Ladies and Gentlemen, in my first monthly review segment, we have The Radioactive Spider-Gwen going up against Flash Thompson and his team, The Guardians of the Galaxy. Both are hitting us with new number one issues, but who had the stronger return in the wake of Secret Wars?
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #1
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist/C. Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editors: Devin Lewis & Nick Lowe
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Four #1
Writer: Brian Micheal Bendis
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Richard Isanove
C. Artist: Art Adams & Dave Stewart
Editor: Nick Lowe, Jake Thomas, & Kathleen Wisneski
Spider-Gwen Recap: Gwen arrives late for her first shift at the Dollar Dog, only to discover it has been attacked and the Lizard has returned. The original Lizard was her childhood friend, Peter Parker, who died in her arms. Gwen tracks down the only lead she has, in the form of Curt Connors, but this proves to be a dead end and bad memories, retconning Harry Osborn into her high school life. After failing to pick a band name with her bandmates and being oblivious to Harry hitting on her, she takes to the sewers to go lizard hunting. She discovers a pack of Lizards and receives aid from a woman dressed as Captain America. After saving Gwen, Cap arrests her in the name of SHIELD.
Guardians Recap: Ben Grimm, The Thing, is reveling in the fact he has finally become an astronaut, when he is attacked by the Chitauri. Luckily, his team of Guardians arrive; Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Venom, Drax, and Star-Lord. However, Kitty Pryde wears the Star-Lord helmet now, while the former Star-Lord, Peter Quill, tries to rule the planet Spartax. The Guardians discover an artifact that they need help with, so they bring it to Spartax, even though there is bad blood between the Guardians and Quill. Groot and Flash explain the situation to Quill, who agrees to help, until Gamora crashes into the planet, with Hala, the destroyer of worlds, following suit.
I’m going to compare the two issues in the following aspects: Writing, Art, Humor, and Accesibility.
From a writing stand point, I found this to be one of the weakest issues of Spider-Gwen yet. The series lost a lot of momentum in its final issue and Secret Wars didn’t help. Instead of regaining momentum, this issue felt the need to retell Gwen’s high school years. This felt a lot like retconning, which is ridiculous for a series only six issues in (sure, it’s got a new title, which I love, but this is just a continuation of Spider-Gwen Volume One.) Latour left himself blanks to fill in as he needed, a style I’ve used a lot myself, so I know how lazy it is and I’m not okay with it. Also, we jumped around so quickly between segments that I didn’t get a good enough read on where Gwen is in life.
I’m not a big fan of Bendis, Ultimate Spider-Man aside, but the man knows how to make excellent first issues. This issue has lots of team cammadrie and for the first time since Bendis took over, everyone got their own moments, lines, and voices. Having Flash being the voice of reason is not a bad fit and making Ben question everything works especially well. There’s also a lot of intrigue, from what happened between Peter Quill and his teammates, in particular his fiancee Kitty, and what Gamora has been doing, still in her super powered form she got back in the Black Vortex crossover. The fact their first threat is named after the recently destroyed Kree homeworld, Hala, is also very interesting.
So I’m giving this category to the Guardians.
The art in Spider-Gwen was as vibrant as ever and I appreciated it even more after having a different artist tackle Spider-Gwen’s adventures over the last few months. When Robbi Rodriguez flashbacks to high school, our characters are drawn more lanky and awkward. When Gwen throws corndogs into the dark sewers, Rico Renzi draws a vibrant corndog colored trail for the eye to follow. And their redenition of the Lizard(s) are terrifying. I missed these guys.
Guardians doesn’t go down without a fight though. Back when I reviewed the symbiote arc of Guardians, I liked Valerio Schiti’s art fair enough, but he stepped up back time this issue. This issue is super crisp and easy to follow. Schiti tells more of the story this issue than Bendis does, which I’ll explain more of in the next segment. Space and destruction is truly beautiful thanks to Richard Isanove’s amazing colors. Isanove really sells the mood of every scene, so that is going to make my decision particularly hard.
Both art teams delivered spectacularly this month, but I’m going to give it to Spider-Gwen. You can’t beat the joy of having your boys come home, to the character they created, after an absence.
Both of these books rely heavily on humor. Spider-Gwen has delivered some great material in the past, no matter whose penning her lines. But this was a really off issue for Gwen, who didn’t even have her trademark pithy thought captions to carry her this month.
But, it would have taken the best writing of Latour’s career to compete with Guardians this month. Bendis is known for his notoriously slow pacing, but in this issue it really worked. The majority of this issue was jokes and visual gags, which Bendis and Schiti executed perfectly. Nearly every scene made me laugh at some point, more often from how Schiti executed the joke visually. He could have carried this issue if Bendis fumbled, but both killed it this time around.
Hands down, the Guardians take humor.
Both of the issues we got this month were number ones, so who had the more new reader friendly issue?
Spider-Gwen touched base with most of the important things in Gwen’s life; her life struggles as Gwen, her band, her career as Spider-Woman, and her relationship with her father. Daddy aside, her supporting cast was put on the back burner so we could catch up with Gwen, learn the essentials of her life, so things can build from there.
We even went back to when it all started, delivering us a more detailed origin story of sorts, even if this was executed sloppily.
Bendis wisely choose to open the issue with the newest Guardian, Benjamin ‘The Thing’ Grimm. He sells us the joy and magic of space through Grimm, before showing us the dangers and introducing the Guardians in the same beat. Bendis trusts that everyone knows who the Guardians are and tries to make the first interaction with this iteration as entertaining as possible. He spends a lot more time with Peter Quill, explaining his new status quo and why Peter hates it.
He also drops several references at things that happened in the 8 month gap between now and the end of Secret Wars, as well as hints of things to come.
Although both issues are fairly new reader friendly, I find Bendis’ confidence that the audience is along for the ride is the thing needed to give this to the Guardians.
Verdict: Much to my surprise, the Guardians are the winners, leaving Gwen mucking around in the sewers while they soar through the stars. If you want a more traditional review grade, Guardians would get an A- and Radioactive Spider-Gwen a C+. I hope you guys enjoyed this new review style I’m trying out, I’ll still be doing the tradition reviews for Arc reviews.
See ya guys next month.