“Mary Janes of Earth-65! At great risk to all of time and space, I, the Watcher, come to you!”
She-Hulk! Koala Kommander! Captain America! Baron Blood! M.O.D.A.A.K.! The Watcher! Spider-Ham! Spider-Woman! Silk! Bodega Bandit! Pork Grind! So many characters, only an annual could contain it!
WRITER: “Jazzy” Jason Latour
ARTISTS: Chris Brunner, Emi Lenox, Chris Visions, Olivia Margraf, Annapaola Martello, James Harren, Jason Latour, Michael Walsh, Javier Rodriguez, Veronica Fish
COLORS: Rico Renzi, Jordie Bellaire, Jim Campbell, John Rauch, Vero Gandini, Veronica Gandini, Javier Rodriguez
INKS: Alvaro Lopez
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
COVER ARTIST: Ron Lim, John Livesay, and Rico Renzi
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Spider-Gwen: Week One. The origin of the Koala Kommander. Captain America meets Baron Blood and Steve Rogers. The Watcher watches the Mary Janes. Eight days in the life of Spider-Gwen.
THOUGHTS: There’s something to be said for fun and this issue has enough to shake a corn dog at! Taking a break from crossovers and ongoing storylines, Latour leads a plethora of artists through an amusing series of short, unconnected stories showing us different aspects of Gwen’s life.
Opening with “Spider-Gwen: Week One”, we get another twist on Peter Parker’s origin story. Instead of Crusher Hogan in the wrestling ring, Gwen faces off against “The Savage She-Hulk”! It turns out, Uncle Ben is a big fan and deviating from Peter’s origin, it’s Ben who stops the burglar’s escape, then has a panic attack after the fact, shocked that he could’ve been killed. In one of the most touching moments of the series, a masked Gwen hugs Ben, whilst proclaiming, “God. You idiot. What would we do without you?” Readers of this series, or fans of Peter Parker, know all too well. Latour allows Ben to deliver the coup de grace when the burglar comes to and Ben lays a wrestling move on him. Turns out, he’s a big fan of wrestling, much to Peter’s chagrin earlier in the scene.
Chris Brunner is magnificent on art here, aided by Renzi. Whilst a different style than Rodriguez, his art and layouts fit right in with the world established. I really loved the two page spread he provided of Gwen’s imagination running wild on what a possible friendship with She-Hulk could be like. It echoes the 616-Peter’s origin, but seems more playful, especially as it doesn’t show Gwen becoming too full of herself. With Gwen going off to do the responsible thing, that leaves The Mary Janes to take down She-Hulk.
“Koala Kommander! And His Drop Bears of Death!” clocks in at ONE impressive page of story. He may get dismissed as one of the “Forgettable Foes of Spider-Gwen”, but I enjoyed the Cobra Commander homage.
Visions returns to the world of Spider-Gwen, providing art on the unnamed Cap/Spidey team up. In another homage this issue, Baron Blood looks suspiciously like the recently departed Prince, but, y’know, more vampire-y. The story explores a little more of Cap’s bio from Spider-Gwen vol. 2 #2, claiming that Steve Rogers dreamed Cap’s adventures and committed them to paper. It was nice to see Steve being brought up again in this series as being connected to Cap. The story gets very existential as Cap questions Steve as to what came first, her adventures or Steve’s comics. In the end, in a world full of fear, hate, and greed, things like heroes are real, too, and the inspiration they provide us, be it on the page, screen, or standing right in front of you. To top it off, Gwen and Cap continue to have a great rapport, too, and I appreciate them bonding over Gwen’s dad’s comic collection.
Up next is “Who Watches The Watcher?!” with its very different art style, yet it still fits in with the world, aided by a few hues we don’t normally see, but enough familiar ones that we do. The story is replete with “terrible puns and plot rehashes”, but Gwen’s life still feels more like classic Spidey than the current Amazing Spider-Man title, so there!
Finally, the annual closes with “Eight Days A Week”, a story that features just that, depicted by several artists, including writer Latour doing double duty! Each artist takes a day of the week, giving us the broadest spectrum yet of Gwen in and out of crazy action. Not only that, the Bodega Bandit makes his return stealing corn dogs! He’s not the only cameo as Spider-Woman, Silk, and Spider-Ham make appearances, too! Despite insanity like blizzard ninjas in May and battling alongside Spider-Ham in a “Spider-Guin” hoodie, Latour takes it back down to earth with a mugging on Thursday. In one of the more inspirational moments, a woman bluffs her attackers into thinking she may be Spider-Woman and they run off, not wanting to test it. Gwen may look goofy with her smile showing through her mask, but it’s worth it to see the positive impact she’s having on the New York of Earth-65 without her having to lift a finger.
I’ve wondered if anyone could replicate the magic that Latour, Rodriguez, and Renzi duplicate. Whilst they are a unique team, tales can still be told that fit the Spider-Gwen mold without one of those components being present, which is good news for this title moving forward. Latour brings the heart and the funny, the colors are as bold as one would expect, and the art is quirky and energetic. There’ve been quite a few annuals in my reading career where I wondered why I wasted so much money on a book that either didn’t tie in or was just horrible to read/look at. This is not one of them! I had a blast from start to finish!
MY GRADE: A+
JAVI’S HUH?: Is Pork Grind eating corn dogs an act of cannibalism???