Jason Latour (Scripter), Robbi Rodriguez (Penciller)
Rico Renzi (Colourist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
Robbi Rodriguez (Cover Artist)
I have placed so many expectations on this comic it’s unreal. In my previous review of issue #1, I mentioned that it was off to a promising start. The latest two issues, however, have been a little bit of a roller coaster ride.
Issue #1 left off with a killer cliffhanger. Gwen had managed to track down the Vulture and at the height of their confrontation he dropped her from way high up with nothing but the Hudson river to break her fall. It was a seemingly inescapable situation–and definitely calls to mind the infamous fall the Gwen Stacey in regular continuity is associated with.
Issue #2, “Most Wanted Part 2,” opens after the fall. Back in “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” she is dropped and falls to her death because Peter in unable to save her. In “Most Wanted Part 2” Gwen is able to save herself by spinning a set of spider web wings mid-nose dive (a classic spider move). It is a clear break from the historical baggage attached to this character. This Gwen Stacy is no one’s damsel. She is not here to be fridged for the sake of the male lead. She is here to save the day and be a hero in her own right.
But even with the spider-wings it was still a rough landing and she seems to have hit her head pretty hard because a new companion has show up to keep her company–Spider Ham.
Plagued by self doubt, Spider Ham is there to be a manifestation of her conscience and to provide her with helpful little pep talks throughout the issue. Gwen is new to this whole superhero thing, so it’s only reasonable that she’ll question her abilities and wonder if she’s doing the right thing. Assigning her, in Ham’s words, a personal “Jiminy Cricket” however seems a bit much. Gwen is a relatively independent character. In the Spider-Verse event she teamed up with other superheroes, but now back in her own universe she’s on her own. I would expect her feelings of self doubt to be something that resurface often, and not something that can be swept away with some campy one-liners from a pig in a costume.
But despite the awkwardness of her imaginary talking pig, I really appreciated that we got a little more time with The Mary Janes (although the key word there is little). The dynamics of her relationship with the other members, MJ and Glory, are probably one of the elements of the story I’m the most interested in.
Ever since Gwen missed the show that could have been their big break, things have been tense between the girls. She has barely spoken to them since that night, and they feel betrayed and wounded. However, they have all been friends for a long time, so they’re not willing to completely walk away from one another. Any story that explores complicated female relationships that don’t revolve around a boy, is a story I want to read.
In addition to her relationship with the Mary Janes, the other plotline I’m the most interested in is how Gwen struggles with Peter’s death. It’s something that she should struggle–he was her friend after all–with and it makes her feel more human. Like the Mary Janes, it’s something I hope they spend a little more time one in the coming issues.
Thankfully, in Issue #3, “Most Wanted Part 3,” Spider Ham is gone and things feel a little like they’re back on track. The Vulture returns and Gwen is given another chance to prove she is worthy of the title Spider-Woman. Things still don’t go exactly as she plans, but it is definitely an improvement over the last time they faced-off.
A large part of this issue, is dedicated to Captain Stacey. Ever since finding out that his daughter is Spider-Woman, he’s been struggling to come to terms with it. The knowledge puts him in an awkward place at work and it makes him fear for her safety. Though I am sympathetic to his character, I’m not thrilled that her dad already knows about her for two reasons. The first is that it removes some of the potential tension from the story, that could have occurred from his investigating her (a la Barbara and Jim Gordon.) The second is that it’s given so much prominence in the story, it crowds all the other things going on. Sometimes the amount of balls in the air can feel overwhelming. In my opinion, it’s definitely something that could have waited for a later date.
The art in this series is still rock solid. It’s fun and expressive and the colours are bright. It stands out as a unique style in the sea of Marvel titles, and continues to be my favourite thing about it. The humour being a close second. No matter what’s happening, Gwen’s sarcastic and cheeky personality shines through and it’s great to see them keep her character so consistent.
But I want more time expanding on Gwen and her new found abilities and less interactions with blasé villains and imaginary sidekicks. We’re only been given a taste of her real character development and I want more. In a series like this, characterization can be everything–giving readers a reason to fall in love with the girl under the mask, a girl who is funny, yet flawed, admirable, yet imperfect, is what will keep them coming back month after month.
I am still hanging onto the belief that this series is going to be great. The bones are solid–I like the characters, the art and the various personal issues Gwen is forced to wrestle with…but they need to find their footing. I just hope people hang on long enough for that to happen.