I've discussed why I like this character here. We'll start with her first appearance:
Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (November 2014):
OK, as I've noted before, I've never read any Silver or Bronze Age Gwen Stacy stories, so I don't have the connection to the character that a comics just a few years older than I am might have. An older reader might say, "This isn't my Gwen Stacy!", but I won't have that.
The writer is Jason Latour. By and large, I have no beef with the writing. His dialogue occasionally smacks of "the way these kids talk today".
The art is by Robbi Rodriguez, with colors by Rico Renzi. The art is basically OK. Rodriguez does tend to draw George Stacy with a huge forehead, as though he were about to mutate into the Leader. I like Gwen's costume, similar to Pete's, but different enough that it has some originality to the look.
We're shown that Gwen is drummer for a rock band called the Mary Janes. MJ is the diva-ish lead singer/lead guitarist, an African-American girl called Glory (Grant?) is the keyboardist, and a dark-haired girl who is not named is the rhythm guitarist. They are seen practicing a song called "Face It, Tiger".
We get a flashback explaining some of Gwen's history: She was bitten by a radioactive spider, gained spider-powers, and became the entertainer "Spider-Woman". Peter Parker, wanting to become special like her, becomes the Lizard, and ends up dying in her arms. J. Jonah Jameson starts a campaign against Spider-Woman, accusing her of murdering Peter. Gwen feels responsible for Pete's death, but not in the way that Jonah means it.
Meanwhile, Captain Stacy is in charge of the police effort to catch her. The police are hot on her trail. We cut to Matt Murdock - who on this Earth is a crooked lawyer working for the Kingpin, which I thought was an interesting twist - having lunch with a muscular, grey-skinned comedy Russian called Aleksei (This world's version of the Rhino?), and sending him knock off George Stacy, in hopes of winning over Spider-Woman.
Aleksei attacks George at a Mary Janes concert, which Gwen is late for. She beats up the somewhat confused Aleksei, but George gets the drop on her. She unmasks, and explains to him why she became Spider-Woman. He weakens, and lets her go. All this is observed by the British Spider-Man, leading into the Spider-Verse storyline.
Overall: An interesting first look at the character. She would play a fair part in the Spider-Verse story, but I'm not going to get into that here, as I hope to give that story its own thread at some point.
I didn't get the impression that she thought he was mentally unstable, so much as a very withdrawn kid.
Spider-Gwen #5 (August 2015) "Most Wanted?" - Part Five
In this issue, we meet Felicia Hardy, lead singer of Felicia Hardy and the Black Cats, a rival of the Mary Janes. Felicia is also a cat burglar whose father, also a cat burglar, was killed because he robbed the Kingpin. The Mary Janes are opening for her at a live performance.
(We also finally learn the name of the fourth Mary Janes - it's "Betty". If it's meant to be Brant, it doesn't look anything like her. Perhaps Pa Brant married a different woman in this timeline. She seems to be the group's oddball. She keeps a cat named "Murderface", whom she sometimes wears as a hat.)
Murdock sends ninjas after Felicia at the show, Spidey shows up and stops her from trying to kill him. Back at home, Jean warns George to watch his back.
Overall: An interesting episode. I never was wild about the Black Cat as a character, but this is an interesting variation.
This is the last issue of this series. Gwen played a large part in the Secret Wars Spider-Verse, which I intend to get into separately. Next up will be the post-Crisis Secret Wars series.
Reading along in my TPB has been fun, and I have already pre-ordered the next Spider-Gwen volume.
Richard Willis said:
Reading along in my TPB has been fun, and I have already pre-ordered the next Spider-Gwen volume.
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #1 (December 2015) "Greater Power" - Part One
We start with the Bodega Bandit robbing the "Dollar Dog". We see the Lizard come up out of a sewer and go after the Bandit's dog. Gwen wakes up late for her first day on her new job - apparently she lives with her bandmates, I hadn't quite worked that out. She races to work, but her job is at the Dollar Dog, which the owner says has been wrecked by a giant lizard.
Elsewhere, George tells Jean that he believes that Spider-Woman is innocent. He also mentions six wounded veterans that are missing from the James Barnes VA Medical Center.
Spidey tracks down the Bandit, finding him in a dumpster, crying over his lost dog. She flashbacks about questioning Curt Connors (who looks like Roger C.Carmel here, for some reason) about Peter's death, and flashbacks further about meeting Harry Osborn in high school and the night that Peter became the Lizard. (Side note: Betty definitely seems to be shaping up as something of an oddball.) She goes down the sewers to look for the Lizard, only to be confronted by six Lizards, from whom she is saved by Captain America, who is an African-american woman, apparently affiliated with SHIELD.
The book also includes a "Who's-Who" style page, which:
1)Confirms that the other Mary Janes are Mary Jane Watson, Glory Grant and Betty Brant.
2)Her costume and web-shooters were given to her by hero-turned-mogul, Janet "The Wasp" Van Dyne. The convert moisture in the air into webbing, and so shouldn't need re-fills as long as there's enough moisture.
3)"Aleksei" is indeed the Rhino.
Overall: Interesting developments. I can see a number of different directions they could go here, I'm eager to see what they'll do.
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #2 (January 2016) "Greater Power" - Part Two
George tells Ben that he thinks he's close to working out who killed Peter, and that he thinks it wasn't Spider-Woman.
Meanwhile, Spidey and Cap battle the Lizards and each other. We get a flashback to the 40's and Project Rebirth, which was overseen by an eyepatch-wearing Peggy Carter. Among the candidates were Samantha T. Wilson, Isaiah Bradley, James Barnes and Steve Rogers. The project was infiltrated, Barnes and Bradley are lost, and Rogers is injured, and so Samantha became Captain America. While battling an extradimensional threat, she is lost in space time, and wanders for a long time, returning to Earth-65 (which is what this Earth is designated) 75 years later, where she now where for SHIELD director Peggy Carter. (I guess she found the Infinity Formula the same way "our" Nick did.) Back in the present, Cap has cuffed Spidey, whom she suspects of being affiliated with an outfit called S.I.L.K. Cap also reveals that Curt Connors is one of the Lizards.
Outside we see Cap's kid partner, Falcon, who has a robot bird. We later learn that he is Sam 13, a male clone of Cap. He is watching Jean DeWolff question Mister Albie, Gwen's boss. Jean goes down into the sewers and joins the fight. Cap wants to leave, fearing they will be overwhelmed. Together, Cap and Spidey pull the roof down on the Lizards. Cap lets Spidey go, although she is apparently still cuffed. Cap tells Jean that the Lizards they fought were copycats of the one that attacked Mid-Town High, and that she should look into Peter to find out the truth.
George tells Ben that he has been taken off the case, but that he will still find out the truth. Ben wants to know the truth, however painful it might be.
We end with Spidey, still cuffed, leaving some sort of little rodent as a new pet for the Bodega Bandit.
This issue also has a Marvel Handbook type entry for Cap, with lots of interesting background information, including the information that Steve Roger illustrated the 40's Captain America comic.
Overall: Good stuff. I think it would be interesting to see where they might go with the character if Spidey was cleared. I like this version of Cap, too. I think the right writer could do some interesting stories about 40's America reacting to having a black woman being the nation's patriotic hero.
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #3 (February 2016) "Greater Power" - Part Three
A number of different threads in this. We start with MJ. Glory and Betty leaving for their annual trip to Aunt Ann'a lake house, with no sign of Gwen. Gwen is in fact on Earth-616, seeking out Jessica Drew's help in removing the handcuffs she was stuck with the previous issue. The two sit and watch as the Jane Foster Thor battles some generic supernatural schmoe. I like the relationship between the two Spider-Women, with Jess gently teasing Gwen. Gwen-65 asks Jess about Gwen-616 that died, and envies her her "normal" life Jess says there are no normal lives. I'll definitely have to re-read Spider-Verse, I don't recall these two working together that much, but Jess seems to be a mentor to Gwen here.
Back on Earth-65, we see Castle, DeWolff and Grimm discussing how Murdock unexpectedly took over the Vulture's defense, causing the latter to suddenly clam up about about his claim that he knows Spider-Woman's real identity. Castle is convinced that George Stacy is in cahoots with Spider-Woman. Meanwhile, Murdock approaches George, trying to convince to come on to his team, as a means of protecting Spider-Woman. So many people are so close to knowing that Gwen is Spider-Woman that I wonder if they're going in the direction of her ID becoming public.
Gwen goes back to Earth-65, and the lakehouse, where Randy tells her that Harry Osborn has shown up. Harry feels responsible for Peter's death, and has spent two years training with the army and SHIELD, so that he can bring Spider-Woman to justice. We end with Harry taking off on something that looks very like a Goblin Glider. Harry's another character that I don't know much about - he wasn't used much in the Spider-Man comics when I read them, so I don't know how the way he's presented here compares to how he was used back in the Silver and Bronze Ages.
The profile page here is of Matt Murdock, but I don't know enough DD continuity to tell where the POD is that led him to become a crooked lawyer rather than a super-hero.
Overall: good stuff. They seem to be really piling it on our Gwen, I'm eager to see where they go next.
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #4 (March 2016) "Greater Power" - Part Four
This issue is pretty all taken up with a battle between Spidey and the Green goblin Harry Osborn. Much of it is Gwen alternating between her own internal monologue in which she comes to the understanding that however much she may have erred in dealing with Peter, he made himself the Lizard, and thus must bear a least some responsibility for what happened to him, and trying to reason with Harry to stop him from ending up like Peter. During the fight, Harry takes the Lizard formula, believing that he can control it better than Peter did. He also reveals that he was the one who gave the formula to S.I.L.K. Getting the better of Spidey, Harry unmasks her, reacting in disbelief when he sees that Spider-Woman is Gwen.
The handbook page this issue of for Captain Stacy. It describes him a shaving been "born during a socioeconomic downturn". Not sure when that was supposed to have been. The original version of the character first appeared in 1968. Not sure how old that version was supposed to have been. If he was. say, 55, then he would have been born in 1913. The Earth-65 version looks to be at least that age - if so, then he would have been in 1961. Guess Earth-65 had a downturn around then.
Overall: I'm interested to see where they go with this. They certainly seem to be going in a direction of Gwen's secret ID becoming public knowledge.
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #5 (April 2016) "Greater Power " - Part Five
The art on this issue is done by Chris Visions. I must say that I like this guy's stuff less than I like the regular guy's stuff.
This issue does not continue from the last one, but instead looks at what other characters are up to. Cap meets up with Jean DeWolff. We learn that the Earth-65 Frank Castle was once a member of Tony Stark's private aarmy called "War Machine". (We also learn that in addition to being an arms dealer, Stark runs a chain of coffee shops called "Starkbucks", at which joke I laugh much the way Bugs does at the end of this.) Cap also reveals that she knows that Harry's behind the theft of the lizard mutagen. She's sent the Falcon to Gwen's apartment in hopes of contacting Harry through Gwen. Falcon is smitten by Betty.
Meanwhile, George meets with Matt Murdock who reveals that he knows that Gwen is Spider-Woman, and implies that Castle does, too. He has ninjas attack Castle, offering to have them kill him if George will work for him, but George has him call them off, refusing to sell out.
We end with Cap catching up to Harry just as he's beaten Gwen, catching up to the end of last issue.
The "Handbook" entry for this issue covers Frank Castle. The Earth-65 Castle is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. What's interesting is that Castle's wife has left him, taking the children with her, so he's no happier, even in a world where his family is still alive.
Overall: An OK issue, although I was slightly miffed that we didn't get a direct continuations from last month's story. I really am curious to see where they're going with this, I don't see how Gwen's ID can stay secret much longer - too many bad people know it.
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #6 (May 2016) "Greater Power" - Conclusion
Rodriguez is back doing the art on this issue.
Gwen awakens to see Cap trying to inject Harry with a "mutagen suppressant", but he knocks her out and then bolts. SHIELD director Carter sends Spidey after him. Gwen talks Harry down, and he injects himself. Gwen lets Harry go, and she explains this to Cap, who is OK with it. The cops let Spidey go, because she's with Cap. Gwen goes to have a heart-to-heart with George, who tells her he trust her, even if she wants to keep some secrets. He also states that he's quit the force, having resigned himself to never officially resolving how Peter died.
This month's guidebook page is on the Green Goblin. This version of Harry seems to have spent a lot of time in the military.
Overall: An interesting issue. They surprised me a bit - I thought they might kill Harry off. Leaving him alive and with knowledge of Gwen's ID was not what I expected. I did like that she talked to him rather than fight. One thing about this book - it always leaves me eager to know what's going to happen next.
This series is crossing over with the Spider-Women mini, so I picked up Spider-Women Alpha #1. On Earth-65, Spidey is observed by a group who seems to know that she is Gwen. Gwen zips over to what they're still calling "Earth-616" here to have brunch with Jessica Drew and Cindy Moon. After leaving Jess' baby with a sitter, Gwen convinces them to go to Earth-65. Gwen does not take to Cindy all that much. Gwen takes them to Starkbucks - Jess is amused that Tony Stark-65 runs a chain of coffee shops. The Earth-65 Super-Adaptoid attacks. (Gwen motes that there aren't many super-heroes on her Earth.)Our heroines defeat it, only to find that Gwen's interdimensional travel watch has been stolen, stranding Jess and Cindy on Earth-65. We find out that the watch has been stolen by an agent of S.I.L.K. (Otto Octavius-65 works for them as well. He has a pet octopus.), whose boss is the Earth-65 Cindy Moon, who travels to Earth-616.
Overall: I picked this up on a whim. I hadn't intended to get sucked into the whole story, but I like it enough that I just might get the whole crossover. Anyway, this all leads into...
Spider-Gwen #7 (June 2016) "Spider-Women" 2
Written by Latour, with art by Bengal.
Our heroines set out to find a way for Cindy and Jess to get home. Jess sees off the Bodega Bandit. Cindy takes off after finding the address of her Earth-65 counterpart's family. Gwen takes Jess to her apartment, where there is a comedy scene where Jess meets the Mary Janes, and Gwen introduces Jess as her aunt. (The Earth-65 Betty Brant is presented as extremely eccentric, here.) Jess takes off, encouraging Gwen to stay with her friends. She goes to a park, having tracked down the Earth-65 Reed Richards, who is a teenaged African-American boy genius. They are beset by S.I.L.K. agents. Gwen comes to the rescue, having followed Jess. Jess, Gwen and Reed retreat to George's house. George and Jess talk about parenthood. Cindy calls in, having discovered that there's trouble connected with what is now called the "Prime Earth".
This month's guidebook page is on the Earth-616 Jessica Drew.
Fun Earth-65 Facts:
Overall: Another fun. I really enjoyed the interaction between Gwen, Jess and Cindy, especially Jess' reaction to Gwen's home life.
Anyway, all this leads into Silk #7, in which Cindy seeks out her Earth-65 counterpart's family. Cindy-65's react with shock on her arrival - they haven't seen their daughter in three years. The meeting doesn't go well and Cindy-Prime leaves. Her counterpart's brother gives her an invitation to his graduation party. Cindy-Prime checks out the address and discovers that Cindy-65 is a super-villain and that the Earth-65 J. Drew is one of her agents. She calls Gwen and Jess, but is rumbled as an impostor. She is confronted by Otto-65, who sics his pet octopus on her...
Overall: More fun stuff, I'm quite enjoying this crossover!
The Spider-Women story next crossed over into Spider-Woman #6. Jessica sought out her Earth-65 counterpart, only to discover that J. Drew was a guy named Jesse Drew. Jessica met Jesse's wife and confronted her with the fact that her husband is a criminal agent of S.I.L.K. Elsewhere, Cindy and Gwen escape from the Earth-65 Otto Octavius. The three reunite and discover that Reed-65 has created a portal back to the Prime Earth. The three pass through. Jessica goes home to find her baby and sends Gwen and Cindy to find Cindy-65.
Overall: Good stuff. I like the bickering between Gwen and Cindy, and Jessica playing "Mom" to them both.
This leads into...
Radioactive Spider-Gwen #8 (July 2016) "Spider-Women"
Latour and Bengal, again.
Gwen and Cindy discover that Cindy-65 has been ruining Silk's reputation. Cindy-65 summons them to the Baxter Building and tires to get them to sign up with her. Cindy-65 reveals that she engineered the radioactive spider that bit Gwen, When they refuse, Cindy-65 beats them both and injects Gwen with something (the implication is that it removes or suppresses Gwen's powers) and then leaves, leaving Cindy-Prime to explain herself to the newly-arrived Mockingbird!
Cindy-Prime gets the handbook page this time out.
Overall: Interesting stuff, I'm quite enjoying this story, and am eager to see where they go with it.
(Oh, and I know this cover is a riff on an old Spider-Man cover, but I'll leave it to one of the old-timers to say which one it is.)