“It’s up to me to tell the world the truth. To show them that a badge and a gun doesn’t absolve anyone of accountability.”
Gwen vs. Castle! Will her life ever be the same? Or will the Devil tempt her to the dark side?
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
COLOR ARTIST: Rico Renzi
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
HANDBOOK ENTRY PRODUCTION: Joe Frontirre
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: George calls DeWolff to assist him in finding Castle. Meanwhile, Castle and Gwen are in battle out in the city. George finds them, only to wind up in danger and saved by Gwen. Castle runs off into the night. George surrenders to the police, leaving Gwen emotionally ruined. Two weeks later and after throwing The Bodega Bandit out of The Dollar Dog at the end of her shift, she goes to Murdock to strike a deal for her father’s freedom.
THOUGHTS: Whew! What an emotionally charged issue! Starting with the cover, we see a very intimidating, covered in grape jelly Frank Castle looming not only over the city, but Gwen herself. He is in a position of power above, making Gwen feel more diminutive, the David to his Goliath. Your eye gets immediately drawn to him and he feels like the king of New York, except for the fact that we’ll see someone who has more claim to that throne by issue’s end…
When last we left these characters, Gwen was racing to put a stop to Castle. The issue opens with George calling Jean for help with the situation. He’s got a big purple bruise in the middle of his forehead from when Gwen headbutted him to get his compliance. I love that Reed is hanging out with him in the background eating a sandwich. George fills Jean in, saying he has proof of Castle’s rampage, but will it help his case?
By the time we join Gwen, the battle is in full effect, with destruction and onomatopoeia blowing up all over the place. The art is frenetic and the sound effects reverberate so much they even tear up the ground! The colors and shading swirl and pop and as the fight rages, it bursts into the homes of innocent bystanders. This is a Castle consumed with rage (well, when isn’t he, really?) and he won’t go down like the first time he fought Gwen. His entire life’s work rides on this and he is trying to force this little portion of the city into fitting with his world view. Gwen has a different view herself, one in which Castle doesn’t deserve the badge he’s hiding behind, but more on that theme later.
George finally reaches the scene, only to find his daughter laying on her back in front of Castle, with the Punisher aiming some Stark tech at her. I still have this ominous feeling any time George is placed in jeopardy, a feeling that intensifies in scenes like George hanging by his fingertips from the ledge of a crumbling building. Fortunately, Gwen is able to swing in and save that day, catching him without breaking his neck, even! I love how Rodriguez renders it, reminding me of the way Ditko would depict Spidey in action, showing multiple images in one panel of him in motion.
Towards the fight’s climax, Gwen manages to web the Iron Man gauntlet on Castle’s left hand. As he escapes the scene, he keeps it close to his chest and the webbing is colored red, making it look like his Punisher skull is blood stained. He may not have killed anyone in this confrontation, but he is definitely tarnished. DeWolff stops Grimm from shooting Castle as he makes his escape, ensuring they all will meet again, an act of mercy she may regret later.
With her dad safe and sound, Gwen laments how she wants to break the cycle, but doesn’t know how. Her father, on the other hand, thinks he does. Demonstrating the same sense of self-sacrifice that his 616 counterpart displayed, he offers to surrender himself to the authorities. Gwen’s pleading with her father not to do this is heartbreaking. Renzi flushes her face hot with color and the tears in her eyes start to flow down her face more and more with each progressive panel. Rodriguez is at his cinematic best, combined with Renzi’s colors, as we see the two have their talk amidst the rubble, climaxing in George putting his hands on his head in the spotlight and Gwen dashing away in despair. It’s one of the most moving moments in this series for me.
As George explains to Gwen why he must take this specific action, it feels like Laotur is making an innuendo to the current political climate and events surrounding the role of a police department in our society whilst at the same time, touching upon themes from the first Civil War comics event. The theme of responsibility again factors heavily into this issue, making it feel like a Spider comic to me, even with this title not being about Peter Parker. This story may feature a physical confrontation between Gwen and Castle, but it is also just as much about an ideological confrontation between Castle and George, one that George feels he can win by being accountable for his actions, not running amok and abusing authority like The Punisher.
Two weeks later, Gwen is back working at The Dollar Dog and Latour satirizes Millennials as they gripe about tv seasons, take photos of their corn dogs for social media purposes, and just generally blah blah about everything. It’s in this moment, as Gwen reads an article about her father over her cell phone, that Bodega Bandit strikes, threatening Gwen with, “Your corn dogs, or your life.” She just glares at him, bags under her eyes, and throws him out. She may not be able to break one cycle of violence, but she certainly breaks BB’s cycle of theft, earning a small victory.
With work over, she takes to a back alley to finish reading the article. Her feelings are so intense and I thought it was a nice touch having her crack the glass on her phone with her grip. There’s a lot of use of red shades and shadows in this scene, alluding to the ominous presence of evil, or more specifically, the devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Matt Murdock, here to tempt Gwen yet again. In one panel, after Gwen makes her deal with the devil, Rodriguez depicts her with a very long neck, symbolizing how she is sticking her neck out or putting it on the line here as she does something her father absolutely would not want her to do. It’s sad that after all George has fought for and tried to instill in Gwen that she has reached this crossroads and thrown her lot in with Murdock. It could just be a sting on her part, but she is so incredibly saddened and frustrated by the current events of these last few issues that I think she may have given in to the temptation offered by the current Earth-65 Kingpin.
The issue concludes offering us a glimpse of the next cover, which promises us Mysterio, and the usual profile page, this time spotlighting the Reed Richards of Earth-65, who apparently has a penchant for cosmic flame. I’d love to see him cross over to the rest of the Marvel Universe and make some guest appearances. He’s a lot of fun and that character in general seems to be missing from the MU these days.
Month in, month out, this continues to be one of the best books Marvel publishes to me. Not only does the team deliver action, suspense, and drama, but it gets balanced out by lighter, whimsical moments, like the text in the bio pages and the Dollar Dog patrons walking out with Bodega Bandit’s pet sidekick in tow. The art and coloring are always beautiful to look at and the story provides empathetic characters that are familiar to longtime fans, but places them in a new light with a contemporary spin.
MY GRADE: A+
JAVI’S HUH?: What is it lately with the printing on the covers? Both this and a recent issue of 2099 have much darker printed covers than the digital or preview versions.