Spider-Gwen #1 Review: Javi’s Take

image“Oh, you poor, deluded child…can’t you see you’ve flown far too close to the sun?”

Because fans actually demanded it, the Gwen Stacy from an alternate reality gets her own ongoing series as the Spider-Woman of her earth, but let’s just call her Spider-Gwen to distinguish her from all the others that have cropped up! Can she maintain the hype from her debut in Edge of Spider-Verse?

Writer: Jason Latour

Artist: Robbi Rodriguez

Color Artist: Rico Renzi

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Cover Artist: Robbi Rodriguez

Variant Cover Artists: So many I’d run out of internet listing them all!

Design: Idette Winecoor & Jessica Pizarro

Assistant Editor: Devin Lewis

Editor: Nick Lowe

Story: The Vulture makes his debut encountering the Yancy Street Gang and Officer Grimm, dropping Grimm six stories into a dumpster. Gwen makes her way back from Earth 616 and takes down a Z grade villain, Bodega Bandit. The Rhino gets interrogated by NYPD Captain Frank Castle. The Mary Janes are a hit band already in crisis and Spider-Gwen calls the Vulture out, a move that may be too much for our young heroine!image

Thoughts: The band is back together! Edge of Spider-Verse #2 was a much anticipated issue when the preview art started to hit. In fact, it piqued my curiosity enough that I decided to give the whole series a shot, something that I had previously thought was an interesting idea, but not worth plunking down my hard earned cash for. 

I don’t know what it is about Gwen Stacy for me. My dad, when he first started buying me comics, which was early 80s, didn’t buy me the current issues of Amazing Spider-Man off the stand. He gravitated towards Marvel Tales, which was a Spidey reprint series for those who don’t recall. When we jumped on, they had just started reprinting the Lee/Ditko run and the first issue I remember getting reprinted ASM #5, Spidey fighting Doctor Doom. We went forward from there and because of that, I always felt like I was on the ground floor with Spider-Man. Even though Peter was interested in Betty Brant before he went off to college and met Gwen, there is something about Gwen that makes me think of her as Peter’s first love. image

It has been debated ad nauseum on this site and others about how special or boring the character of Gwen is, and there has been a cannonization of sorts since her death at the hands of the Green Goblin that I can’t deny. She represents, in her original form, a loss of innocence to me. As often happens when we lose someone, we can look at the past with rose colored glasses, seeing only the good, forgetting the bad. However, when we do that, we lose sight of the person as they were in their entirety. I think because of this, a certain type of fan may have trouble with different interpretations of that original character. The Ultimate version was quite a departure from what we were used to when she first debuted and Spider-Gwen is no different. Let’s also not forget the movie depictions, one a fashion model who needed tutoring, the other strong willed in her own right, tough, smart and not about to panic from the dangerous world around her. 

Perhaps brought on by the popularity of Emma Stone’s portrayal of Gwen, we now have this version of Rock and Roll Gwen. The creative team gives great energy to this book, be it the art stylings or spins on familiar characters, but even though it’s main character is a Gwen Stacy in a world where Peter Parker is dead, it brings us a modern story with a classic Spider-Man feel. The opening scene not only gives us our first look at this universe’s Ben Grimm, this time an officer for the NYPD instead of the Thing, but our first look at the Vulture, too. The original version debuted in the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man, so it’s fitting that we see him early in Spider-Gwen’s career. Rodriguez has no problems depicting him menacingly, and the metal claws he wears on his feet are a particularly lethal touch I enjoyed seeing. image

When we first see Gwen, she’s definitely having a characteristic Spidey moment. She feels criticized for existing by the media when she is there, only to have them wonder where she went when she is absent. We get introduced to her potential Ultimate Shocker, a Hamburgler-esque character who goes by the Bodega Bandit. Yeah, I can see lots of quick take downs of him by her as the series progresses. 

Also, like classic Peter, she feels the strain her alter ego puts on her personal life as things are falling apart with her band, The Mary Janes, right as they are starting to achieve success, not to mention with her dad, Captain George Stacy. We’ve yet to have a parental figure let in on the secret so early in a career and with the potential drama caused by his profession, I’m looking forward to how their relationship develops. Classic George Stacy was retired, this one is still active with the NYPD and Spider-Woman is already causing strife on his career. I hope he doesn’t follow the fate of not only his counterparts, but of the typical hero’s parental figure any time soon, if ever. It would be a refreshing change of pace. I’d love to see Captain Stacy butt heads with Frank Castle, especially if he winds up having to protect his daughter from this potential Punisher. image

The cast building continues as we check in on the faltering Mary Janes. I can’t say I care terribly about this “Em Jay” yet. She’s pretty one note, if you’ll forgive the expression, and that note is crazy diva. Glory Grant at least has the character to stand up to her attitude and it was great seeing a Randy Robertson who is carrying on in his father’s journalistic footprints. We haven’t had much of a chance to see Gwen interact with friends yet, so hopefully these two will be part of the gang. 

Perhaps we should rename the Parker Luck Phenomenon. The Spider-Curse? The scene with Gwen returning the cash register not only has the manager bemoaning the menace that is Spider-Woman, but accusing her of being in league with the thief, too. It’s classic Jameson territory and when a hungry Gwen asks for a little compensation for her troubles, she is told that action is her reward. It’s a fun callback to the theme song that will never get old. image

This comic is very in the moment, from how we interact with our cell phones, to the pop culture media cycle, to Spider-Gwen thwippin’ around town, rocking her earbuds. I feel like I can’t go anywhere these days without seeing someone with their headphones on in public. When Gwen makes a Breaking Bad reference, it evokes classic Stan Lee, whose early pop culture references would sometimes be updated in those old Marvel Tales reprints. image

I wasn’t terribly keen on seeing SG calling the Vulture out by tagging taunts all around town. Whilst antagonizing the bad guy is a very Spidey thing to do, I don’t feel vandalism is quite the way to go. I understand it being part of the language of the world, but as the daughter of a police captain, is she gonna go back later and clean it all up? We could get into the ends justifying the means, but it’s different to me than being a vigilante who may cause property damage from time to time trying to save people in the midst of  a super villain throw down. I guess the Vulture doesn’t have a twitter account or is big into the whole social media thing. 

Latour peppers in some nice social commentary about entitlement without hitting one over the head about it when Gwen finally gets to confront the Vulture and speed lines are used to energetic effect by Rodriguez in the fight. I’m not sure who adds in the onomatopoeia throughout the issue, but it accentuates the art perfectly. We’ve all seen the classic Spidey /Vulture cliffhanger of being dropped from a great height (I’m looking at you, Amazing Spider-Man #128) and whilst obviously this isn’t the end for our new heroine already, this version of the encounter has the added emotional weight of knowing the original Gwen died from falling from a great height. Well, at least that’s how I saw it. image

The creative team is off to a solid start with this debut issue, demonstrating crisp writing and kinetic art. Picture a modern day remix of the Lee/Ditko/Romita run with a female lead. The right notes are hit, in a way both familiar and new and I can’t wait for the next installment! If you want a Spider-Man book where the title character is the star and the responsibilities of being a web slinger make a personal life a complicated web, I highly recommend you give this book a try. 

My Grade: Aimage

Javi’s Huh?: Who was the redhead who observed Castle’s interrogation of Aleksei? Jean DeWolff?


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(5) Comments

  1. Al

    I think the vandalism was immoral and didn't make sense from an in-universe POV. But honestly I like that it ties into the punk/teen rebellion aspect of this Gwen and makes her different to Peter whilst at the same time VERY different to 616 Gwen. Also Betty was never the first love. Peter loved Gwen first, but Betty was his first girlfriend. Also, I must say that, whilst I agree with parts and disagree with others, this was an incredibly well written and articulate review

  2. Frontier

    Anyone have an idea who that redhead hanging around the cell with Castle while he was interrogating Rhino might be?

  3. Ben

    Like Ryan I would;t of given it an A. But it was still a good book, but most of it was set up, so it felt like the real meat of the story hasn’t started yet. Also while I like the art style, I still think Gwen’s eyes look really sinister and creepy when she’s out of costume.

  4. ryan3178

    Nice review, I wasn't in the A range but I still enjoyed the book and gave it a solid review myself. Its a lot of world building to go. I mean we don't find out the whole story on the aftermath of Peter's death until issue 3.

  5. Shaun Martineau

    Solid review, covered a lot of stuff that didn't even cross my mind; (like Gwen's death by fall in regards to the cliffhanger... It changes my opinion of it to slightly more positive.) I'm amused that you found the personal stuff strong (I did not) but disliked the vandalism (I love the rebellious nature of this Gwen, vandalism included) And in your examining of Gwens throughout the years, how could you not mention the best portrayal of Gwen Stacy, the Spectacular Spider-Man Gwen?

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