Spidey-Gwen vs. Le Chat Noir vs. Matt MURDERdock vs. Black Cats vs. ninjas with The Mary Janes in the middle! As Peter Parker would say, “It’s crazy town banana pants!”
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Color Artist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Variant Cover Artist: Mike Mayhew
Design: Idette Winecoor & Jessica Pizarro
Assistant Editor: Devin Lewis
Editor: Nick Lowe
STORY: The Black Cat steals something from the Kingpin, leaving a ticket to her concert behind. The Mary Janes open for Felicia Hardy & The Black Cats, but their set gets interrupted by Felicia herself, who in turn gets interrupted by Murdock and his ninjas. They brawl, causing Gwen to join the fray and emerging victorious when the ninjas go up in smoke. Jean De Wolff visits George Stacy and tells him to watch his back.
THOUGHTS: This is a weird issue in the modern sense. Billed as “Most Wanted? Part Five”, it doesn’t feel necessarily like a closing chapter. It’s not even billed as “Most Wanted? Conclusion”. With a “to be continued…” at the issue’s end, it makes it hard to picture this as the end of the series, and yet that’s what it is, at least until the relaunch with the new #1 in October. Last time, Gwen seemed to find some semblance of peace regarding Peter, the balancing of her responsibilities, and renewing her place with The Mary Janes. Where do Latour and Rodriguez go from there as that issue did feel like a conclusion of sorts?
The issue opens on Matt Murdock, bringing up the plot thread of his working for the Kingpin in everyone’s first appearance in Edge of Spider-Verse #2. We haven’t seen exactly how or what twisted him in this world to be on the side of Fisk, but I’ve enjoyed this consigliore/ninja master/more devilish take on Ol’ Hornhead. I dropped the Marvel Knights Daredevil series sometime after issue 100 as the darkness got too tiresome for me, so I missed out on all the evil DD stuff that followed, but I’m enjoying the alternate portrayal here. Matt gets a ticket addressed to his alter ego in French, the start of a fun bit I enjoyed this issue as we get subtitles for the language later on.
I don’t know what possessed the creative team to give a French background and motif to Felicia, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun spin on her character and Latour gives us a decent helping of her backstory for us to empathize with her. Her backup cat band is zany, but they hold up enough to make it enjoyable. The French thief angle evoked Ocean’s Twelve for me. I’d much rather read about this iteration than the one in the current Amazing. Her angle, only steal what they cannot lock away, take only what they can’t take back, bequeathed by her father, gives her the motivation to not only steal the spotlight from The Mary Janes, but has her in the Kingpin’s sights, giving them a connection on this world as well.
Speaking of The Mary Janes, I enjoyed the different type of rivalry Felicia shared with this MJ. The dynamic has been flipped. Instead of Felicia wanting a married Peter, MJ wants Felicia’s success and Rodriguez conveys the anxiety and stress it causes her in his usual style. Whilst on the subject of style, Betty is wearing a cat on her head. A cat. Par for the course this issue.
At this point, you’re either a fan of Rodriguez’s art or you’re not. I happen to find his quirky, kinetic take refreshing and that still holds true with this issue. This whole series has been reminiscent of the Lee-Ditko-Romita run for me, a feeling heightened by a particular panel of a determined-looking Gwen telling Betty to run with the shadow of Spider-Woman on the wall behind her. That is classic Spidey to me, with Rodriguez’s contemporary spin on it. The issue does feel slightly different from those past and thinking maybe we had a different inker this outing, checked the credits to find that it is all Rodriguez, just as in issues prior.
Felicia’s audacity gets not only herself, but The Mary Janes, in a heap of trouble. Gotta hand it to Em Jay and Glory-they stand their ground against the ninjas alongside Felicia. For as shallow as Em Jay has been portrayed, she gets concerned when Felicia gets struck and stands beside her to fight. Pretty bold for someone who was allegedly strangled with a mic chord by the person she’s trying to protect.
Spider-Gwen jumps into the grudge match in her inimitable style, not realizing the depths of Felicia’s hatred. Angered at the interruption of her vengeance, the two get into their own tussle and Gwen ends it with one punch. The moment is evocative of when Batman takes out Green Lantern Guy Gardner with one swing, but doesn’t have the humor. It still manages to impress Murdock, who still comes from a boxer background.
Murdock is slimy, deft, and menacing in this scene. Mirroring Gwen’s spider-shadow, Murdock gets a horned one of his own as he stands over Felicia. He echoes the arc’s theme about what happens to you if you don’t let go of the past. He also confesses to sending people after Gwen, and that he sees who she really is after watching her. Now, whether he means her character or identity is up to the reader to determine, but he is examining her with his radar sense as he says it. It’s one of my favorite pages as the two panels look fantastic and make me think of Frank Miller’s art. As the sirens close in and Gwen departs the crime scene, he calls her “Spidey”.
Before the story ends, we check in with George Stacy as he laments to his departed wife, Helen, of the mess he’s made. Jean Dewolff drops by unannounced to deliver a warning. Despite her allegiance with Castle, she still cares for her former partner, letting him know by kissing him on the cheek after looking at a silly picture of the two of them. It’s hard to see the person who last issue was holding a fellow cop in a choke hold be the silly officer in the photo sticking her tongue out and making a face, yet they are one and the same. Her presence is a reminder that a threat to Gwen, her secret, and her family is still out there, waiting. When it does come, who knows what side Dewolff will fall on? Shown equally to be a martyr and a villain in other universes, the jury is still out on this version. As mentioned above, the last panel ends with “To be continued…”
There we have it-the end of Spider-Gwen the solo series till October, where she will return “all-new and all-different” in the wake of Secret Wars. That leaves us with this concluding chapter that doesn’t feel like a series ending because, in a way, it’s not. Modern comics have a tendency to be written for the trade and stereotypically six issues, yet Spider-Gwen doesn’t bow to that convention, going along to the beat of its own drummer, in this case, that of the protagonist herself. I’m curious what the experience is for someone reading this in trade for the first time. Whilst plots do carry over from issue to issue, each chapter does a good job of feeling like its own story. Often, a comic can feel like one or two scenes of a larger tapestry that will conclude at arc’s end, but I always got the feeling of an ongoing narrative, a day in Gwen’s life, and not a chapter in a book. I appreciated that about this title. I was surprised that this particular issue was the end of the series as I don’t follow solicits as closely as I used to, and so many conflicts are yet to come, notably rematches with Daredevil, the Punisher, and finally getting to the Big Bad, the Kingpin. It really feels like a case of Crossover Interruptus, and if not for Secret Wars barging in, would there be a “Most Wanted?, part 6”?
It seems odd to end the series this way, but it was an entertaining read and Spider-Gwen as a solo title has been an enjoyable romp that I looked forward to each month. It really felt like it captured a 60s Spidey vibe, but in a modern context and I’m glad that we got at least one ongoing spinning out from the Edge of Spider-Verse title.
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: Is that Felicia’s hair or a silver helmet that resembles hair? It was giving off a Spiral vibe!