Spiders, lizards, and falcons! Oh, my! Gwen tangles with Earth-65’s Captain America, Falcon, and a slew of Lizards in New York’s sewers as George Stacy talks to Ben Parker about his investigation into Peter’s death.
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
COLOR ARTIST: Rico Renzi
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
VARIANT COVER ARTIST: Cliff Chiang
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: George and Ben begin to have a talk about what happened to Peter. Meanwhile, Cap and Spidey fight in the sewers below, with Cap subduing and restraining Spider-Woman. When Dr. Connors transforms back into the Lizard, they team up to stop him, assisted by Jean DeWolff and Falcon. Gwen then does her good deed for the day.
THOUGHTS: Here it is, issue #7 of Spider-Gwen and…wait, this is issue #2 of Radioactive Spider…but the inside just says Spider-Gwen…look, the back page of the issue lists the Earth-65 Cap’s first appearance as Spider-Gwen (Vol. 2) #1, so for the purposes of reviewing from this point forward I’m going to label this as volume 2! I will go on record and say I wish Marvel would make it official and go with Radioactive Spider-Gwen as the title, but they’ve yet to seek my counsel.
Only two covers this month, fitting for the second issue I suppose, and both are great pieces of art. The standard cover is evocative of 60’s Spidey with the shadow of Spider-Woman emanating from Gwen’s footsteps. The variant is a nice, but standard swinging through the air pose boosted by the background cover palette. I do enjoy both, but I tend to prefer covers that hint at what’s inside-helps my aging brain remember which issue is which.
Instead of opening with the titular character being angst riddled, it’s George Stacy’s turn as he wrestles with telling Ben his belief that Spider-Woman didn’t kill Peter. It’s in this scene that Ben drops an old school pop culture reference that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. I can’t imagine Gwen or her contemporaries would know The Rockford Files! Rodriguez does a fine job portraying the “acting” in this scene between the two men, particularly when Ben embraces George, then holds him back in disbelief when the truth bomb is dropped.
The bulk of this story is in the sewers. There are speed lines galore as Gwen and Cap simultaneously fight lizard monsters and each other. If you like Rodriguez’s style, he shines here. Latour has the quips from Gwen flying as much as Cap’s shield and they connect about as often as the punches do.
It’s a standard superhero trope to have the heroes fight, be it the comics or the movies. Gwen is particularly stressed by this encounter as her dad is a big fan of Cap, owning every issue ever published. We get a fun fact about the comic in the end bio-in this universe the series is created not only by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, but has art by Steve Rogers! I never pictured George Stacy as a comics fan and I hope The Vulture didn’t wreck his collection when he crashed into his house last series.
Cap knocks out S-G in the fight, diverting us into a two page flashback/recap/dream sequence? of this Cap’s origin. Project: Rebirth consisted of Samantha Wilson, who becomes this universe’s Cap, Steve Rogers, Isaiah Bradley, and James Barnes. The Nazis attack Project: Rebirth, causing the deaths of Erskine, Bradley, and Barnes, who gets a V.A. hospital named after him as we saw last issue. Only Wilson makes it into the Vita-Ray chamber to become the Sentinel of Liberty. In a 616 parallel, this S.H.I.E.L.D. is headed by someone sporting an eye patch-Agent Carter. Lost in time and space, Cap returns after a 75 year absence, finding that S.H.I.E.L.D. has attempted to clone her thirteen times. This latest attempt, Sam 13, is a male Falcon, who is now being trained under Cap’s guidance. He comes off a little bloodthirsty in this issue, wanting to snipe Mr. Albie, corn dog vendor supreme.
When Gwen comes to, Cap begins her interrogation, dropping the name S.I.L.K. We also get a glimpse of the human Curt Connors and he is missing the requisite arm. Cap lets Gwen know that there is no cure for the lizard mutagen once it bonds, just a suppressant which upsets Gwen, not wanting this to be Peter’s legacy.
The mention of Peter’s name triggers Connors’ transformation once again as Jean DeWolff heads below to investigate. Despite her allegiance to her current partner, she’s also still willing to help out her former by chasing a lead wherever it takes her.
The Lizard injures Cap, who, looking at the odds, thinks it’s time to retreat, even with the extra help provided by DeWolff and Falcon. S-G tries to reason with the man inside the Lizard, but it’s no dice. Gwen then steps up to the plate here in true Spidey fashion. She adamantly holds her ground, not wanting the Lizard to escape and hurt someone else. Her sense of responsibility demands that she stay and not give up and it feels good reading a Spidey, any Spidey, do that. Her courage inspires Cap to stay and fight. On one hand, I like that Gwen’s determination is the impetus that causes Cap to stay, on the other, I’m not sure it would be in character for a Cap to retreat from this situation.
Our heroes prevail naturally, with a cartoony defeat for the Lizard. As Cap and Spidey bring down the house, we see the Lizard’s eye go wide; missing is the Wile E. Coyote sign that says, “Help!” Liz reverts back to Curt and Gwen gets outta Dodge, much to Sam 13’s consternation. DeWolff is left behind with a deepening mystery, suggesting a team up with Cap. Again, it’s good to see Jean not blindly following Castle and thinking for herself.
After the scene between Ben and George continues, we end on a happy note with Gwen and the infamous Bodega Bandit. One thing I always loved about the original Peter Parker was his compassion towards his enemies, how guilty he would feel fighting Harry’s Dad, Liz’s relative, or Betty’s husband. He understood underlying reasons and would be empathetic in battle, genuinely trying to help, not mindlessly bashing the villain du jour. Here Gwen demonstrates that very same trait by presenting the Bandit with a new pet/sidekick, complete with costume and tiny mask! It’s a lighthearted ending, proving a Spidey story need not always end serious or depressing.
In lieu of a letters page, we get a full page bio of Captain America. It’s pretty worked out and we get a shot of Cap in costume. Unlike Spider-Gwen’s, I can’t say I’m a fan of the design. I appreciate the urban camo pants, but what’s the point given that the bright white star and letter A stand out so prominently against the blue? I also don’t care for the small band of red and white stripes below the utility belt. Goggles built into the cowl is a nice nod to her aviator background, but I’m not sure how the pink lenses would help.
On one hand, it doesn’t seem like a lot happened this issue, what with its two locations for the story to take place. On the other, it felt like another solid, enjoyable read from this team. The art is dynamic, the color pops, and the dialogue is fun, even if every joke doesn’t work. Freed from the stigma of being a first issue, this comic works better than its predecessor which had to serve as a jumping on point, even though that particular issue was basically #6. End of the day, I feel like I got my Spidey fix with this comic.
MY GRADE: A