Writer: Jason Latour
Penciller: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 9/28/16
With 5 more power-ups restored to her, Gwen Stacy prepares to face down Frank Castle and keep him from turning his version of the story into the truth.
Plot: George Stacy tries to convince the police to stop Frank Castle, but his daughter is already in the middle of battling him. Thankfully, his heartfelt plea draws aid from his fellow detectives, and Frank is taken down before it’s too late. What happens when it comes to protecting Gwen’s secret, though? Can she maintain her double identity without sacrificing anything or anyone else?
Story: This issue of Spider-Gwen wisely walks the tightrope between sympathizing with Frank Castle and acknowledging just why his point of view is so dangerous. The previous months of Gwen wallowing make more sense as she’s faced with the logical extreme of what she could become if she’s not careful. “He needs the world to be scary…” Gwen laments as she confronts her opponent. “Because without an enemy, he’s not a hero.” What’s most interesting about this is that a lot of heroes do operate on this belief system, but Jason Latour’s writing takes the grey approach. The world isn’t black and white, and trying to make it so leads to perpetuating cruelty instead of meting out justice.
Gwen isn’t the only hero in the latest installment, though. Both her father and Jean DeWolff step up the plate and show how ordinary humans are just as capable of bravery and righteousness as the super-powered ones. If there’s one theme that Spider-Gwen drives home this issue, it’s that actions born out of fear are rarely the right ones. That life lesson is precisely what makes George and Gwen’s very different choices at the end all the more heartbreaking. Seeing George take it upon himself to protect his daughter at the cost of his own freedom is painful enough, but seeing Gwen make what’s sure to be a dirty deal to free him might be even worse.
The only question in terms of storytelling is how Gwen’s loss of powers plays in. Ever since the Spider Women crossover, she’s been dealing with not having her abilities naturally at her disposal. But it hasn’t really developed much further than giving Reed Richards more reasons for an (excellent) cameo. Hopefully it’s something the story dives into more fully as the next arc comes into play, because sooner or later Gwen is going to have to either regain her spider sense or put away her costume.
Art: Spider-Gwen‘s artists remain at the top of their game, infusing each panel with as much emotion as it can hold. Not only are the facial expressions of the characters perfectly suited to the moment, but the surrounding lines and background communicate even more to the audience. George Stacy already looks like the angriest comic book father to have ever existed, but the purple bruise on his forehead recalls just why he’s so mad without having to read the dialogue. The orange background and loud lines jumping off the page also heighten the emotion and tension of the moment.
Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi have used their talents to strike a wonderful balance between the relatable angst of young adulthood and the atmosphere of a noir drama. It the shading around Frank Castle’s appearances that inspires dread just as much as it is his backstory, for example. Overall, the best thing about Spider-Gwen‘s artwork is that the world it creates doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing 100% of the time. Instead it looks welcoming and scary in turn, right along with its characters, because that’s both realistic and relatable.
Verdict: Every issue of this morally complex tale brings new twists and turns, and the art draws readers in no matter how dark the story gets. The conclusion to the current arc still leaves a lot of threads hanging, but the next step in Gwen’s journey promises to be intriguing.