Gwen Stacy was introduced as Spider-Woman in The Edge of Spider-Verse #2. You don’t need to know this. But now she has her own book, aptly called Spider Gwen. With it we enter an alternate universe, where it was not Peter Parker but Gwen Stacy who was bitten by the radioactive spider, and becomes the hero with the spidey powers. There’s origin story involved in the creation of Spider Gwen, and if you want it you’ll have to go back to Edge of Spider-Verse because creators Jason Latour and Robbie Rodriguez don’t bother with it in Spider Gwen #1.
Which is just as well, honestly. By ignoring the origin story, Spider Gwen #1 can begin creating the character and world she inhabits, throwing off the heavy doldrums that often attach themselves to intro issues and origin stories. Suffice it to say: Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman, and though Spider Gwen isn’t great, it’s good, and in the spidey role, Gwen Stacy is awesome.
Thought not totally unrecognizable. Spider-Woman, here, is being pursued by the police as a menace, a theory promoted by the Mayor and the editor of the major newspaper, J. Jonah Jameson. Police Captain Stacy defends Spider-Woman, but his voice is a John the Baptist cry in the wilderness, unheeded by the political and financial advantage of keeping the hero a public villain. That’s the familiar part.
Which is not to imply that Spider Gwen is simply a gender-swapped copy of Peter Parker as Spider-Man. Writer Jason Latour does admirable work in creating a unique character for Spider Gwen, one that analogs to the Parker version, but feels distinct in tone and style. Yes, she’s the hero known as that menace, in New York, but she’s not the same old Spidey. In fact, she’s not really like any one who’s donned the spidey suit before.
Gwen is a drummer in a band blowing up the city, The Mary Janes (led by that M.J.), who thanks to a chance encounter with Spider-Woman have been put on the map and are having their 15 minutes. And thanks to that encounter, Gwen Stacy’s been kicked out of the band.
She also has no villains to fight at the moment, and thus no way to clear her name in the public sphere. When she stops the Bodega Bandit and returns a cash register to a local convenient store, Gwen asks for a reward, or maybe some food, only to be turned down and forced to hear her heroics insulted by the man she has helped.
The arc will pit Spider-Gwen against the Vulture who shows up early and nearly kills a cop, but it’s these Gwen as Gwen scenes, of the band and of Gwen’s problematic interactions with a world that reviles her alter-ego that make Spider Gwen #1 worthwhile, and worth returning to for another month.
And that suit, of course, which is remarkably rendered by artist Robbie Rodriguez. One part Ghost, one part Spidey, Gwen’s costume is already a favorite of many readers (and a lot of cosplayers). It’s stylish, unique, practical, and makes every panel it appears in eye-candy.
Best: nice Breaking Bad ref, guys.
Worst: “Meet the Mary Janes,” a TV news anchor says, “the rockers who are taking New York City, and thanks to the power of the internet, the world, by storm!!!” I’m going to quote Spider Gwen on this note: Really? REALLY? Thanks to the power of the internet? For a book that’s working hard to live right now, that’s an ancient turn of phrase.
Double Best: Spider Gwen’s costume. I love it.