In the penultimate chapter of the first arc, we find ourselves taking a break from the action to spend a little time in the Parker household. Have you ever read The Conversation (ASM #38, Vol 2) by JMS & John Romita Jr? That’s what you’re in for here.
Spider-Gwen #4: Most Wanted Part 4 (of 5)
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist/Cover: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Designers: Idette Winecoor & Jessica Pizarro
Editors: Devin Lewis & Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
What Would You Do If The World Judged You Like That: After the attack on the Stacy household last issue, Gwen decides to spend some time as Spider-Woman to clear her head. She comes across Hobbie Brown and Izzy (?) spray painting an unfinished condo in Hell’s KItchen and she confronts them. After nearly falling to his death and accusing her of sleeping with Captain Stacy, Hobbie explains that the city is selling out the whole neighborhood to some corporation. Hobbie’s not happy with the answers the people in charge are giving for why they’re selling Hell’s Kitchen, so he’s taken it upon himself to ask the tough question (via spray painting); who’s responsible? This encounter with Gwen makes her realize she has to talk to the Parkers about Peter.
The next morning, Gwen tries sneaking into the Parker household, but is discovered by Uncle Ben. He brews her a pot of coffee, while her father snores loudly on the Parker’s couch. Gwen comes across May’s collection of articles condemning Spider-Woman and is about to leave when she runs into May herself. May realizes Gwen is there about Peter and Spider-Woman and she explains that when Peter died, she was angry and needed someone to blame. She knew Spider-Woman inspired Peter into the events that got him killed, so she started the media’s crusade against her with J. Jonah Jameson. But afterwards, she realized that Spider-Woman was as hurt as May and is trapped behind the mask, trying to make amends for what happened with Peter. May tells Gwen that in order to honor Peter, they have to keep on living.
May’s words inspire Gwen to see the Mary Janes live and Gloria Grant convinces her to rejoin the band. The issue ends with Captain DeWolff lashing out at co-workers who are mocking Frank Castle. Before things get ugly, Castle, in nearly a full body cast, shows up and tells DeWolff they have a job to do.
Thoughts: I don’t think the series has ever struggled with giving us insight into Gwen’s Stacy character, so when I first read this issue over, I felt a little jipped. It read like an entire issue dedicated to Gwen’s state of mind, putting the supporting cast and Spider-Woman on the back burner to reiterate things we already knew. But on a second reading, I realized two things.
First, this issue isn’t just about Gwen Stacy. This is the issue where we get insight into several characters and why they do what they do. We learn that Gloria Grant uses the Mary Janes as an outlet, much in the same way Gwen uses Spider-Woman, advice which she passes on to Gwen. We learn that Hobbie Brown isn’t just some Yancy Street Gang member, but a kid seeking social justice, even if his methods aren’t exactly sound. He talks about asking the tougher questions, but who’s responsible is not that tough of a question and tagging Spider-Woman’s face alongside it isn’t the best way to represent Hell’s Kitchen being bought out. But we also see that Hobbie is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his friend (I’m at a loss for who Izzy is) when Spider-Gwen shows up. It’s some solid character building for those two, but the real star of this issue is May Parker.
I’m a huge fan of JMS’ Spider-Man run and The Conversation is a highlight in that run. I feel Jason Latour feels the same way, because his take on Aunt May stems heavily from that issue. It makes absolute sense that May is the one who started this media backlash because she was hurting after the death of Peter. She shows uncanny insight into the mindset of not just Gwen, but Peter himself. She knows how in love with the idea of Spider-Woman he was, even as she calls it a fantasy herself. Through May, we see inklings of the Peter Parker we know, but it’s ground through her less than ideal outlook on the superhero life style. She points out how in his own head Peter could be and considering how often we see caption boxes and thought narration in comics, she’s not wrong. But she also realizes that Spider-Woman is trying to make a difference and I’d like to think May knows Gwen’s secret when she tells her that Spider-Woman is trapped inside her head as well and needs to go on living as the person under the mask to honor Peter.
Which brings me to my second realization, this is a major step for Gwen Stacy. We’ve seen Gwen struggle with the responsibility through Peter Porker. We’ve seen her struggle with being herself through her relationship with her father. And now we’ve seen her start to come to terms with Peter’s death and her life now through May. When she rejoins the band at the end, it’s the first big triumph we’ve seen for Gwen and that’s a big deal. Gwen needed a big moment before the finale of this arc and here it is.
I didn’t really care for the DeWolff bit at all. The only thing of note that really came up is we got confirmation that Fancy Dan’s crew is running around in this universe.
This is probably the weakest issue we’ve seen yet from the art team, but they still deliver some wonderful work. On the opening page, when Hobbie looks down on the civilians from the condo, they’re all cast in dark shades of red, but the lights from people’s cellphones also illuminate a small area in front of the screens, such as one man’s face and another’s chest. It’s a wonderful little detail Rico Renzi puts in and there are several more throughout the issue. Sense of movement is still on point here, as Gwen’s hood moves around in the few pages she’s in costume. I did feel like the emotional aspects of the art could have been done better, as Robbi Rodriguez’s eyes show a lot, but the rest of his faces are pretty expressionless.
Verdict: We get a big moment for Gwen Stacy at the end of a slower issue that while nice, isn’t exactly necessary. Aspects of this could have been lost and we could have still had Gwen’s moment, but it is nice to spend so much time with characters who have barely featured in the story so far. Gwen’s got a wonderful world around her and it’s good to see her getting back into it. Now let’s kick all kinds of ass in the finale.
- Gwen’s big moment
- The Parkers
- Dewolff’s scene unnecessary
- Art team’s weakest issue