Spider-Gwen: New Series Review
her name speaks volumes about the power of fandoms
In a universe where the naming of important things, that need clever names, follows the brilliant formula of “Spider-Noun” or even “Noun-Spider,” the title “Spider-Gwen” doesn’t really fall far from the Creative Tree of Naming. For a new-comer I’m sure this raises the most obvious yet confusing question of them all: Did Marvel really put the secret identity of one of their newest characters in their hero’s alias? The answer to this question is no, but also yes. To the characters within the comic, she is not Spider-Gwen and her identity is still protected, to the readers however, her name is in fact Spider-Gwen. When I first read the title of this series, I found it to be strikingly goofy. But, as I looked closer at the situation revolving around the creation of her series, I realize that her name speaks volumes about the power of fandoms. The creation of Spider-Gwen’s series was in a large part was due to the explosive response of fans sharing, drawing fan art and already cosplaying as her since her first appearance in Edge of Spider-Verse #2; which is currently already in it’s 5th printing! Without the fans, she may not have ever been more than a quirky one-shot look at an alternative version of Spider-Man. As the fans embraced the name so did Marvel.
Gwen Stacy (not Peter Parker) was bitten by a mutated spider. The bite transformed her, granting her the powers we all know so well from Spider-Man: a precognitive awareness of danger, adhesive fingertips and toes, and the proportional speed and strength of a spider. To the citizens of New York (Earth-65), Gwen Stacy is simply Spider-Woman, a menace to the city who has a “blatant disregard for human life.”
In this universe she is a member of a band fronted by Mary Jane Watson called the Mary Janes. She is hated by the mayor, J. Jonah Jameson, and is being investigated by the law-abiding detective Frank Castle. To say the least, that’s a number of familiar names in very different roles that we’re used to seeing them in.
I absolutely adored Gwen herself. Her tastefully hipster style, rocker chick attitude and lack of responsibility for her actions brought a lot of more flavor to the female-parrelled version of Spider-Man than Peter Parker did. I feel like the development of her as a character through out this series has the potential to not only be relatable to a younger crowd but could also very well end up being just as impactful as Peter Parker’s story for some people.
I’m just crossing my fingers that they don’t overly rely on Spider-Man as their only source material. It would be nice to see new characters who manifest as a response of Gwen’s existence. The most memorable villains in Peter’s story were closely related to him and it would be unfortunate for them to cheapen those relationships by just recyling all of them entirely into new versions of themselves. Obviously, Gwen Stacy may share friends and know some of the same people, but she isn’t Peter Parker; her path, like her, should be unique.
Connections to Spider-Man
Since we’ve only just started this series, I understand the need to connect Gwen to Spider-Man, it helps create a familiarity for the reader. You want to still feel like you’re in the “Spider-Verse” that you’ve grown to love over the years, but with something new on the table. I appreciated the sentiment of some tie-in of beloved characters, but also I found it a little distracting. Reading a name like “Frank Castle” caused me to retreat into my brain and think “Oh that’s– wait… is that really the Punis– (takes a moment to google name) …it is him!” From there I began remising on Spider-Man’s encounters with these characters and starting matching up parallels between the stories, instead of solely focusing on the events I was currently reading. Outside of these few moments though, I was fully immersed in reading.
Story Telling & Humor
One thing I pretty instantly enjoyed about this comic is that it for the most part it read more like an indie comic than a super hero comic. From flipping through comics at the comic book stores, and paying attention to the change in cover designs (like Hawkeye’s hipster-esque covers) I feel like that’s been a growing trend in comics; to make heroes more relatable and modern. What was interesting to me, is that it felt more like reading Scott Pilgrim than reading something Spider-Man related. Since I’m a huge fan the whole rock/youth culture scene in comics and art, it made the comic feel fun and nostalgic for me. Being that Gwen is in a garage band, that she’s a bit of a trouble maker, and that the whole cast is in that younger party stage, the choice in style matched the story telling perfectly.
I don’t want to give away too many of the jokes, one thing I certainly appreciated more than the blatant Breaking Bad and Taylor Swift references, was the subtle humor in elements like the graffiti. For some of those mega comic readers, especially the group of people hating on Spider-Gwen already, reading the words “and you read turrible comics,” in the background of one of the panel made my day.
The Art & Typography
Overall I loved the art so far. It was a bit sloppier in Spider-Verse #2 (I’m not positive, but I believe that’s because it may not have been intended to become a stand alone series at that time) but it did start too look better by the end of Spider-Gwen #2. That being said, I still really enjoyed the very loose styling of the line art. Instead of inking over it and with super clean computer rendered lines, the grittier pencil-sketch-feel seemed fit the theme of the work much more. Even the covers relay that off kilter message in a pleasant manner. I only really had 2 gripes about the the way the comic was put together. On occasional moments there were strange anatomical errors that took away from the overall amazing art. Page 5 of Spider-Verse #2 notably stood out to me because I was struck by how beautiful the entire layout was; fantastic colors, great establishing shots, and then suddenly you get to Gwen’s face. Where she took in the page’s beauty so hard that her eyes derp to the back of her head.
Either that or the radioactive spider mutated her eyes to different locations momentarily. This happened a few times through out the 3 comics, but really isn’t so bad. This is either Robbi Rodriguez’s (the artist) stylistic choice or just had to work on a deadline and didn’t feel it took too much away from the comic. It really didn’t, I just couldn’t not notice them. I have nothing else bad to say about the art itself though. It’s probably only because I am an artist, and struggle with anatomy at times, that I see things like this glaring at me like they are my own failures.
The other thing that bothered me, and really wasn’t a big deal, was the lettering in some of the speech bubbles ended up reading funnier than it should have been. This is because the font they chose had short extending lines making some letters look like different letters all together. Namely Ps looking like Ds. I really only point this out because of the humorous effect that happens when you’re reading over certain lines fairly fast. See What I mean?
In conclusion, this comic is worth checking checking out. If you’re able to dick up a copy at your local comic book store, I recommend starting from Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (if you can find one). Otherwise there is a short summary at the beginning of Spider-Gwen #1 to catch you up on her story.
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Art Style - 8/108/10
- Coloring - 10/1010/10
- Lettering - 9/109/10
- Layout & Design - 9/109/10
I love the series so far, it has a lot of potential. At the moment I think it is relying too much on the previous Spider-Man series for source material. However, I didn't mind it too much and there's room a lot of for expanding. I just really hope we see new characters based on Gwen's new contribution to the universe. I loved the art, the style is fantastic, though I had to mark off a few points because of a few anatomical errors that bothered me (ie. location of Gwen's her eyes in certain panels). Overall, I can't wait to read more of this series.
- Solid character designs
- Drawings are loose in a way that fits the material
- Colors match the style/theme
- Relevant pop-culture references (not too forced)
- Decent humor, Gwen's one liners made me chuckle
- Great action scenes
- Issues with anatomical accuracy in certain panels
- Story relies very heavily on previous Spider-Man universe
- Semi poor choice of font, some Ps read as Ds, making Picks look like... well you know.