Thanks to an overwhelmingly positive response to Edge of Spider-verse #2 by Spidey-fans, Gwen Stacy is now starring in her own series as an alternate universe hero, Spider-Woman. But is Issue #1 of the the new series enough to keep the Gwen momentum going?
Spider-Gwen is a story set in a different world than what casual fans are used to, one in which the radioactive spider that famously bit into Peter Parker – giving him his super powers – instead found its way onto Gwen. By the time this issue begins, Gwen has already assumed the identity of Spider-Woman, her father and police chief George Stacy knows his daughter is behind the mask, and Peter Parker has died with the public believing Spider-Woman to be responsible.
The artwork of Robbi Rodriguez and story direction from Jason Latour allows Spider-Gwen # 1 to feel fresh, innovative, and relevant. I admit to having not actively kept up with the Spider-universe in recent years, except for the occasional viewings of the Mark Webb films (meh) and the franchise’s semi-recent animated outings like Spectacular Spider-Man (what a show!). But the first issue breathes new life into the franchise and sees Gwen’s Spider-Woman deal with contemporary issues like distribution and privacy concerns with the ever expanding role of social media, and how the increasing loss of anonymity might fare with a masked vigiliante – let alone a teenaged one.
The way in which Spider-Gwen plays with preexisting elements of Spider-Man lore can only be described as spectacular: After returning money stolen from a mugger to a small shopkeeper, the store owner tells Gwen that action is her reward, calling back to the 1960’s Spider-Man theme song. Whereas the traditional Peter Parker’s world revolved around his love interest Mary Jane Watson, Gwen juggles her commitment to crime fighting with her role as a drummer in an up and coming New York rock band, “The Mary Jane’s.” These nods to what many will recall from the traditional Spider-lore will no doubt continue in future issues, providing fun parallels and easter eggs for fans to chew on.
One small gripe in the Spider-Gwen universe, however, might be way in which the ‘teenaged vigilante with a police chief for a father’ idea seems strikingly similar to DC’s Batgirl. This is especially relevant given the recent relaunch of Tarr’s, Stewart’s, and Fletcher’s New 52 Batgirl, though the fact that Gwen’s father knows her secret identity from the very first issue significantly alters the dynamic from that which Barbara and Commissioner Gordon typically share.
Above all, Spider-Gwen #1 is a testament to what can happen when content creators and fans are able to understand each other and unite to create something of mutual benefit. Spider-Gwen was originally meant to be a one-off story within the larger Spider-Verse storyline, but because of the incredible vocalization from the fans towards seeing more of this universe, Spider-Gwen lived to see her own series. On the final page of this issue, Editor Nick Lowe writes,
“[The fans] drew your own fan art versions of her costume, you told your friends to pick up EOSV#2 (now in its fourth printing), you constructed your own Spider-Gwen costumes and cosplayed them, you generally spread the Gwenspel. And because of that, this series is launching in a huge way and should be around for a long time to come.”
For the first time in years, I’m excited for the future of the Spider-Verse.