“So now Spider-Woman can’t help anyone but Gwen Stacy? What has ANY of this meant if that’s how I choose to live?”
Spider-Gwen and her dad are caught in the cross-hairs of Kraven and Castle!
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
COLOR ARTISTS: Rico Renzi & Lauren Affe
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
HANDBOOK ENTRY PRODUCTION: Joe Frontirre
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Castle enlists the aid of Kraven. Gwen recalls the events of the night before and then catches her father up to speed. Suddenly, snakes and an orangutan strike, followed by a black panther (no, not that one, no not that one, either), who gets beaten by Aunt May! Kraven joins the fray and succeeds in unmasking Gwen in front of Castle’s camera, but George manages to take Castle down and destroy the film. George calls the cops and pleads for Gwen to escape, but she clocks him and absconds with him. Meanwhile, Kraven has found something left behind…
THOUGHTS: Whilst the Spider-Gwen annual showcased a myriad of scenes and talents, the latest issue of Spider-Gwen brings it back to a near singular focus. The usual gang is here, but with the addition of Lauren Affe assisting Renzi on colors and I’ve got to say, the colors and shading are strong throughout. It’s such a key aspect to the book’s identity, and they continue to stun and look like nothing else on the stands.
Latour kicks the issue off with a quote from Hemingway’s “On The Blue Water”, a very nice way to introduce readers to the Earth-65 version of Kraven the Hunter. Kraven and Castle have a history as soldiers, as predators, and Castle is clearly off the reservation here. His badge is shrouded in blackness, signifying the darkness within. His actions don’t show a man who is a believer in law, he’s all about stalking his prey now, serving his true master, “The Hunt”.
The object of Castle’s hunt apparently is a fan of the rock band, Power Pack, a fun tip of the cap to the group from Earth-616. Gwen wakes up in her father’s home and remembers the events of the night before. Whenever classic 616 Peter needed to vent, he would go out web-slinging, looking for some action and would usually find a quiet night. Such is the case for Gwen right now, where the best she can find is a simple mugger. It may not be up to the “standards” of the Goblin or, dare I say Bodega Bandit, but I understand Gwen not wanting to waste her power up and whilst it’s not fair to brutalize a powerless criminal, at least she is doing some good in the world. However, in true Parker Luck fashion, her abilities cut out mid-rescue. Latour uses another classic Spidey trope when Gwen asks for a better line set up as she rushes in to save the day.
Something Gwen and Miles have in common is having their dads for super-hero support, and we see that again in this issue. For as close as this feels to a modern day Lee/Ditko/Romita Spidey, this dynamic freshens things up and I love seeing it, especially this issue as Gwen goes to run away and hide, then realizes what hasn’t her dad seen already? In addition to being support for his daughter, George also allows Gwen to catch the readers up naturally as she feeds him exposition.
Latour throws in another example of Parker luck when George tells Gwen to change clothes. Spidey problems persist as not only are her clothes webbed up to the top of a lamppost somewhere, she doesn’t even have the powers to reach it. Without her powers, Gwen ponders if all these problems would just go away if she decides to throw away her power ups and no longer be Spider-Woman. George assures her that with Castle in pursuit, this wouldn’t be the case and to prove his point in one of the weirdest moments of this series, a giant orangutan wearing a bow-tie named Louis knocks George out as a nest of snakes swarms the Stacy abode.
Why did I declare that as one of the weirdest moments in the series? Well, when you have a scene in the same issue with Aunt May taking down a black panther (orangutans names Louis? a black panther? Looks like some Disney corporate synergy!) with a POT LOAF and hose, it’s hard to pick which is more out there! I’ve got to wonder if May knows or suspects that Gwen is Spider-Woman. She has to, right? Not only does Gwen talk to her with her mask half up, but this isn’t the clueless Aunt May from the 20th Century. We haven’t seen much of this version, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s got an inkling of Gwen’s secret.
I didn’t follow how Gwen’s power-up device got destroyed. Sure, it looked very dynamic, but she presses the button in one panel and in the next it flies off her wrist towards the camera as it explodes on the ground. Did she break it somehow by pressing the button, or did Kraven somehow cause it? With the device gone, it definitely ratchets up the stakes. Could this be setting up the Gwenom story?
I don’t know why, but for some reason I got filled with dread this issue that George would die. He does have a history of doing that across the Marvel Multiverse and it occurred to me this issue that he’s not safe on this world either. Kraven could also bite the big one, paralleling Fearful Symmetry, but I had some genuine concern for George this issue. Castle is a brutal, dangerous foe, with no regard for his former brother-in-blue. The creative team has succeeded in making this Castle feel like a true threat, so hats off!
I was impressed with George’s improvisation this issue. Blocked from his gun, he grabs his camera instead, but Castle doesn’t know that when George tells him not to turn around as he won’t miss. The hunter has become the hunted. I love the composition of the panel Rodriguez provided when George sees the snake slithering by his phone in the foreground. It felt very much like a movie moment and I almost could hear score in my head! I also appreciated George calling the cops on Castle, willing to take responsibility for his actions at least, whilst still trying to spare his daughter.
Kraven seemed very impressed with Gwen. Sure, she’s got a fighting spirit, but unless I’m incorrect, he was fighting her powerless. Maybe she did get one last jolt from her power-up before it went kablooey as she was able to toss him into a car and swing off with her dad. Latour definitely set up the cliffhanger well, with Gwen on the run and Kraven in possession of one of the vials containing her powers.
Once again, another fun issue of Spider-Gwen. Kraven’s new aesthetic definitely fits in well with Earth-65, but still retains several of the classic elements. Maybe we’ll even get an Earth-65 Chameleon, too! If you want some classic Spidey flavor with a modern twist, this is definitely a book to check out!
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: Why did they drop “Radioactive” from the cover? It wasn’t on last issue, either. They never did have it on the print indicia, also.
Kraven’s profile page needs a serious edit/proofread. Still amusing, though.