Writer: Hannah Blumenreich & Jason Latour
Penciller: Hannah Blumenreich & Jordan Gibson; Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 8/30/17
While Spider-Gwen is off fighting mutants with claws, The Mary Janes have a gig to play. As they say, “the show must go on!”
Plot: Stepping back from the drama in Madripoor, Spider-Gwen #23 shifts the focus to The Mary Janes. You know, that band Gwen always flakes on much to the ire of frontwoman Mary Jane Watson. There’s also a special appearance from The Watchers, including one who is less than impressed with recent events.
Story: After the Venom cliffhanger of the last issue, Spider-Gwen #23 starts on a very odd note. We see the Earth-8 Spider family playing a game similar to Family Feud with the Bodega Bandit’s family. It’s really clever for the writers to start out with a nod to Gwenom, referenced in the in-story game show, before breaking into The Mary Jane’s story. As the Watcher Utau says as a proxy for the reader, Gwen’s story has gotten so dark and he just needs a break!
So, Hannah Blumenreich and Jason Latour shift to the much more conventional drama of The Mary Janes. While none of the three (Mary Jane, Glory and Betty) quite match Gwen’s charisma or sarcasm, the writers do a great job of fleshing out the world Gwen lives in beyond the secret organizations and gangs. Although the story is irrelevant to the main Gwen plot, I enjoyed seeing the “normal” people in Gwen’s life. They even throw in Liz Allan (a name many will recognize from Spider-Man: Homecoming ) and add in some cringe-worthy dudes who are scary but in a much more conventional way than Matt Murdock. The story makes me wish we could see Gwen in more of these situations. Unlike the traditional Peter Parker, Gwen doesn’t get to spend much time facing the more normal perils of young adulthood like dating or building a career.
While I still think characters like Mary Jane could be more developed (albeit hard to do when she’s not in most issues), Blumenreich and Latour teamed up for an entertaining special issue. The social commentary is sharp without reading as too preachy, and you finish the issue wishing to see more of Gwen’s bandmates in future issues.
Art: Regular artist Robbi Rodriguez takes the reigns on the early pages with the Watchers, but Hannah Blumenreich & Jordan Gibson lead for the story featuring The Mary Janes. Their art styles are much more simplistic than Rodriguez’s which mirrors the storyline. There’s no web-slinging or “snikt, snikt” to worry about here, just some slightly melodramatic band members and maybe a punch in the face for someone who deserves it. Because there’s less physical action going on, Blumenreich and Gibson get to focus in on things like facial expressions and body posture which help fill in the blanks where dialogue is sparse. In the panel below Betty is all sarcasm in her speech bubble, but her hunch and facial frown reveal her true frustrations.
Spider-Gwen has such a distinct feel and consistent art team that bringing in guest artists could have been very jarring. However, by keeping regular colorist Rico Renzi on you get just enough change to make things interesting without sacrificing the identity of the book. I’ve praised Renzi’s colors many times when reviewing Spider-Gwen and am impressed to see how well his palettes still work with Hannah Blumenreich and Jordan Gibson’s art and don’t overwhelm the empty spaces of the panels.
Verdict: For a book that’s inconsequential to the main plot, this was a really fun palate cleanser before the Gwenom storyline hits. If you love everything about Gwen’s world, you will definitely want to pick up this issue for more Earth-65 goodness. That said, an issue with no Gwen at all is a bit of a bummer and keeps this issue from being perfect.
Adding a female writer into the mix brought a very authentic POV for The Mary Janes that spoke to me as a female reader, and I really enjoyed this collaboration. Although I’m generally a huge fan of Jason Latour, this issue proved that bringing in other writers can work too. I’d love to see another team-up (pun intended) in the future.