I don’t think any of could’ve expected that Spider-Gwen would be the best part of Spider-Verse when she debuted in a mere “Edge” tie-in ramping up the main event in 2014. Knowing what we know now, however, we should’ve all been ready for her Spider-Geddon tie-in to be the best of the batch because, naturally, it is. Giving her an in to the main battle playing out in the big leagues between the Spiders and Inheritors, as well as exploring the complexities of one of the best Spider-characters around, writer Seanan McGuire, artist Rosi Kampe, and colorist Ian Herring offer up a compelling, tight,and slightly confounding issue that sets the stage for a great Gwen ‘Geddon — even if the rest of the main event falters — with this sharp story.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
A SPIDER-GEDDON TIE-IN! As SPIDER-GEDDON rages on, GwenStacy of Earth-65 comes face-to-face with one of her deadliest opponentsyet…THE GWEN GOBLIN! Presented with yet another world that’s lost a Gwen Stacy,Gwen-65 can’t help but wonder if she’s destined for doom and what that mightmean for her family…
Picking up almost exactly where the last issue left off — with Gwen explaining that she’s a hero, not dead, and definitely not the Gwen Goblin (or at least…not that one) — McGuire wastes no time in dancing between a story that’s all Gwen’s and one that works in service to the larger ‘Geddon picture happening here very well.
There’s a sweet and bitter way to the options Gwen has here: she can go above and beyond to save these people, mere mirrors of her friends and loved ones, and lose time saving her actual friends, or — she can remain cold and aloof, holding herself to a higher standard of herodom. Fittingly for Gwen, she chooses the third, unseen option of saving the day while letting sardonic quips fly, still in a rush to save all the other people she feels a calling to, too. It’s a sound, character-first narrative decision that exceeds expectations in its dialogue and narration driven power and speaks to McGuire’s honed predilections as a novelist harnessed here to a satisfying effect.
This isn’t to say everything is great — the actual action and heroics of Gwen’s stories under McGuire’s pen have lacked a certain panache. Certainly, the conclusion of Spider-Gwen’s fight with The Gwen Goblin (Love! That! Name!) does come far too easily, to a lackluster degree, and the heel turn makes little to no sense given the elevated timeline. Ultimately, though, given that it’s founded in the same “person below the mask” direction that the meta narrative has taken here, it’s hard to fault it too much.
Fittingly, Kampe and Herring provide a bright and brooding palette to match. Balanced between the blues, pinks and purples of Herring’s “home row” for Gwen, this issue employs some more blacks and shadow work, as well as sharp angles and dramatic framing to heighten the tension and impart the sensation of Spidey-sense surprisingly well. While the first run-in with The Gwen Goblin in issue #1 was kind of flighty and unfocused, this one fares much better — Spider-Gwen bouncing to and fro playing a sleek game of keep-away — that gives the Gwen Goblin’s stellar design room to shine as well as makes things considerably more digestible. One particularly cool note is the balance between framing and shading for a couple of key scenes that really conveys what Gwen is feeling below the mask, a feat for a hero whose design is typically kind of featureless.
All said and done, the team here has delivered something really special. A fantastic meditation on who Gwen Stacey is now, who she wants to be, and who she can’t stop herself from being in the interim. With both sides of the coin on display — Spider and Goblin — the story offers up a perfect coda to her time in an alternate reality and imparts her with just the right pizzazz to head into ‘Geddon ready to take names. Here’s hoping we see more of her, and the folks behind this, after the Inheritors are long gone.