Spider-Gwen #1 review

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...
Sequences like this may be what's propelled Spider-Gwen to Marvel A-list status after just a handful of appearances - she has the attitude and charm of early Peter Parker, a model that, when pulled off, simply works. The costume brings its problems, but it's also a release from more mundane matters and the perfect mask behind which to practice her quipping. The scene in which she tries for a small reward for her heroic efforts is classic Spider-Man.  
While I'm not a great fan of superhero as graffiti artist, I must admit, writer Jason Latour makes it work for the story here. Who knows, he may even get me liking the pop group aspect, which to me is the stinkiest of stinky cheese - I somehow missed that teenage phase of wanting to be in a band, and have no interest in seeing Gwen bash a drum like she does her foes. 

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...
The pace and pep of the script is matched by the art of Robbi Rodriguez. The pages pop with lively images that perfectly complement the story - Gwen out of costume is as interesting as Spider-Gwen, so telling is the body language. And Rodriguez' take on the Vulture is traditional with a side of terrifying. The colours of Rico Renzi are a big part of the artistic success of this comic, unafraid to be bold without going over the top. And Clayton Cowles's letters are spot-on, as ever. 

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. 


  1. Given the gimmick/sales-oriented nature of Marvel books and their forward-planning in creative round-tables, I would be very surprised if this series wasn't in the works long before the character's first appearance in the Spider-verse thing.
    But the X-factor is no big mystery, as getting comics fans to talk about new teenage characters - especially female characters who aren't super-sexualised - is like shooting fish in a barrel. My theory is that long-time fans want something that harks back to the age they were when they discovered comics, and for some that means bringing back Barry Allen/Hal Jordan/Barbara Gordon/Kara Zor-El, while for others it means creating new teen characters in existing superhero universes so that they can feel like they're looking in at these universes for the first time as an outsider - and haven't been obsessively continuity-watching for years - in order to recapture some of the freshness of first reading comics before they became mundane.
    Teen books might not be that fresh, but the internet desperately wants them to be fresh, and I think that's what happened with Spider-Gwen's buzz in the same way that a lot of new properties debuted to good reviews and fan reaction only for sales to nosedive once the novelty wore off, leaving them with a core of loyal, vocal fans too small in number to sustain a title (Runaways, Spider-Girl, Young Avengers, etc).

    1. Thanks Brigonos, that makes all kinds of sense. Maybe Marvel are gambling they can get at least a 'season' out of this. I hear Spider-Girl I now calling herself Spider-Woman too. Enough already. Or bring back Mattie Franklin.

  2. spider-woman's greatest problem within the force won't be her father or ben grimm it will officer frank castle

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  4. Hi Martin, this is why I like your reviews. You know what you do and don’t like but you don’t let one get in the way of the other and give a fair take as a result.

    Can't speak for everyone else, but for me any interest came down to the Elseworld aspect. Alternate takes on Spidey’s story with the same themes through a different lens are my jam, and since Conway flat out says he killed Gwen off because he thought she was boring it’s interesting to see how she keeps getting reinterpreted in each big attempt to reboot Spidey, always with that attitude she had when she first showed up.
    So far Spider-Gwen reminds me of the late lamented Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, where each story is a fun superhero ride but also works as so much more if you want it to. Gwen’s first story IS a really neat twist on teenage Spidey tropes but it also reads as a child telling their father that their decision to follow their artistic dreams is as valid a choice as something arguably safer and more practical. This issue works as both a callback to the Ditko era Peter’s motivation of fame and an improved social standing AND as a critique of attempting to fix everything wrong with one big gesture, instead of actually addressing the problem. I also love this issues cliff hanger: Gwen loses the first round to the Vulture because she’s in the fight for the wrong reasons, trying to solve everything wrong by becoming a more popular hero and she gets creamed.

    So as much as her current popularity comes from being the kind of comic the internet wants to see, personally I like her because she reminds me more of a Miguel O’Hara Spidey than a Miles Morales. One is a simple but effective twist on the concept by having the powers happen to an adult who already has his own responsibilities to deal with and the other starts out interesting but then gets really typical Spider/superhero stuff like Venom killing his mother and joining the Ultimates to fight Hydra and the like. If you’re going to devote time to making an alternate take you may as well prove that you know how the standard model works AND give them enough to stand on their own two feet. Miguel O’Hara’s entire concept was that he ISN’T Peter Parker whereas I’m worried whatever the strength of Miles’ own stories are he’s always going to be seen as Peter’s understudy. BY his own stories.

    I dunno that I’d put money on the series lasting (though I kind of am by actually buying it) but if Spider-Gwen can keep up that kind of story telling she can at least say she put on a good show.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful. Moments, Simon. I'm especially interested in your insights into Spider-Man 2099 as I've never read that series. I didn't try any of the 2099 books, but I hear that was one of the better ones. It'll be interesting to see how Gwen develops, it is indeed early days. I'm with you in hoping that super-villainy doesn't infect her private life, though it seems pretty inevitable for Spider characters. Here's Marvel's chance to do something new.


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