Spider-Gwen #1: Most Wanted Part 1
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist/Cover: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Design: Idette Winecoor & Jessica Pizzarro
Editor: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Previously on Spider-Gwen: Gwen Stacy was bitten by a radioactive spider that gave her amazing spider powers. Peter Parker, in an attempt to be more like her, turns himself into the Lizard. Things goes awry and he dies in Gwen’s arm. Gwen is blamed for his death by the media, but continues to operate as Spider-Woman. Gwen’s father, Captain George Stacy, is charged with bringing in the Spider-Woman but is unable to when he discovers that his daughter is the vigilante. As Gwen struggles with the new developments in her life, she is drawn into a fight alongside the other Spider-Totems across the multiverse. The Spiders prevail against the evil Inheritors, but now Gwen returns home to face the challenge that is her life.
Death from A-Butt: The issue opens with Hobbie Brown and The Yancy Street Gang spray painting images of the Spider-Woman across a Daily Bugle billboard. They are confronted by Officer Ben Grimm and the Vulture, the later of whom nearly kills the former.
We pick up with Gwen Stacy, three days after the events of Spider-Verse. She’s avoiding her father, has quit drumming for The Mary Janes, and is struggling to be more successful at her vigilante activities after deciding that Bodega Bandit is too lame a villain to be her nemesis.
Captain George Stacy checks in on the injured Grimm and is informed by Foggy Nelson that he has been replaced as the head of the Special Crimes Task Force after trying to defend Spider-Woman. His replacement, Captain Frank Castle, tortures Aleksei Systevich to discover the Kingpin is organizing events behind the scenes.
Gwen spies on her former band mates and discovers the band is falling to pieces without her, as Robbie Robertson is keen to point out. Mary Jane is against the idea of bringing Gwen back, but Gloria Grant defends her friend and storms out of practice. Her father leaves her a voice message that warns her about The Vulture, so Gwen goes out and sprays paints insulting bird jokes all over the city to draw Vulture out. After a brief fight, Vulture drops her from an incredible height and that’s where the issue ends.
Thoughts: I would like to take a moment and appreciate the fact that there is six Spider titles being published right now and three of them are female led titles (plus we got Miles filling in the minority role.) Equality, hell yeah.
And of these six titles, Spider-Gwen is without a doubt the most distinctive. There is no other book Marvel is putting out with Spider-Gwen’s tone. At times, it shamelessly panders to a youthful demographic but there is always this wonderful punk sensibility to it. Not only is our lead a rebellious college student fighting crime, but we see her supporting cast is full of hot headed youths, full of wit and opinions. There are dark moments in this book, but this younger generation doesn’t brood. The adults feel out of place, vestiges of a world that is slowly falling away into this new world of youth and super powers that Gwen is at the fore front of. And it works. I’m interested in this universe as a whole. It seems a lot more like our own than the Marvel 616. Superpowers are just emerging and have yet to change it, the way they have the 616 or even the much younger Ultimate Universe. Not only are we looking at a divide between the young and the old, we’re looking at a divide between a generation that will grow up with superpowers as opposed to one that never dealt with it. That is ripe for storytelling.
Which makes The Vulture the perfect villain for the opening salvo of this universe. In more ways than one, he’s a good foil for Gwen. He’s quick to temper whereas Gwen doesn’t let things get her down. His fight against Gwen works on a technology vs. science level as well, since we see plumes of smoke coming from his back and mechanic claws. I thought Gwen’s solution on calling him out (spray painting the city with insulting jokes) is an excellent example of her being her own hero. I couldn’t imagine Peter doing it for various reasons but Gwen operates without his intellect (as far as we know) or his overactive guilt complex.
I don’t even know where to start praising the art team. That punk sensibility I mentioned earlier is most evident in Robbi Rodriguez’s art. He draws in a exaggerated style that never causes disbelief like Humberto Ramos’ pencils. Colorist Rico Renzi really knocks it out of the park here. Whether it’s smoke, backgrounds, facial hues, Gwen’s costume, or even the reflection of buildings on a window, the colors leap off the page. It’s hard not to stare at the vibrant colors and I’m happy to say there is an abundance of purple and green to be found, classic Spider-Villain colors. I don’t know if it’s letterer Clayton Cowles or Renzi who should be praised for how sound effects leap off the page, but its another highlight. My personal favorite thing in this issue is how they portray movement. Toomes’ plumes of smoke gives a different sense of movement than Gwen’s webbing and you get a real sense of how fast Gwen can move with her spider powers.
Turning an eye to Gwen’s supporting cast, there is a lot of fun to be found here. Alternate Mary Janes seem to be pretty horrible people without a Peter to influence them and Em Jay is the worst. She fills a role very similar to Jonah’s in classic Spider-Man literature; Gwen has to work with her to further her musical career but she makes it really difficult. Robbie Robertson pops up to provide our first possible glimpse at a love interest for Gwen and Gloria Grant is pretty damn awesome in the few scenes she’s in; especially during an interview with The Mary Janes. I’m happy George Stacy knows his daughter is Spider-Woman and it’s fun to see our Spider-Hero avoiding the one person who knows the truth, rather than rely on them. Frank Castle makes quite an impression in his first scene. There really isn’t any weak links in the supporting cast (nameless Mary Jane band member aside) and I hope the distinction between these versions and their 616 counterparts only grows in coming issues.
At times, Gwen seems a bit too clever for her own good. There are clever lines all over this issue (my favorite plays on the 60s Spider-Man theme) and most of them work, but not all. Again, it feels like its pandering to a youthful demographic at times and I hope Jason Latour can iron these moments out later on. Still, her voice is a breath of fresh air among the Spider-Crew. I compared Gwen to Miles a lot while reading this issue, but I’m happy to say they operate differently. Although Peter’s death was supposed to be her Great Power moment, it really doesn’t feel like Gwen had that moment yet nor does she need it quite yet. A negative side effect of playing things lightly is the Gwen Stacy drama of the issue doesn’t have the levity it should. She mentions at one point she’s starving, but I missed that the first couple times I read the issue.
Two minor things: Spiders aren’t supposed to have Spider-Sense anymore after the events of Spider-Verse. And the issue’s end is super ineffective as a cliffhanger. Also, how many bloody Spider-Women are there now? Anya, Jess, Gwen, Mayday…
Verdict: This book is something new. It’s still finding its feet, but there’s a strong unity between script and art that makes this book come alive, even during the slow moments. It’s a book that embraces the might of being young and is unapologetic about it. A strong supporting cast and the setting up of several story-lines help carry the issue when not all that much actually happens. Our lead has some growing to do, but she’s something special. Gwen doesn’t have Peter’s guilt complex, Miguel’s seriousness, Jess’ practicality, Cindy’s doubt, or Miles’ responsibility to live up to the Spider-Man name. Instead, she has a headstrong personality and a light heart, which is what makes her worthy of her own Spider-Title.
- Intriguing new universe
- Interesting shift between generations
- Punk sensibility
- Dynamic art team
- Strong supporting cast
- Unique Spider-Hero
- Panders to youthful demographics at times
- Doesn’t stand alone
- Weak Cliffhanger
- Perhaps too clever at times