“Threes. Peter. Harry. Gwen. The Lizard. The Goblin…the Spider-Woman. Does death really come in threes?”
Gwen and the Harry Lizard continue to mix it up with The Hand, Wolverine, and Shadowcat while a horrible fate befalls George Stacy in prison. Will he survive?
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTISTS: Robbi Rodriguez & Jorge Coelho
COLOR ARTISTS: Rico Renzi & Lauren Affe
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
GWEN STACY created by STAN LEE and STEVE DITKO
STORY: Detective DeWolff goes to visit George, only to find him beaten nearly to death by The Rhino, who gets away, courtesy of The Hand. In Madripoor, Harry, as the Lizard, continues his tussle with Wolverine and The Hand. Gwen tries to reason with Shadowcat and succeeds in convincing her to help. Gwen calls Reed for advice and eventually decides to expose Harry to her power-ups, drawing out and mutating the formula into the Venom symbiote. Back in Manhattan, the medics are about to start CPR on George, as a shocked and rattled Foggy Nelson looks on at his unwitting handiwork.
THOUGHTS: I feel like I’ve given my comments on this cover before, but that’s probably just because Rodriguez loves to put Gwen in front of tall buildings lately. This time it’s more of a perspective shot, though. The criminals’ faces remind me of another artist’s style, but I can’t think of whom, just that it’s familiar. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
The team provided a strong opening for this issue. It was paced like and reminded me of a horror movie. First, we get the mindless elevator chit chat, where we learn a little more about George Stacy and his love of fantasy, including an IP called Dad Sword. Then the mood gets creepy as DeWolff and Officer Boyle find the empty ninth floor. The scary movie vibe then really kicks in as they shine their light down a darkened hallway as a creepy voice emerges from the darkness. Then, we get the reveal of “the monster”, followed by a brief scuffle and the implied horror of what has transpired. Rodriguez focuses on George’s hand, leaving it up to the reader to imagine how horrible his injuries must be. The expression he gives DeWolff really sells the severity, too, as she covers her face in shock, with just her startled eye staring out.
DeWolff is the one who FINALLY calls Sytsevich “The Rhino”. Twenty Eight issues since his debut and I think this is the first time someone calls him that out loud. One of the “hard” things about talking about these alternate Earth titles is how to properly address the characters. Referring to Matt Murdock as “Daredevil” in a Spider-Gwen review isn’t exactly accurate. It also can be confusing when you’re trying to talk about multiple Spider-Women and Men, or Cindy Moons. I’m happy we can start calling this Aleksei “Rhino”. It’s a lot easier on the ol’ spell check and the character himself has already embraced it fully!
One thing I felt was lacking last issue was more of Wolverine and Shadowcat. This issue thankfully picks up the slack, giving us a little more of how this Logan and Kitty are connected. Once again, we get flashbacks colored in Wolverine’s 80’s costume to distinguish it from current events. I really like that choice made by Renzi, who later broadens the traditional Spider-Gwen palate with more yellows and greens. Stryker also makes a cameo in the flashbacks, a fact the coloring made me misinterpret at first, as I thought it was Murdock who manipulated Kitty into making Logan Weapon X!
Speaking of the coloring, I also really dug how Wolverine’s claws were depicted. There didn’t seem to be any line art to set the parameters, just little daggers of light emanating from Logan’s hands, set by Renzi. The shade helped make them feel more metallic amidst the purples and oranges and made them really, ahem, pop out. That’s definitely not how they appeared for the majority of #20 and I have to say, I prefer this version better.
Another point of contention I had last time was how Gwen was running to Murdock for help and not calling any of her other friends, like Reed. Turns out, Latour had this in mind all along, apparently. Not only that, but Reed himself points out the flaw I had an issue with, as he bluntly, but honestly, tells Gwen what’s really going on inside her head and why she called Murdock first instead of Cap or himself. This issue is all about the choices the characters have made and the repercussions. Pretty deep for a lizard fighting a bunch of ninjas!
There were a few other moments of note in that scene, too. One, I thought it was funny that Gwen stopped in the middle of a fight to call a 13 year old for advice in the midst of unconscious ninjas. Two, Reed breaks down the semantics of Venom being a symbiote. I wouldn’t be surprised if Venom is the reason I first heard the word “symbiote” as a kid and as such, I always looked to that as an example. Other places have referred to the symbiote as a parasite and I appreciate that Latour brought this up in the conversation, pointing out that symbiote would imply a mutually beneficial relationship. How much the Venom suit would benefit Gwen is certainly going to make for an interesting story!
So, we’re having this epic, ferocious battle as Gwen is on the phone and with the turn of a page, the art style completely changes as Gwen jumps back into the fray! I found it a bit jarring in the middle of a scene, especially as the style is more in line with a Sal Buscema/Bill Sienkiewicz collaboration in the old Spectacular Clone Saga days than anything I’ve seen Rodriguez produce. It’s pretty blocky and not as fluid or dynamic as the preceding pages. I think most are aware of Rodriguez’ situation, so I understand a fill in. I was just surprised that the art assist came mid scene and wasn’t contained to say the opening or closing segment.
The issue ended with a legitimate cliffhanger. No one really believes that the star of the book is going to die when they’re faced with insurmountable odds at the end of a comic, but a supporting character who’s died in other continuities? Their fate is up in the air. I’d love to see George survive all this, but I’m not gonna get my hopes up as it’s this kinda thing that can push Gwen over the edge and into Gwenom.
Despite being thrown off by the backup artist, I enjoyed this issue enormously. It had a lot of what I was missing from the last chapter and even had a good reason to why the story unfolded that way. I was riveted from strong opening to worried closing as the issue had a good mix of action and character insight. Renzi’s colors are brilliant and Latour and Rodriguez continue to be unique collaborators. For those excited to see what Gwenom will look like, we are almost there!
MY GRADE: A-
JAVI’S HUH?: Is Dad Sword a prequel series set in the same universe as Dad Cop?