SPIDER-GWEN #1 Review & Spoilers
“Most Wanted? pt. 1” (20 pages)
Story by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez
Colors by: Rico Renzi
Letters by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by: Robbi Rodriguez
[Note: Lots of variants exist for this issue!! At least 22 by last count!]
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Far cuter than any Spider-Men!
Look into her ivory eyes.
She will never compromise!
Here comes the Spider-Gwen!!
For all the frenzied followers that have more than demanded this book be born, the day has come. It is a seismic change in the Spider-verse. Hopefully, one that will stick (pun intended!) for the next five decades.
Along with Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman, who gets a new costume in Spider-Women #5 in March, two more Spider-Women get the ongoing series treatment this month as fallout from the Spider-Man centric Spider-Verse storyline. Cindy Moon’s Silk debuted last week with a shiny #1 issue and this week we have an alternate universe’s Gwen Stacy as Spider-Gwen who gets the #1 treatment. The preview for the issue with interior teaser pages are available here.
Also, if you thought Spider-Verse was over, guess again. Spider-Verse returns in Secret Wars!
The recap page recaptures the essence of Gwen’s origin in what seems like a lifetime ago (only September 2014, a mere five months). Not only does this remind someone like me of the core but it evidently introduces a wider audience that has taken a shining to this character simply due to her appearance without having read EDGE of SPIDER-VERSE #2. Caught in her web?!? Read on!
One can say that Spider-Woman (Gwen’s official moniker) does actually appear on the first page in the first panel. Not in the way one might assume. Three teens are spraying graffiti over a billboard with “Stop the Spider-Woman” in all caps. Even more unorthodox is that the titular heroine doesn’t swing in to stop this ‘harmless’ activity. Two familiar names are already dropped (one a ‘criminal’, the other a cop). In fact, more name dropping occurs faster than those kids can split. Officer Grimm is ready to round-up the trio when a genuine villain interrupts the attempted arrest — the Vulture. This old bird sure looks creepy.
Vulchy has a fixation with the Spider-Woman. He ponders the public’s fear/fascination of her. His eagle-eyed perception of her character is spot-on. He knows that she didn’t kill Peter Parker. Grimm has the misfortune/displeasure of being in this buzzard’s
crosshairs feathers. Vulchy sees S-W’s status as superior to the common folk. She’s despised for this as a result. He decides to give Grimm a bird’s-eye view of the city by snatching him. He states his name and purpose: like the scavenger with whom he identifies, he feasts on death. Cold open established. Title shown.
Gwen is also more than painfully aware of the double-edged sword that is her nascent existence. The public wants her gone when she is present and obsess over her whereabouts when absent. There’s nothing like the smartphone to keep up with current events. Rather than monologue, she voices her mini-rant to an ultra-lame arch-nemesis: the Bodega Bandit. Add insult to injury! She briefs him on her epic multiversal adventure and her run-in with Spider-Ham. She trashes the Z-lister uttering disappointment at her lack of worthy foes. As she rests against the wall, reminders of her world crashing down revisit. One being her break-up with her band The Mary Janes; the other being her fidgety father. Gwen tunes into some music for solace.
Gwen can thank herself for her father’s relentless quest in reaching her. How would you react if your progeny revealed herself to be the public enemy you have been pursuing? Enter Capt. George Stacy and Foggy Nelson. Both are at the hospital looking over Grimm. The fallen officer is as tough as his alternate counterpart. He’s mainly intact despite having fallen six stories and crawling for four blocks before being found. Facial recognition pinpoints the Vulture as Adrian Toomes. Mayor J. Jonah Jameson wants expediency and efficiency in capturing the elderly crook. An all-too familiar song is played as George defends Spider-Woman even though the Mayor wants to hang her out to dry. Foggy, on behalf of the Mayor, demotes Capt. Stacy and removes him from the task force. George will act as an advisor until the Vulture has been caged. George’s replacement is already hard at work. This guy is tougher-than-rawhide. He interrogates Aleksei Systevich through brute force. Whom, you wonder? Capt. Frank Castle!! His methods work since Aleksei blurts that it was The Kingpin that ordered the hit on George Stacy.
Gwen, in her civvies, returns the cash register stolen by the Bodega Bandit to a dollar store. The clerk/owner is outraged that the cash itself is missing and that Spider-Woman just happened to give it to her. Gwen humbly asks for monetary compensation so that she may feed since starvation has crept into her. The clerk’s response?? Wait for it. One of the most classic lines associated with the amazing arachnid: “Action is your reward!” Woot woot! He feels this is sufficient since Gwen had a taste of adventure by meeting the public menace. The TV magically turns on (or cuts in) and slaps Gwen in the face a second time with a feature on The Mary Janes. The band has gained more fame due to a skirmish involving Spider-Woman and Aleksei. When interviewed, Mary Jane claims that there was no fear factor. MJ plays it up by saying their death would have been for their cause: rock n’ roll. Glory Grant waxes Kanye West here with the one-liner “Yeeeezus.” Trouble is brewing for the band since rumours of Gwen leaving are swirling. The massive success of the single “Face It, Tiger” isn’t enough to prevent the fall.
Cue to the band itself. Things couldn’t be any worse. There’s no suitable replacement for Gwen. None of the three ladies can even lay claim to the male drummer since they’re not sure whose cousin he is supposed to be. Now that’s a riot! Glory tells MJ they need the genuine article to make the band sound like a fine-tuned machine. The third member sarcastically suggests her cat sub for Gwen. Randy Robertson, rock and roll reporter opines that the recordings are more than enough to satisfy public demand. There’s no point trying to perform live. Randy cuts to the chase: he tells MJ to let bygones be bygones and to reach out to Gwen. MJ refuses and states that Gwen isn’t necessary anymore. Glory blows a fuse by calling MJ’s ego and storms out emphasizing that MJ can go solo.
Spider-Woman scrolls through her directory. There isn’t anyone suitable she can contact. *sniff* She laments on Glory’s accurate observation of the band’s situation. After postponing the inevitable, Gwen listens to her dad’s voicemail. Now that he’s in on her secret, he gives her a heads-up regarding the new villain in town and how Jameson has painted her an accomplice. Spider-Woman sees this as her chance for redemption and several levels up in her rogues gallery. S-W tries to analyse the psychology behind Vulture’s wanton ways.
How to catch a flying freak’s attention? Spray paint insults in fluorescent green all over buildings. Mission accomplished! Showdown from the sky about to start. Just like Peter from the 616, Gwen succeeds in ruffling Vulchy’s feathers. Her taunting and put-downs have the intended result. Being a neophyte, she’s pretty confident in having him all figured out and in defeating him. S-W FTW!! As a classic trope, S-W webs on to the high-flying hooligan. He soars at break-neck speed towing her before he cuts the line. Gwen is too high and falling too fast. She’s about to go splat. Meanwhile, her phone rings in the alley. Dad’s on the other end…Most definitely to be continued!
The two men who contributed enormously to the pop culture landscape are now Gwen’s regular caretakers. Numerous articles have examined this phenomenon. The admiration and devotion to one of the freshest characters in all of fiction has exponentially reached all media and public awareness. Waiting once a month isn’t so bad, is it?
Jason Latour sure knows how to think like a female teen. The dialogue is reflective of modern slang and portrays a sassy, vibrant girl who is plagued by hang-ups. There is a balance between the assuredness and doubt. Gwen is mostly in costume here. I see this as a cocoon to protect her from the recent goings-on that have put a major damper on her life. She is of two minds under the hood: the cocky do-gooder who gained a confidence boost after hanging with alternate Spider-associates and the frightened, wounded waif unwilling to repair her relationships. The rest of the cast is superbly rounded-out. This really is an all-ages book.
Robbi Rodriguez is Steve Ditko version 2.015. He and Mr. Latour have set the world on fire with this “one-off” creation. There can be no better recipe for success. They will go down in history as having created an equivalent (or perhaps superior rendition) of Spider-Man. His art has a warped effect especially with the Vulture’s vile visage and S-W’s expressions via the mask. It’s as if one is experiencing a fever dream. There is a lot of ugliness in this world with very little shining lights. The haters are obvious. The posers, too. The heroes are the unsung ones (literally!!)
Rico Renzi has been around the Marvel studios for a decade but I never really paid attention to his name. Sorry! His multi-colours zero in on the psychedelic, especially the Vulture scenes. Spider-Woman’s costume is a dichotomy in itself. She can easily blend into the background with the lower half as is evident in the alley but the upper half is a brazen indicator so that all may fully scope her out. She wants her presence to be known.
Clayton Cowles covers all the bases. Dialogue itself would not flex those muscles. The recap page, the billboard, the graffiti, the sound effects, the title, the band’s logo, the screen names on Gwen’s smartphone. All presented consummately.
I will step in as Professor Paul and educate all newcomers to this book.
The following are all analogues/alternate takes on characters from the main Marvel Universe:
• Hobie – Brown a.k.a. Prowler, a reformed villain and Spider-ally.
• Officer Grimm — better known as Benjamin J. Grimm, the Thing from the Fantastic Four.
• Yancy Street — Ben Grimm’s old neighbourhood.
• YSG — Yancy Street Gang, clearly identified on the back of the urban artists’ hoodies.
• Capt. George Stacy — Gwen’s dad who is dead in the MMU.
• Foggy Nelson — Matt Murdock’s right-hand man. He seems corrupt in this universe.
• J. Jonah Jameson — Mayor of NYC which is a former title he held in the MMU.
• Vulture — real name Adrian T. Toomes. Pretty much the same.
• Aleksei Systevich — more human in appearance here but still monstrous. He’s the Rhino in the MMU.
• Capt. Frank Castle — The Punisher!! His new career path is a real twist!
• Kingpin — Big Bad no matter where he is.
• Mary Jane Watson — for whom the band is named. Definite diva. Peter’s one true love elsewhere.
• Glory Grant — the voice of reason. Gwen’s only friend. Former secretary to JJJ.
• Randy Robertson — music reporter. His dad was a reporter and now editor-in-chief in the MMU.
• OSCORP — evil corporation that birthed the Green Goblin and a few others.
I’m a sucker for puns. Who isn’t? In fact, I pride myself on being a punster once in a while. Enough about me. Have a look-see:
• The Mary Jims — alternate name for the band. Is the male replacement’s name Jim?
• Jim and the Holograms — this overlaps with the pop culture. Think about it!!
• Betty Boo — a genuine British pop/rap singer. It’s also a play on words for Betty Boop, the cartoonish femme fatale.
• “Death from a butt” — clearly what happens when you’re free-falling.
• Heisen-bird — referring to Heisenberg, the alias used by Walter White of Breaking Bad.
• “Takin’ your bald and going home?” — [ball] an insult to all follicle-challenged individuals.
Props to the Pop Culture
• Die Hard — C’mon! Who doesn’t know what this refers to?
• “Action is your reward!” — line from the one-and-only “Spider-Man” song from the first animated series presented in glorious Technicolor® circa 1967.
• “Face it, tiger” — The rest of the phrase is “You just hit the jackpot!” Mary Jane’s introductory line when Peter Parker first cast a gaze of her in the MMU. Randy paraphrases it in this issue.
• Betty Boo — a genuine British pop/rap singer.
• “hot mess” — refer to www.urbandictionary.com
• “Break bad” — riffing off Breaking Bad, an immensely popular cable TV show
New Kid on the Block
• Bodega Bandit — All original as far as I know.
Solid start. Gripping scenes. Unfurling plotlines. Soap-opera shenanigans. In acknowledgement of Spider-Gwen’s powering up on facing a formidable foe, I give this a Level 8 out of 10.
Tags: Marvel, Silk, Spider-Man, Spider-Verse, spider-woman