The untapped potential of the prequel is a dangerous beast to unleash. If you get it wrong you can potentially harm the in-canon stories people love, but when done right it can enrich what we already know and let us enjoy characters that are long gone. Case in point, Gwen Stacy is getting her own prequel series thanks to Christos Gage and Todd Nauch. The new series is set before Gwen ever met Peter Parker and it opens on her trying to become class president. However, trouble arises when her father, a police captain, starts to mess with criminals who know how to hurt a loving father.
This first issue does a few things very well. First and foremost, it shows us how smart and clever Gwen Stacy is as she hangs out around her father’s work and is always studying. She’s a fast learner and ends up proving how she may even understand the mind of a criminal thanks to her father’s work becoming a bit of fun for her when she’s not studying. We also get to meet a few key supporting characters, including Harry Osborn and a few female cops who work with Gwen’s dad. There are some supervillains too, which is a nice addition even though the heroes are all working without powers.
Gage does well to infuse Marvel’s history into the book, like Gwen’s dad thinking about using Nelson & Murdock for his legal defense. This book lives in the Marvel universe, but since it uses non-superpowered heroes it naturally references extraordinary things in an obtuse way since their lives aren’t directly touched by that world.
There are also a few surprises that color Gwen’s life, but not too much so her original origin doesn’t make sense. Being a prequel I did ponder who might die in the story since we don’t see them later on, but that’s part of the fun of prequels. Don’t expect too much action or adventure in this issue, however, since it’s more about the domestic drama and establishing the relationships and newer characters.
Todd Nauck’s art is strong when it comes to progressing the story, with colors by Rachelle Rosenberg that are bright and match Gwen’s hopefulness. The characters all look their ages, which is a tricky thing to nail down. Gwen’s expressions do tend to blur together, though.
I enjoyed this issue for its ability to weave in a few familiar elements while building up a supporting cast that’ll take Gwen on her own adventure fighting crime. It’s nice to see a strong female character treated with respect and I imagine many will be inspired by her adventures.