) found herself one of their targets. The plan of the Kravinoffs was to use the blood of Spider-Man to resurrect their father. During their investigation, Spider-Man became separated from Arachne, who was captured and imprisoned, along with Araña and Madame Web. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #634-636]
Briefly, the Kravinoffs came to believe that they had succeeded, sacrificing Spider-Man and resurrecting their father. However, when they realized this had been a trick and that they had killed Spider-Man’s clone Kaine instead, Madame Web’s throat was slashed in revenge, much to the horror of the captive Arachne. Fortunately, the true Spider-Man tracked the Kravinoffs to their lair and freed the captive Arachne and Araña. While the young Araña went off the assist Spider-Man, Arachne chose to be with Madame Web in her final moments. As she passed, Madame Web also passed along her gift of foresight to Arachne.
Though now blind, Julia was armed with precognition and was able to see clearly what Madame Web had called “the Web of Life,” the interconnected nature of individual choices to subsequent events. With this, Julia convinced Spider-Man not to kill Kraven, an act which would have ruined his moral fiber and eventually led to his own destruction and that of untold others. Defeated spiritually as well as tactically, Kraven and his children fled. In the days that followed, Spider-Man, Arachne and Araña gave their fallen ally Kaine a burial. At his grave, Julia officially bestowed her old Arachne costume to Araña, who for the moment decided to keep her codename. Eschewing her old identity of Arachne, Julia had decided to adopt the new, non-costumed identity of Madame Web and the mission of protecting the thread of the “web of life.” [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #637]
When Spider-Man lost his “spider-sense,” the name he gave to his own precognitive powers, Julia in her role as the new Madame Web knew well that this severed the webslinger from his ties to the “Web of Life.” Also able to foresee the terrible dangers that were soon to befall Manhattan and knowing that Spidey needed additional skills for the challenges that would soon befall him, Julia called upon Shang-Chi to train Spider-Man in the martial arts. [Free Comic Book Day 2011 Spider-Man] Julia kept a secret watch over Spider-Man as he underwent Shang-Chi's training, but kept her own connection to the training secret. Despite her new powers, Julia could not see all outcomes and remained concerned about Spider-Man's preparedness for the dangers soon to arrive. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #664]
On the eve of the crisis she had long predicted, Julia appeared at one of Spider-Man and Shang-Chi’s training sessions to give him his final lesson. Still possessing her previous Arachne/Spider-Woman powers, Julia also used her precognitive powers as Madame Web to test Spidey’s fighting skills. Although he never managed to land a single hit, Julia declared that Spider-Man had replaced his lost spider-sense with a fighter’s instinct, making him almost ready for the challenge he was about to face. The only move he lacked, she told him, was his killing stroke, on which all paths that lead them toward victory would depend. Defiantly, the webslinger vowed that he would stop being Spider-Man before he did this. He would die first. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #666]
The crisis Julia had foreseen would become the incident later called Spider-Island, in which the genetic engineer known as the Jackal had created and released an infestation of bedbugs, the bites of which would bestow its recipients powers exactly like that of Spider-Man. Throughout the chaos that followed with civilians, good and criminal, causing problems with newfound spider-powers, Julia watched with the impassive coldness of Madame Web, viewing every battle and tragedy as simply being part of the pattern she had foreseen. Her ally Shang-Chi in particular became annoyed when she suggested they do nothing while Spider-Man incurred a beating. Even the good and evil Venom and Anti-Venom were merely part of the interconnected web of life she had seen. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #667-668]
As the number of spider-powered people grew, so too did the number of people connected to the Web of Life. As more and more people accessed it, it reached a critical number, after which Julia began to feel physical pain and prevented her from seeing the future. Although the entity known as Anti-Venom had the ability to turn people with spider-powers back to normal, severing their connection to the Web of Life, it was not enough to stem the tide of her pain. Worse, the moment of her precognitive blind spot had arrived, just as she had known it would. Robbed as she was of foresight, Julia was nevertheless able to nudge Spider-Man in direction of where he was needed. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #669-670]
During the Spider-Island crisis, Spider-Man was not Madame Web’s only concern. The other was Araña, who had kept Julia’s Arachne costume but had recently adopted the codename of Spider-Girl. Knowing that Spider-Girl would become victim of the Hunter Wasps, who were attempting to destroy any and all of the infected spider-powered citizens, Madame Web appeared at the young girl’s apartment, warning her that her only way for her to survive and save Manhattan was for her to team up with an enemy. Indeed, Spider-Girl’s subsequent reluctant alliance with the Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, was instrumental in defeating the Hunter Wasps and saving untold lives. [Spider-Island: The Amazing Spider-Girl #2-3] Unfortunately, Julia’s advice as Madame Web to Shang-Chi was less useful, being altogether too cryptic to be of help. Nevertheless, Shang-Chi was able to foil the plans of the spider demon Ai Apec, who attempted to take advantage of the chaos. [Spider-Island: Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #1-3]
As the Spider-Island crisis continued, a group of heroes assembled at Horizon Labs to investigate a cure. It was into the midst of this group that Madame Web spectacularly appeared in a vision of flame. She warned the group, specifically Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, that the jamming tower they had erected was the same technology that had ruined Spider-Man’s spider-sense and were playing havoc with her visions. So warned, Reed and the other engineers worked to find a new frequency that would not affect either Spider-Man or Madame Web. Unfortunately, they succeeded. Once her powers were restored, Julia realized to her horror that the restoration of her connection to the Web of Life did the same to the Spider-Queen, the true mastermind behind the whole Spider-Island plot. As the Spider-Queen had the ability to control anyone connected to the Web of Life, Madame Web had inadvertently given their foe an army of spider-people and the power of a god. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #671]
Attempting to fix her mistake, Madame Web located Spider-Man and his clone Kaine, who had not died at the hands of the Kravinoffs after all. She explained to the two that the Spider-Queen was feeding directly from the Web of Life and draining strength from all of her “subjects,” explaining her growth into a gigantic, monstrous form. Now a god, the only way for Spider-Man to stop her was for him to kill her. As he ran off to do battle, Spider-Man once again vowed that would never be. In the end, Madame Web was both right and wrong. While the day was indeed saved by a killing blow to the Spider-Queen, it was not delivered by Spider-Man but his clone, Kaine. The effects of the Spider-Queen's control over the spider-powered criminals and civilians soon vanished. When Julia voiced her surprise by the outcome of own prophecy, Kaine told her that it could just be that her prophecies “suck.” [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #672]
With the crisis over and the city beginning to clean-up, Madame Web did her best to do the same. To Kaine, she decided to speak about his future, which would lead to his new life in Houston, TX. [Scarlet Spider (2nd series)] Likewise, she sought out Spider-Man on the roof of his apartment. She informed him that, with the Queen gone, she could see the future clearer than ever, and with that knowledge offer him a reward – an out. Should he take the cure obtained during the crisis, the Web of Life would reweave itself so that another Spider-Man would take his place. When Spider-Man declined, noting that such an act would be irresponsible, Julia told Peter that she understood but warned him that his choice would lead to a loss, for which she was sorry. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #673]
Although she continued to operate as Madame Web, Julia managed to maintain an everyday, civilian life with Rachel, living in Queens, New York. While she coped with everyday things such as a sick daughter, she would appear before Spider-Man via astral projection, offering ever-cryptic advice whether he wanted it or not. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #678-679] However, horrific visions could nonetheless strike at any time, such as one that warned her that the Spider-Queen was back and coming for Kaine. [Scarlet Spider (2nd series) #6]
On another occasion, shortly after she had dropped her daughter off to school, a vision struck, warning her that the Great Web was unraveling. After composing herself, she sought out Spider-Man and warned him that something at Horizon Labs was being set in motion that would lead him on a path of ruin and despair. The source of the latest crisis was Curt Connors and his latest bout as the Lizard. Fortunately, with warning by Madame Web, Spider-Man was able to stop his rampage. [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #689-691]
Julia’s control of the visions she received as Madame Web continued to grow both better and worse. On one occasion, she seemed to have foreknowledge that a vision was coming and took the opportunity to send Rachel to safety in Colorado to visit her grandparents. Shortly, after seeing her girl off, Julia called for medical assistance, knowing that the visions she was about to receive would be severe. Indeed, after receiving the painful vision, which contained uncountable futures, she only had a moment to contact Spider-Man via astral projection before she collapsed in a seizure in the middle of the bus terminal. Fortunately, as she had arranged, emergency services arrived moments later.
While Spider-Man dealt with the threat of the Hobgoblin, the source of the warning Madame Web had provided, Julia already fallen into a coma by the time she arrived at the hospital. Aside from her condition, the authorities were baffled, as they were unable to ID her. She had no identification, her mobile phone had been an untraceable “burner” and the skin over her fingertips had been sanded off not long before. Even more cryptically, her last words had been, “His future will end... in a flash of gold.” [Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #695-696]
Despite the difficulty in identifying her, eventually Rachel was able to find her mother and be by her side. [Scarlet Spider (2nd series) #15] Although she remained in the coma, Julia also maintained her connection to the Great Web and spoke prophecies when they were strong enough to stir her. [Superior Spider-Man (1st series) #20]
Just as her connection to the Great Web caused her coma, so too would it bring her out of it. Aside from being the source of her precognition and the powers of individuals like Spider-Man, the Great Web was the source of power of the Inheritors, a group of interdimensional totem hunters who fed on human and animal totems. When the Inheritors began their rampage across the multiverse, killing and feeding on the life-essence of many Spider-people, every strand of the Great Web started to unravel. As the web frayed front the conflict and she began to be disconnected from the web, Julia finally awoke from her coma and now saw… nothing. Her powers as Madame Web were now gone. [Amazing Spider-Man (3rd series) #15]
[Note: Julia’s blindness was never addressed after her initial reference to it upon gaining the powers of Madame Web. This could partially be explained by her “seeing” via her clairvoyance and doing her best to compensate. As she loses her Madame Web powers here, this could no longer be the case. However as she lost her sight when she gained the powers, it could be that she regained her sight here upon losing them. Additionally, it seems around this time, Julia lost her spider-powers as well. It’s unclear if the two losses are related, but the loss of her spider-powers could be related to the collapse of the Great Web.]
Freed from her obligations as Madame Web, Julia returned to her life as a civilian, living in Denver and raising her daughter. Not only did she stay away from the world of costumes, heroes and villains, Julia stayed away from her ex-lover, Max. At some point, Max had developed psychotic fixation on her, resulting in her leaving him. Much to her surprise, he reentered her in the middle of the San Francisco airport while she was on a layover on the way back home to Denver, teleporting in and pleading with her to take him back. As the Shroud, Max had moved to San Francisco and had made himself a core adversary of the criminal Kingpin, who had moved his own operations to the Bay Area. Knowing of Julia and Max’s relationship and believing he could control the Shroud if he could control her, the Kingpin ordered Julia captured during her layover as well. Long a thorn in the side of the Kingpin himself, Daredevil did his best to prevent the dual kidnapping of Julia at the airport. Although she no longer seemed to possess her spider-powers, Julia had been an Avenger and was not any average hostage. She did her best to fight back but in the end the Kingpin’s men were able to take her captive.
Julia soon found herself in an unusual prison, chained to a fancy table at the Kingpin’s lair, along with Matt’s law partner Foggy Nelson and Matt’s girlfriend, Kirsten McDuffie. Nevertheless, Daredevil was able to free his friends and Julia, as well as have the Kingpin arrested by the FBI. In the aftermath, Julia agreed to assist Daredevil in capturing the Shroud. As force was difficult to apply to someone with the powers of the Shroud, Julia instead played upon her ex’s desire for reconciliation and kissed him with lips coated with a powerful tranquilizer. The unconscious Shroud was tendered to the police for his crimes. [Daredevil (4th series) #16-18]
Following the Shroud’s imprisonment, it seems Julia became fascinated with the surveillance hub the Shroud had installed in his secret base beneath Alcatraz Island and stayed in the Bay Area rather than returning to Denver. For the most part, Julia’s use of the surveillance technology was merely curious investigation. However, when her curiosity regarding the offline site belonging to New U drew concern from that company, they sent one of its operatives, Hobie Brown the Prowler, to investigate. Julia seemed to harbor no ill will toward Hobie for his involvement in her arrest during the time Registration Act crisis and even confided in him as to her recent activities with the Shroud’s tech. To Julia’s surprise, Hobie confessed not only to working for New U but that Cassandra Webb, the original Madame Web, was not only alive but being held at its facility.
Feeling obligated to rescue Cassandra, Julia was about to strand Hobie on the island until he collapsed. It was then that Hobie confessed the true secret of New U. It was an operation belonging to the geneticist Jackal, who was performing his “miracles” by cloning people. In fact, the real Hobie Brown had died and the one before Julia now was his clone, whose body was breaking down without the proper medication. More determined than ever, Julia broke into New U and brought Hobie to his room, where he stored his medication. While he recuperated, Julia continued her investigation and soon fund the chamber where Cassandra Webb was being held. Like Hobie, this Cassandra was a clone of the original Madame Web and was rapidly deteriorating in health as she refused to take the medication. As she died, Cassandra warned Julia of the Jackal’s plans and pleaded with her to rescue Hobie. Julia assured Cassandra that she already did, but was told “not him.” Echoing the past, Cassandra Webb's clone died in Julia's arms.
By this time, the machinations of the Jackal had attracted the attention of Spider-Man and his allies. In the end, the Jackal enacted the final phase of his plan, activating a signal that would begin to destabilize the bodies of his clones, which in turn would unleash his legal “Carrion virus.” Although the threat of the Carrion virus was neutralized, the breakdown of Hobie’s body was not. As she had done with the Madame Web clone, Julia sat by his side as he passed away. A short time later, Julia was surprised to be reunited with the Prowler – the real Prowler, whose body had been in cryo-sleep. She surprised the real Hobie by filling him in on what he had missed, including the adventures of his clone. Julia assured Hobie that this clone had been a good person. [Prowler (2nd series) #1-5]
What's next for Julia and the tangled life she leads remains to be seen.