By Molly Jane Kremer. Even though many will decry this statement as forfeiture of my nerd-card… I’ve always enjoyed Spidey’s supporting cast more than Peter Parker himself, the ladies in his life in particular. Always the girlfriend/paramour/co-worker/etc, they were still around often enough to get me to pick up an issue or two if the story grabbed me. So you can imagine my delight when I found out Edge Of Spider-Verse #2 (the second issue in a five-issue lead-in to Marvel Comics’ Spider-Verse crossover – ah, superhero comics) features Ms. Gwen Stacy as its titular webslinging Spidey. Not only that: in this comic she’s the drummer in a rock band called The Mary Janes, along with Betty Brant, Glory Grant, and of course, MJ Watson.
It’s like this book was made for me, and more than a few others; Spider-Gwen was a hit with the Tumblr set upon announcement. I’ve heard more excitement (and seen more excellent fan art) about this one issue of Edge of Spider-Verse than I have for the rest of the series combined. (Check out the Spider-Gwen tags on Tumblr if you don’t believe me.) A band called Married With Sea Monsters has even recorded a (really great) version of The Mary Janes’ song, Face It Tiger, featured in the comic. Not to mention the many cosplays of Gwen’s Spidey costume, all of this occurred before the comic had even been released. Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi had some bona-fide internet-hype on their hands going into this.
In Edge Of Spider-Verse – its tagline being Every Spider-Man Ever – a character named Morlun (remember that The Other storyline towards the end of J. Michael Straczynski’s Spider-Man run? Yeah, him) has sworn to kill every Spider-Man in the multiverse. Each issue of Edge Of Spider-Verse features a different variation of these alternate-universe Spideys. (This issue stands alone just fine by the way, aside from the last panel.) In this universe, instead of Peter Parker, it was Gwen Stacy who got nibbled on by that radioactive spider and became the one who “does whatever a spider can“. She becomes Spider-Woman to instant celebrity, and wanting to live up to her example, Peter manages to turn himself into the Lizard… only to die in her arms. Because of this, Spider-Woman becomes wanted by the police in connection with his death. J. Jonah Jameson predictably leads the public outrage, putting headlines like “Spider-Killer” and “Murderer” on the Daily Bugle’s front page.
Gwen is just trying to live life like a normal kid – trying to pick her major, playing the balancing act between being in college and being in a band – and being Spider-Woman. It has the feel of classic Spider-Man: the angst of dealing with how one’s superhero-ing affects one’s real-life, and vice versa. The book even bothers depicting Gwen coping with the loss of “a loved one you couldn’t save,” except here it’s the memory of Peter filling the crucial Uncle Ben role. Then the Kingpin hires Rhino to take out Gwen’s dad, Captain Stacy of the NYPD. (Via Matt Murdock – apparently Kingpin’s consigliere here.) He happens to be at Gwen’s gig when Rhino finds him. The ensuing fight between Gwen and Aleksei is a joy to behold.
Rodriguez’s art, with Rico Renzi’s amazing coloring, is kinetic and dynamic, made of movement. You can almost hear Gwen smashing those drums, and feel the wind rush past with the subway. (Or, you know, hear the crunch and crash of Spider-Woman punching the Rhino through a wall after he threatens her dad.)
Jason Latour’s dialogue is clever and quippy, as it should be in any Spidey book. When Gwen has an altercation with a jittery cop and calls him McNutty, I legitimately laughed out loud. The rest of The Mary Janes are adorable and real (“Oooo… Flash Thompson. Dem shorty shorts.”), and I’m pretty sure I want to hang out with them after rocking out at one of their shows.
My one problem (if you can call it that) with Edge Of Spider-Verse #2 is that there’s so little of it. It’s only one issue within a lead-in to Marvel’s Spider-Man crossover, but there’s so many story possibilities and so much promise here, it’s a shame that this is the only Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman story we get. It’s the tiniest amuse-bouche when we should be getting a seven-course meal.
Jason Latour has said, “superheroes are about empowerment. Idealism should be inclusive.” A reaction this massive and immediate to a single issue of a comic book shows how starved the female comics’ audience (which exists! I promise!) is for a fun superhero comic all of us can read without having to deal with over-sexualized costumes and depictions, or being written-down to. Between this, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and the Distinguished Competition’s upcoming redesign/soft-relaunch of Batgirl, comics are finally starting to feel like a place where I don’t get the side-eye when I walk in the door. And it’s a nice feeling, actually.
Written by Jason Latour.
Art by Robbi Rodriguez.
Colored by Rico Renzi.
9 out of 10