Because fans actually demanded it, the Gwen Stacy from an alternate reality gets her own ongoing series as…wait, didn’t I already write this review back in February?
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
COLOR ARTIST: Rico Renzi
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: So many, but not as much as last #1!
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: The Bodega Bandit strikes again, only to encounter what seems to be the Lizard reborn. Gwen wakes up late for work and has a run in with the cops. Her dad meets with Jean De Wolfe, discussing the hunt for Spider-Gwen. Gwen tries to track down Dr. Connors, but hits a dead end. In flashback, we meet Harry Osborn and get a glimpse of Peter transforming into the Lizard. Gwen goes lizard hunting in the sewers and finds A LOT more than she bargained for.
THOUGHTS: Full disclosure-I am tired of reboots, relaunches, re-brandings, etc. I have accepted that this is how it is, but that doesn’t change the fact that reading comics over the last few years has become exhausting to me. Consider this, Spider-Gwen #1 launched in February of 2015 and here it is October and I am writing a review for an all-new, all-different #1. There is nothing on the cover to indicate the month/year to differentiate the two, nor is there a vol. 2 mentioned on the inside indicia. The way the cover is designed, one would think this is actually Radioactive Spider-Gwen #1, which isn’t a bad title, come to think of it, but Marvel isn’t quite there in regards to having a weekly Spider-Gwen…yet.
Latour opens on Bodega Bandit, making this the second time he has appeared in a Spider-Gwen #1, and firmly establishes him as Spider-Gwen’s version of the Ultimate Shocker. Instead of being routed by Gwen, he runs afoul of the Lizard, or a lizard, at least. When I got to the splash page and saw the Lizard reveal, I couldn’t help but think of the “doom doom doom” of the drumbeats Todd McFarlane put throughout Spider-Man: Torment. Rodriguez has the Lizard dominate the page, dwarfing poor Bandito and creating a great sense of foreboding for the pup.
Gwen wakes up in typical Parker Luck fashion-late for work. She’s now rooming with Betty, but it’s unclear if the other Mary Janes are there, too. As she darts off, the top panel reminds me of the first person shots Webb had in The Amazing Spider-Man film. Rodriguez then adds some Ditko flair as we see Gwen in a series of motions, flickering by all in the same panel. It adds to that classic Spidey feel. S-G lands on the hood of a squad car, and I love the surprised look on the officers’ faces! The team then evokes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with Spider-Gwen talking on her cell whilst the NYPD is running lights and sirens behind her.
There are a few other easter eggs in the scene as well. A reference is dropped to a “Ms. Van Dyne” regarding Gwen’s webshooters and if you read the bio in the back, it’s revealed to be “retired crimefighter-turned-billionaire-mogul Janet Van Dyne a.k.a the Wasp”. Also, a bus sign for Hammer Industries has an obscured tag line, “hurt ’em”, a nod to MC Hammer’s cd, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.
I was happy to see that Gwen and her dad aren’t estranged, even though George seems to have a big bomb to drop on her. During his meeting in the park with Jean, we find out the NYPD still isn’t any closer to Gwen’s trail. We also get a mention of the James Barnes V.A. Medical Center. Does this mean there is a Captain America in this universe? We’ll see…More classic Spidey-Stacey is quick to point out how Jameson is fanning the flames of fear for his own gain, blinding people to the facts in the case. Jean alludes again to their history. Is it simply as partners, mentor/student, or something more?
As lame a villain as he is, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the Bodega Bandit when S-G found him in a dumpster, clutching on to his beloved pet’s collar. The trail leads Gwen back to Midtown High where she finds that the file for Dr. Curt Connors has been marked confidential, his address and phone redacted. Just like in the 616, he is seemingly tied to the Lizard, but this Curt has a much different appearance and it’s unknown if he, too, is missing an arm.
It’s here that the issue does a series of flashbacks. Renzi does a remarkable job the entire issue with the colors. I love the palette he’s given the series. Having said that, due to the high contrasts he uses, I missed the fact that we had flashed back the first time.It was more subtle when Gwen interrogated Connors, it was only for two panels, and happened in an odd place. I had a far easier time distinguishing what was going on in the cafeteria scene flashback which came next.
It’s in the cafeteria flashback that we see Harry for the first time. He’s still rich, but this version is not quite the cool kid he was in the Ultimate or 616 universe. Flash teases him over his role playing dice, giving him the nickname of the Green Goblin. Already facing alienation, it’s Gwen who tells Peter they have to make friends with him. It’s a nice insight into her personality. However, Gwen seems to be blind to the fact that Harry has a crush on her in another flashback, setting up a love triangle between her, Peter, and Harry.
In a scene reminiscent of Carrie, bullying at the prom turns Peter into the Lizard, but we still don’t see his rampage or the ensuing battle. A panel of Gwen and Harry at Peter’s funeral recalls Gil Kane’s pencils from the opening of Amazing Spider-Man #91 where Peter and Gwen stood over her father’s grave. After the funeral, Oscorp funded the Peter Parker Memorial Library at the school. Could Oscorp been involved in Peter’s transformation as well, or was this motivated by Harry, who feels a measure of guilt over what happened?
Gwen takes to the sewers with some odoriferous corn dogs as lizard bait. In the darkened underground maze, the scent trail really pops due to the coloring. The whole team comes together really well giving a menacing vibe to the scene. Gwen finds a pack of stray animals, one of which seems to be an unmasked Bandito, so you don’t have to feel bad for the Bodega Bandit on that account any more! A slew of lizards ambush Gwen who is saved by the timely appearance of a classic Marvel hero whose identity I won’t spoil here, but it’s a great way to bring the issue to a close!
The issue concludes with the requisite cover tease and a full page bio on Spider-Woman/Spider-Gwen. It’s revealed that her middle name is Maxine, coinciding with the Ultimate version. Her mom is Helen, who suffered an untimely death. The bio is full of the series’ trademark whimsy and I appreciated the recap.
This issue is basically the third first issue for solo Spider-Gwen in a little over a year and as such it’s a weird amalgamation of first issue and ongoing story. The first issue feel comes from the flashbacks that take us back to before Edge of Spider-Verse #2, otherwise this issue really does feel like it should be Spider-Gwen #6 as plotlines are continued from the first series. I really, really appreciate the lack of mention of Secret Wars. This story picks up a month after we left off with no mention of Battleworld shenanigans. It’s so self-contained that unless it’s to give the creative team time to stay on schedule, no break was really needed. Then again, I’m sure Marvel also wants the buzz that comes with a new #1, too.
If you enjoyed the last series, this is more of the same. If you didn’t, I don’t think anything new was offered to entice fans to come back. For my money, this series harkens back to the original beginnings of Spider-Man, capturing the problems that come with balancing work, school, family, friends, and super heroics with a modern context and trappings and indie/punk rock vibe. It’s a far cry from a jet-setting, rich CEO with oodles of resources at his disposal. In a time where I feel increasingly jaded about the state of modern comics, this book is a lot of fun and an enjoyable read.
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: What’s up with all the corn dog love? I’m not quite understanding the creators’ fascination. Sonoran dogs, sure. Google it.