“…didn’t know it would kill ya to try something new.”
The devil offers George Stacy a deal…the death of Frank Castle for Gwen’s safety!
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTIST: Chris Visions
COLOR ARTIST: Rico Renzi
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
VARIANT COVER ARTIST: Michael Cho
HANDBOOK ENTRY PRODUCTION: Joe Frontirre
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Months ago, Frank Castle’s wife and family leave him. In the present, George Stacy confronts Matt Murdock and Murdock offers to kill Castle to keep Gwen and her secret safe. Meanwhile, Cap confers with Jean Dewolff and with the help of Bucky, located the fallen Spider-Woman as Harry mutates further into the latest Lizard!
THOUGHTS: Well, the dreaded (by me) fill-in artist issue of Spider-Gwen has arrived. Ever since I was a kid (and that was some time ago-decades, in fact), I’ve never been a fan of having an artist’s run interrupted. The art never lived up to my exacting standards. It was different. My tastes have definitely matured since I was 12 and I’ve come to appreciate many different styles. However, a fill-in issue always arrives with trepidation. Will the art blend in with the established visual continuity? Will it make me like the story less compared to if the regular artist penciled it? I’m happy to say that although Visions isn’t Rodriguez, the art in this issue still feels like Spider-Gwen, despite the different style and heavier line work!
Latour starts his story off months ago with a one page flashback to Frank “The Punisher” Castle losing his family. Unlike the 616 version who lost his loved ones in a gangland hit, the Castle of Earth-65 loses his due to a single-minded dedication to his job. Knowing several people who work in public safety and the stress and pressure they are constantly under made this brief scene really hit home for me. Mental health, PTSD, and being unable to “turn off” are all very important issues that probably don’t get talked about enough by those that serve their community in police, fire, EMS, and the military. Even if it’s only a page, I’m glad Latour brings it up and provides a different spin to this Punisher.
Jumping back to the present day, featuring events running parallel to the last issue, Latour focuses this story on moving things forward with George Stacey and Captain America. George is in a bar, the bartender attempting to get him to try something new. The scene felt like it was addressing me and my hesitancy to see a different artist on this book, even if it was for one issue. I’m sure Latour didn’t have me in mind at all, but the dialogue still spoke to me. I really enjoy not just the character of Spider-Gwen, but what the team does month in and out, not really dipping in to Spider-Gwen’s other appearances in titles. They may be great for all I know, but I really just enjoy sticking with Latour and Rodriguez. The barkeep is right, tho. Giving Visions a chance didn’t kill me and I actually wouldn’t mind seeing him do other work on this book. Maybe in an annual down the road?
The scene in the coffee shop had a few interesting bits of social commentary. The first was the propensity everyone has to whip out their cell phones to take a picture. Almost everyone in the Starkbucks is taking Cap’s picture as she walked in. I loved the soldier who chose to salute and stand at attention, though. I missed him the first time! Then there’s the guy trying to be subtle but not succeeding AT ALL with his sneaky pic. I’m surprised no one asked Cap to take a selfie with them!
The other bit I liked was the Starkbucks. Not only does Stark sell war, but overpriced coffee, too, as Cap observes. On the war side of things, I liked how War Machine wasn’t the name for a suit of armor, but a private mercenary army for Stark that Castle was a part of, complete with a skull adorned shirt.
Jean brings up an interesting idea in her conversation with Cap at the coffee house. She states that without evidence, Spider-Gwen is guilty until proven innocent. Is this just a cop’s cynical attitude, or the actual law on Earth-65? In a world that’s topsy-turvy with Daredevil working for the Kingpin and Peter dying with Gwen living, your guess is as good as mine. In today’s world, it certainly feels like the accused is guilty until proven innocent, at least as far as public perceptions go. Even then, the acquitted suffer the stigma of the charges against them. Just like the original Spidey, Gwen is continuing the tradition of being persecuted by those around her.
Latour equips Murdock with a great metaphor when he meets with George Stacy, observing that the roof they are meeting on is leakier than Stacy’s department. Murdock is sporting a red shirt proclaiming that he’s not the Kingpin, a nice homage to Daredevil #7 from Mark Waid’s run, where the 616 Matt wore a shirt advertising that he was not Daredevil. If you haven’t checked out any of Waid’s run, it comes highly recommended by me.
Murdock comes right out and says it-he KNOWS Gwen is Spider-Woman. He posits that Castle does, too, and offers to help the Stacys with their problem. When the ninjas pop up, George mistakenly thinks they are for him, but Murdock points out that they’re there for the very disheveled Castle, drunkenly stumbling down below. Keeping with Rodriguez’s quirky art embellishments, Visions depicts Castle with little green drunk bubbles over his head! Reminds me of the aroma swirls emanating from the corn dogs that Gwen used as Lizard bait a few issues ago.
As Castle valiantly struggles against the ninjas, Murdock illustrates the choice he is offering to Captain Stacy. As a father myself, I was riveted. Murdock is so confident in his organization and his feeling that he is above the law that he has no compunction about killing a cop. By placing Castle’s fate in Stacy’s hands, he’s not only testing George’s character, but purporting to be a better father to Gwen, too. After all, he has no problem keeping her safe from those seeking to do her harm. Visions perfectly depicts both the emotional and physical struggle that George is going through as Murdock has his hands at his throat. The fear in his eyes is very clear and I honestly didn’t know what way his decision would fall. Would he stick to his convictions and take the harder road that could have dire consequences or take a man’s life for short term protection? Stacy has dealt with enough of Murdock’s kind to know there would be strings to this deal, not to mention how it would erode his conscience, undermining all he struggled to imbue in his daughter. When Stacy chose to spare Castle’s life, putting faith in himself and Gwen’s character, the resoluteness in his face leaped off the page. There was great power to George taking control and standing up to Murdock, calling his bluff. I wanted to cheer! However, the last time a Kingpin found out a Spider’s identity, it didn’t work out so well for those involved. I’m anxious to see where the story takes us next!
The story concludes with Cap walking in on a slightly-more-transformed-compared-to-when-last-we-saw-him Harry, a defeated Gwen at his feet, catching us up to where we ended in issue 4. It would be easy to dismiss this issue as filler, what with Gwen not really being in it, and Rodriguez not penciling, but I really enjoyed this chapter. With Rodriguez’s absence, I felt that I noticed the writing more, and even with him being gone, the issue’s art still retained the series’ trademark energy and musical influences. Renzi marries the words and pictures together with his usual excellent job of coloring, keeping Spider-Gwen’s world cohesive and consistent. For an issue I was apprehensive about, it kept me on the edge of my seat at the end!
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: With Rodriguez gone, we get no references to corn dogs this issue, making me wonder if their inclusion in the series is his influence. However, Betty mentions queso, which is far superior anyways!
When he gets attacked, Castle doesn’t see red, he sees pink frosting and sprinkles?!?!