When Spider-Gwen broke big a few months back I quickly downloaded a copy of her debut story in Edge of Spider-Verse #2, ready for something amazing. What was the x-factor that inspired heaps of positive reviews, sparked acres of Twitter chat and birthed dozens of Tumblrs?
Darned if I could tell you. I saw a competent, entertaining story, What if Spider-Man was Gwen Stacy meets Josie and the Pussycats. The dialogue was decent, the title character sharply sketched, the art bright and kinetic ... but what was getting people so excited?
The costume? It's certainly striking, with an unusual colour scheme, and a perfectly impractical hoodie element, but is that enough?
Whatever the case, something connected with audiences and Marvel immediately ordered a series. And on the evidence of this first issue, I'm glad they did - I still don't see what's so unique, but I do see an extremely well-crafted comic book that feels like it's of today.
Continuing from her debut, minus an interruption for the Spider-Verse story, Most Wanted Part 1 sees Gwen on the outs with pop group The Mary Janes for overly angsty drumming, as her police captain Dad George tries to come to terms with the knowledge that his daughter is his toughest professional headache. Yep, she may be a Stacy, but Gwen certainly has the old Parker luck.
It may have transferred after Peter died in this universe, because Gwen's Spider-Woman got the blame, making her father her biggest problem. He's coming around, though, even as a new criminal emerges, jealous of the attention she's getting - the Vulture.
Gwen reckons she could do with an arch nemesis...
I do like most of Latour's alternate world choices - Matt Murdock as a dodgy fixer, Ben Grimm as kindly street cop, Glory Grant as actually present - and the feeling that he has a definite journey planned for his Spider-Woman. I'm not keen on MJ as surly pop princess, but she can change. Another thing I'm not happy with is the occasional cussing - well, comic book cussing of the !?@£&* variety. I'm old enough to still want to see heroes as role models for kids, and a good vocabulary is so much nicer than casual swearing. The heck with 'realism', this is a comic about a radioactive girl who's not got cancer...
So, I still couldn't say what the X-factor is; maybe Spider-Gwen's success is down to 'nothing more' than the synergy of a talented, enthusiastic creative team hitting the perfect zeitgeist moment. Whatever's going on, I'm glad it's produced this rather delightful read - I may not be its exact audience, but I'm certainly a happy customer.