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Radioactive Spider-Gwen #8 – REVIEW

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I won’t be spoiling anything, but some major stuff happened this Gwensday.

If you’re skipping the “Spider-Women event but sticking with Radioactive Spider-Gwen, not only are you missing out on a genuinely fun adventure, but you might be a bit thrown jumping from Part Two to Part Five of the current storyline. However, you still get a solid issue that builds on the outstanding character themes for Gwen that we’ve seen in the main series to date.

SPGWEN2015B008-int2-4-e4fd5Our heroes are back on Earth-616. Jessica isn’t around (the recap doesn’t explain that she’s checking on her son), while Cindy and Gwen are investigating what Earth-65 Cindy has been up to in their absence. While the dialogue maintains the series’ funny blend of smart-aleck exchanges and pop culture references, this issue feels very much like a Silk book in terms of plot, with both 616 and 65 incarnations driving the action of the story and Gwen caught up in the action.

That doesn’t mean that Jason Latour pressed pause on the series to accommodate the crossover. Although Gwen’s role here is more passive in that she’s chasing after Cindy, this is still her story. Throughout the issue, Gwen’s internal monologue continues to kick around her thoughts on power and responsibility while also neatly doubling as a Silk 101 refresher for those less familiar with the character (which was some skillful handling on Latour’s part).

The bulk of the issue is a battle between Cindy-65 and the Spider-Women (next band name?), and in old-school Spidey style the villain drops some truth in the middle of it all. Not only do we learn about Cindy-65’s origins (another fantastic montage sequence), but there are significant revelations about Gwen’s origin and the stability of her powers. True, we got a lot of that backstory in the bio page of Radioactive Spider-Gwen #1, but issue #8 finally addresses a key detail that was previously left out. Again, I won’t spoil the details, but will say that I was impressed at how secondary threads that seemed overwhelming to me in earlier issues are tied together here in a way that’s both satisfying and surprising. Best of all, it plays perfectly well within the context of “Spider-Women.” Why can’t more crossovers be this well-coordinated?

I loved Bengal’s art last issue and still find it highly enjoyable. His characters’ wider eyes and mouths provide charming and almost child-like facial expressions that lend themselves well to playful moments, but I found that this style also sometimes took away from the more dramatic revelations – the dialogue didn’t always line up for me with the cuter designs. His action sequences flow well and technology depictions are SPGWEN2015B008-int2-5-a88e3sharp, with the closing moments of Cindy-65 gaining the upper hand being fantastically creepy. Rico Renzi’s colors keep things on the colder (and slightly unsettling) side with a range of harsh grays as Cindy-616 finds things spinning out of her control. His use of bright colors really punctuate Cindy-65’s tech-based attacks and I thought that the orange haze for her flashback sequence worked well as a fun change of pace for the book. Why he doesn’t warrant cover credit on the trade editions remains a mystery.

And oh my goodness, that cover. I’m embarrassed that we’ve somehow neglected to mention Yasmine Putri’s consistently beautiful work for this miniseries in our “Spider-Women” coverage for Ultimate Spin, but I’ve loved every one so far and found this issue’s unique take on the iconic “Spider-Man No More” moment to be stunning. Sure, we all know that Gwen isn’t going away anytime soon, but Putri’s colors and lighting seems to lift the mood from the traditionally downbeat image and suggests a new dawn for our webslinger.

Meanwhile, Latour has teased a few hints about the next arc (“Weapon of Choice”), making me wonder if there’s something more to that notion…

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