Review: SPIDER-GWEN #1

Spider-Gwen_1_Cover

SPIDER-GWEN #1
Written by Jason Latour
Art by Robbi Rodriguez and
Rico Renzi
Published by Marvel Comics
Release date: February 25, 2015

Let’s be upfront, there are going to be distinct perspectives when it comes to reading the latest edition to the Spider-family. The first is going to be the long time Spider-Man fans who are very familiar with his origin, villains, and themes. Then, there is going to be the excited fan base who is treading into the Spider-Verse for the very first time, thanks to the introduction of Spider-Gwen. There will be plenty of people who fall somewhere in the middle of these two groups. However, it’s necessary to acknowledge the predominate voices in order to best look at this last addition objectively.

For the new(er?) reader:

This book is a head-first dive into the Spider mythology that has been built over the last 60 years. It takes place not in the regular Marvel Universe, but on a separate world known as Earth-65.

Yet, none of that matters. You’re given a story of Gwen Stacy. She is a young adult whose life has been thrown into turmoil. First, through a power-giving spider bite and the death of Peter Parker, for which she is blamed. Then, she recently disappeared to help save the world during the events of Spider-Verse. It’s creates a strain across the relationships with her former band mates, her father and public perception of her.

Also, her father, the police chief in charge of hunting her down, knows she is this Spider-Woman. This is all tackled without her having a single direct interaction with any of these characters throughout the issue. However, the fallout is felt. It’s these feelings and situations that new readers will gravitate toward most. This idea of wanting to please everyone and in the processes being able to please no one. “The Stacy Luck.

What will also be extremely enjoyable is that Latour carries on the sass and vinegar humor used to portray Spider-Gwen in the recent issues of Spider-Woman. Specifically, when dealing with the villain of the arc, Earth-65’s version of The Vulture, Gwen uses an in your face and not so neighborhood friendly way to gain his attention. It’s these types of moments that will have fans clamoring for more.

None of the previous stories I mentioned above are necessary to read to understand this book. However, picking up the fifth printing of Edge of Spider-Verse #2 or downloading it from ComiXology doesn’t hurt. Thankfully, Marvel includes their great first page summaries (yes, in an issue #1) all told in panels. I’ve always said if it can be summarized in panels, then it was a clean, tight story in the previous issue.

You might finish the story with a feeling that you may have missed something important. Don’t worry, the story is exactly what it has been left on the page. That missing piece may have more to do with what has been buried within the characters and dialogue for more long-term Spider-man fans. They do not change the status quo of Gwen’s story.

For the die-hard Marvel/Spider-man fan:

Spider-Gwen being given her own pedestal to stand on isn’t happening, yet.  In the original Edge of Spider-Verse story, there seemed to be real potential with an evil Matt Murdock pulling strings behind the scenes and trying to bring this Spider-Woman into their fold. However, that longer tale seems to have taken a backseat to the flavor of the arc villain: Adrian Toomes. Yes, Peter Parker’s first big “bad” villain becomes the main antagonist flying through Spider-Gwen.

For long time Spider-man fans, this can be both thrilling and disappointing. The further into the story, the more disappointing it felt. Perhaps that’s because by the time Vulture and Gwen face-off there have been countless other 616 call backs and references. They are Easter eggs laid out and meant to reward die hard fans. Each reference has its own flare and unique aspect. However, the constant call backs to already established ideas made the story feel more like pretty window-dressing than something new and different.

There is a bone structure laid out for more unique ideas to pay-off in later issues. Right now, that unique point of view is not completely there.

Things for everyone keep in mind:  

Robbi Rodriguez’s art and Rico Renzi’s color work are once again the rock stars of this show. Rodriguez walks a tightrope between traditional super-hero tenets and a style that evokes a softer feeling. Key lines of shading, tapered in the inking process give more of an edge while still being welcoming. Some will not be a fan of his pupil only eyes that lack character defining colors where an iris would be or the high brow lines. However, it provides a clear continuity through the art, as each character is given other distinctive facial features, that make them all extremely expressive.

Rico Renzi’s colors sell the entire package. There are set color arrangements for each background scene that sell an emotional tone before a word of dialogue is even read. The returning choice of green not only for the Vulture but for correlating elements such as spray paint, provide a connecting thread. Textured overlays separate what’s being seen on television and phone from the rest of the world. And through it all, the characters spring to life across the page instead of blending into the background.

The artistic partnership of Rodriguez & Renzi alone is worth the cover price. The story is full of plenty of action with a well timed, although easily remedied, cliffhanger. The villain might not be as compelling for long term Spider-man fans. New readers will enjoy Spider-Gwen’s logical deductions and humorous jabs.

It reads more as an issue #2, continuing the story left off from Edge of Spider-Verse #2. Fans of Spider-Gwen clamored for more after that book. More is what as been provided. The background details coming into play make it wise that readers hold on through the first three to six issues to see if the payoff will be worth it. There is great foundation for what could be a unique story. For now, Latour is easing people in with familiar ideas and hidden references for returning readers.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

 

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