• BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT! The breakout hit of the biggest Spider-Event of the century is taking comic shops by storm this winter with her own new ongoing series – SPIDER-GWEN!
• Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman, but you knew that already. What you DON’T know is what friends and foes are waiting for her in the aftermath of Spider-Verse!
• From the fan-favorite creative team that brought you Spider-Gwen’s origin story in EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE, Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez!
Mark Stack: Let’s forget the hype. Let’s forget how unlikely it is that this book exists after a one-shot and a couple of small appearances featuring Spider-Gwen. Removed from all of that background, what we’ve got here is a really inventive first issue that takes several well-known characters and recontextualizes them in an exciting way. Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman remains a stroke of genius as it lends new depth to the character after existing solely as a love interest for decades. Her troubled relationship with her father, Captain Stacy, provides a unique dynamic with the man hunting Spider-Woman being her father.
The issue spends a lot of time setting up the universe at the loss of a driving narrative. I spent more time in my reading spotting new versions of familiar Marvel characters than I spent enveloped in the plight of Gwen Stacy. In fact, I’m not quite sure where Gwen is at when this issue starts. There’s reference to Spider-Verse but there’s no indication of what Gwen’s been up to inbetween the end of that and the beginning of this issue. Has she been wandering around homeless this entire time? Was she crashing on somebody’s couch? I could have used a lot more Gwen in this issue!
Am I the only one that felt there was a lack of Gwen Stacy in this issue?
Ray Sonne: You may be getting that feeling from the issue starting with the random graffiti-artist kids in the beginning of the issue. Latour and Rodriguez sure spent a lot of real estate on them, even giving them names, which indicates that they will be returning in future issues. Between that and the scene where Gwen’s father tries to call his daughter in Officer Grimm’s hospital room, there is a significant amount of space cut away from our title character.
Regardless, this issue has an impressive amount of action squeezed into what amounts to an expository chapter. A lot of creators aren’t able to (re)introduce a villain as scary as the Vulture and break down all these elements about their main character–family, career, current standard of living–without weighing down the story’s pace. This is one reason why Gwen’s homelessness, hinted at in her asking the bodega owner if she gets a reward for saving his cash register because she’s starving, is glossed over. The other reason is that her first appearance in Edge of the Spiderverse was fun, fun, fun, and readers may not necessarily want to be saddened by Gwen’s dire, homeless, bandless, fatherless state quite yet. I sure don’t.
Reflecting further, however, most of the fun really is centered in Rodriguez’s art and Clayton Cowles’s lettering. Rodriguez’s characters’ faces are super expressive and his style leans more toward the cartoony side, which balances out the darker bits of Latour’s writing. There are also little details such as Gwen’s headphones sometimes looking like her spider-webbing, like her phone is an essential part of herself as it is for most millenials. The use of technology is very well-done and not exaggerated at all, like it is in many titles trying to be “hip” nowadays (and if I’m to be frank, Spider-Gwen #1 has been doing modestly exactly what all of the new Batgirl run has been over- and mis-doing–I’m already cringing at bad technology use in comics, but I’ll wait for everyone else to catch up in the next 5 years or so).
As for Cowles’s lettering, he totally gets what tone this book is going for. Most of the sound effects have a graffiti-style, connecting back to what those vandals are doing in the first few panels. A lot of the story even depends on sound effects for their emphasis of the situation so seeing artsy sound effects and letters with sharp, but feminine styles like one might see as fonts for girl-rock bands is just awesome. This entire book is purely Spider-Gwen.
I’ve bought into the hype, but I think the creative team has proven themselves once again with this character. I love it, I love it, I love it!
MS: Though I led this off with a complaint, I’m with Ray 100% of the way when it comes to how effective the art of Robbi Rodriguez is. The guy’s work is frenetic, possessing so much energy along with a sense of movement that breathes life into each and every panel. Reading this book, with the lettering touches that Ray also mentioned, feels like watching a music video during the TRL days. It’s like you’ve been waiting and voting for your favorite video to appear and here it is, finally sitting at number one.
I don’t think the Batgirl comparison is especially fair, though. The books both feature sharp redesigns and center around young women but there’s a difference in what they’re allowed to do. Batgirl had to give the character a new corner of Gotham to hang around and start building fresh, new elements to surround her whereas Spider-Gwen gets to rebuild an existing universe to center on their lead character. For Spider-Gwen, it results in a world where she and her presence feel important to the structure of it all from the get-go.
I’m not quite as sold as Ray is but that doesn’t mean I’m not into this. My only complaint remains that I just didn’t get enough Spider-Gwen in this first issue.
Katy Rex: I wanted to be so into this. I love the character design, I think the colors are phenomenal and fresh and a little urban-cityscape, which is definitely what they’re going for, so mission accomplished. They did a lot right. I also agree with Ray’s take on the technology; it felt natural and essential and highly realistic. But I had a lot of issues with this first, er, issue, as well.
With the first issue of Silk having come out so recently, I was hoping for something that was as easy to pick up. I didn’t follow the Spider-Verse event, which I recognize might not be the case for everyone who picked up this first issue, but from that perspective I didn’t feel like I got enough backstory. It’s likely very difficult to strike a balance for people who followed an event and people who did not, to give enough information without being redundant or over-explaining, but I just didn’t feel like this struck the right balance. I don’t want to go back and read the whole event, I want to be able to pick this up now and be able to get into it; it’s a first issue!
I did really like the direction this is going, though, and I’m very interested in Gwen’s relationship with her family and her friends taking the forefront of her personal drama, rather than necessarily a romance. And I really really love her (former) band. I can’t wait to see where it goes next, but I did very much hope this would be better.