A while ago I wrote a post in which I complained about comic books. Well, specifically, I wrote a post complaining that, while alt-universe Gwen Stacy’s one-shot appearance as Spider-Woman in the Edge of Spider-Verse crossover event was cool as hell, there needed to be more comics with her in them, stat.
As Edge of Spider-Verse finally (finally) crept to a close, glorious news reached the starving masses: we would indeed be seeing more of alt-Gwen in her very own ongoing book, aptly titled Spider-Gwen. Spider-Gwen is kind of the greatest thing ever, and I will explain why in spoilery detail after the jump.
Spider-Gwen picks up in the aftermath of the Spider-Verse event, in which Spider-folk of many alternate universes were being hunted down and murdered by some annoying people who are now, thankfully, defeated. (I wasn’t following the actual event, so I only know what I saw happening in the 616 (Jessica Drew-helmed) Spider-Woman ongoing.) Fresh from saving herself and her multiversal companions from certain death, Gwen hits the streets of New York and immediately finds trouble. Her band’s popularity has skyrocketed in her absence-thanks mostly to Spider-Woman showing up at their gig-but the band’s upward growth stagnated, what with their drummer disappearing into thin air and all. Her dad’s been relieved of his position on the Special Crimes task force because he keeps going to bat to defend Spider-Woman, and he’s replaced by none other than Frank Castle, who’s just as grim and bloodthirsty as a police captain as his 616 counterpart, the Punisher.
Meanwhile, a crazed part-bird guy who goes by the Vulture is attacking cops, and the Daily Bugle, excited for a scandal, has connected his attacks to Spider-Woman. With nothing else to go on, Gwen decides that to redeem herself in the eyes of the city, she just needs to catch the Vulture and turn him in. If only that were as easy as it sounds in her head.
Spider-Gwen is a delight to read. Well, maybe not a delight, as it has a much darker tone than something bright and optimistic like Ms. Marvel or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl does. But it’s really enjoyable, even if a lot of it is Gwen getting her ass handed to her. The alternate universe is starting to come into view a bit more with more page space to expand on it, and we get to see more deeply into Gwen’s relationships with others—her dad, her friends and bandmates, her enemies—and herself (mostly via conversations with a post-concussion hallucination of Spider-Pig). While I clearly want to see where she goes as a hero with her powers, that aspect is what I’m most looking foward to the comic digging into. For someone who’s most familiar with the original movies’ characterization of Mary Jane, I’m particularly interested in seeing how her relationship with the dramatic, stubborn, and mercurial Em Jay (as the comic transliterates it) of this universe develops.
Aside from that, I’d also like to have some sort of blast-from-the-past villain or flashback story that answers some of my original questions about the character: did she make her own suit and webshooters? Is her father the only person who knows her identity? In this, I’m actually kind of pleased that this is set in an alternate universe from the regular 616 because, barring another multiversal Spider-incident, the story can do whatever it wants without any obligation to tie in the 616 universe’s crossover event of the week.
The artwork is definitely wonderful; Robbi Rodriguez is killing it both on the covers and the interior pages. The covers especially pop, with neon-bright geometric designs that beautifully complement Gwen’s fricking awesome suit. Meanwhile, Rico Renzi is doing amazing things with the interior colors; I love the pinks and electric greens throughout.
Most importantly for me, this comic is, little by little, doing exactly what I wanted: filling in the holes in Gwen’s backstory and mythos that I craved answers for after reading the EoSV one-shot. That said, they certainly haven’t just exposition-dumped everything on us, instead choosing to set up a time-honored tradition in Spider-tales: ongoing conflict with both the villains of her New York and the NYPD, albeit darker versions of both. I look forward to learning more about the Matt Murdock who enforces for a mob boss and the Frank Castle who has chosen police brutality over vengeance-killing as a rage outlet. Felicia Hardy headlines a girl band in this universe – will she also have a secret identity? Even though I haven’t gotten all my answers yet, with an ongoing title in which to explore all the nooks, crannies, and subversions of this alternate universe, I think I’ll be happy for months to come.