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Spider-Gwen #11 – REVIEW

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“I’m ridiculous. This has always been ridiculous. But at least it was something. Wasn’t it?”

SPGWEN2015B011_int2-2I loved this line, because it sums up how I feel about the character and her world after every issue of the weird, unpredictable, and wonderful series that’s Spider-Gwen. Spider-Man can be particularly inspiring when he challenges expectations, and it’s fantastic to see that ethos reflected in the level of heart and energy that the creative team consistently pours into every page. Issue #11 continues the trend, this time presenting an out-of-order narrative that manages to tie together its themes before seamlessly landing into a thrilling cliffhanger.

Gwen has been struggling with the idea of making her remaining chances to be Spider-Woman count, while trying to figure out what life as Gwen Stacy could (and should) be like. I found her circling back to her “arch-nemesis” The Bodega Bandit to be bittersweet in that sense. For Gwen, the comically small scale of his crimes doesn’t matter; she goes after him because he’s wrong, even if society at large doesn’t seem to care. And yet, when these unfair circumstances are underscored by a threat to her life and everything she holds dear, she still can’t let go of the idea that she can’t let it stand. Even if it’s something as silly as a few burgers, she has to do *something* to stand up for what’s right. That’s my kind of hero.

Spider-Gwen #11 takes advantage of Gwen’s growing supporting cast, with a brief B-plot scene that gives George’s former partner Jean DeWolff more of the spotlight. While I hadn’t previously been invested in her Earth-65 incarnation, this issue’s bio helped reestablish her significance to the plot and made her instantly likable (Swagger!). We also get Spider-Women’s Reed Richards and Jesse Drew, both wary of the impending danger from ex-War Machine operative Frank Castle. I appreciated that their appearances were meaningful within context of the story (as opposed to coming off as token cameos) and hope that they’re sticking around.

SPGWEN2015B011_int2-3That said, there were a few single-panel cameos adding to the number of characters that Robbi Rodriguez has to portray, yet he manages to capture their personalities through distinct facial expressions and poses. As someone that’s also a fan of Miles Morales, I was thrilled to see Rodriguez’s brief but dramatic take on the current “alt-roster” of Marvel heroes during Gwen’s brief fantasy sequence – especially knowing that Miles and Gwen are due to meet later this year.

The inclusion of Norman Osborn was a surprise, as the Earth-65 version of the Green Goblin had already been realized in the series. As Harry was introduced, made a super-villain, and then disappeared all within the space of a few issues, I was never really invested in his character, and so Castle’s offer to Norman fell a little flat for me.

I’ve been enjoying watching Rodriguez continue to develop his character designs, particularly for Gwen unmasked, which is starting to move closer to the versions he does as sketches and commissions. Her longer neck, tousled hair, and even the loss of her 616 counterpart’s iconic headband make her look both hip and yet slightly awkward. It’s a cool combination, creating a charming warmth that matches the character’s blend of doubt and confidence. There’s also some experimenting with the Spider-Woman design, which looks surprisingly sinister in the issue’s final moments. He also delivers another fantastic entry in a collection of beautiful covers, this time highlighting Gwen’s loneliness in pondering her uncertain future.

SPGWEN2015B011_int2-4Guest colorist Lauren Affe did such an admirable job of matching Rico Renzi’s approach that I had to double-check the credits to make sure that it wasn’t his work. I enjoy the visual pacing created by having one color dominate the majority of panels on a page, with a second color used to “pop” out a key beat. As the issue is more about conversation than action, Affe turns up the intensity to make Gwen’s “power-up” an electrifying and thrilling moment.

Jason Latour’s unusual script sequencing offers a fresh approach and flows well, taking a roundabout way for Gwen to consider her options and eventually make the dramatic decision to assert herself. The series has maintained a frenetic roller-coaster pace when it comes to setting up and delivering confrontations. I’m looking forward to seeing what twists and turns are in store for Gwen’s rematch with the Punisher.

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