It’s Spider Gwensday! Yes that’s right, the best thing to happen to Spider-Man since Sony decided to greenlight “The Interview” is now getting its own solo run and I couldn’t be happier. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and jump the gun on this one and tell you that I’m about to drape praise over this book like cloth in a Caravaggio painting—art history reference, points me. My point being is that you can read an entire article that reads like a love letter to Jason LaTour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi; or you can skip to the end where I call it perfect and beg Marvel to keep it around.
Let’s start first with what makes “Spider-Gwen” so good in the first place, Gwen Stacy. This is a character that all of the Spider-Man fan club are intimately connected to and that means she is free to be her own character instead of merely parroting Parker-isms like Silk seems to have trouble with. True, she does struggle with money, is despised by the city she protects, and is snarky like no one’s business; but all of this comes within the parameters of her own story. Her own father now knows who she is and is the man responsible for relentlessly hunting her. That’s gonna be an awkward Thanksgiving conversation. Plus it really helps that she’s a drummer for an awesome band—well she was but like every great band there’s some behind the scenes drama. But all of this knits together a comprehensive quilt that establishes Gwen as her own character while nodding towards the origins of the Spider-Universe.
Perhaps one of the funnest things about this universe is that it is a whole different universe, a universe that has been bent to fit the story that needs to be told. One of the great things as a fan to see is references to the original. Like how some members of the Yancy Street gang are chased down by one Officer Grim. It doesn’t stop there either; Captain Stacy meets his replacement on the Spider-task force, Frank Castle. Now I have been a very vocal critic of Frank Castle use in supporting roles—I’m looking at you Joss Whedon! But his appearance here is outstanding. Not only does it establish a familiarity with this universe, but it also distinguishes itself, allowing us to see different facets of cannon we already know. That’s why the villains in this book are so outstanding. First it introduces the Bodega Bandit, once again demonstrating the long established tradition of Spider-Heroes foiling really lame villains, a tradition I absolutely need to see continue. Then, we see the reveal of a classic Spider-Man villain, the Vulture. In this book he is used as a genius egomaniac which is completely within his character so we get to see the familiar and the new mingling together for this Spider-Smorgasbord.
If I were forced at gunpoint after a brutal interrogation my one niggling complaint about the book is that Captain Stacy was previously set up to be the number one enemy of the Spider-Menace and now in this book he makes a complete 180. I’m not complaining about the writing, he finds out his own daughter is the enemy he has been chasing and so refuses to chase her, completely reasonable. However, did nobody think it strange? Maybe investigate the matter for themselves? Perhaps even see a link between Gwen and her father? That’s it. That’s all the complaint I can muster. Everything else is perfect from the writing to the dialogue and the art is absolutely incredible—my God the art! I know it may not be the prettiest art (it’s close) but it pairs with the book so well that it’s not only seamless but accentuates the action and the characters in this world.
Comparing “Spider-Gwen” with “Invincible” is hard… because “Spider-Gwen” is close to eclipsing “Invincible” in quality. Not only does it have characters that are fresh and captivating, but it makes use of things from the fan cannon that are almost treasure, rewards to the fan base not only for their years of reading but for bridging over from Spider-Man to Spider-Gwen. So instead of comparing one particular instance from Mark Grayson’s life to this book let me say that this is how to write a struggling twenty something hero just trying to make the world a better place. So I’m going to end this by cashing in whatever critic points I have accrued with my articles; I demand that all of you reading this buy “Spider-Gwen”—not the trade when it comes out, the issue, today, now. Drop what you are doing and go find a “Spider-Gwen” number one to buy. We need this in Marvel—Hell, in comics in general.