If I haven’t already made it clear before now, I really enjoyed “Spider-Women” both on its own terms and as an example of how to do a proper inter-title crossover. Although Spider-Gwen felt the longer-term ramifications of the story, both Jessica Drew and Silk had their own emotional arcs through the event that gave each character a reason to be personally invested in the outcome, and their fans reasons to enjoy the story and accept this detour from the regular progression of their titles.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for “Sitting In A Tree”. We’re two-thirds of the way through this story, and I’m still not certain what personal investment Gwen has in this storyline. Yes, she wants to help Miles, and she certainly wants to stop S.I.L.K., but it feels so much more mundane this time around. Gwen is a good person and wants to accomplish these noble objectives, but the last time she tangled with S.I.L.K., she discovered that they’d been manipulating the events that destroyed Peter Parker, and she’d received a smackdown from Cindy Moon that the book is still reacting to. This time around, the conflict feels so…rote.
In fact, everything about the conflict of this storyline feels like a Turkish cinema rip-off of “Spider-Women”. S.I.L.K. is dealing in Earth-616 weapons, again. The mastermind is dramatically revealed to be an evil counterpart of a heroic 616 character, again. The mechanics of dimension-hopping are disrupted as a plot point, again. I’ve seen this before, recently, and it worked better the first time.
The saving grace of this should be the great chemistry between Gwen and Miles, but even this feels a bit shallow after they bared their souls in the last Spider-Gwen issue. In fact, the two of them have an annoying set of plot-blinders on this issue, because the story requires them to tackle this crisis as a pair because that’s the gimmick of the event. So Miles refuses to seek help from Peter Parker or Jessica Drew, phrasing this refusal in the most juvenile way possible. (“No adults?” You remember that Gwen is eighteen, right?)
Now, I haven’t read all of “Civil War II” yet, so I don’t have the most firm grasp on how much of an impact those events really had on Miles’ faith in the participants. I feel that with his father’s life on the line, he might be inclined to seek all the help he could get, (particularly when he and Gwen have a personal relationship with a Spider-person on both sides of the conflict), but fine. Let’s say those bridges are burnt. Why wouldn’t he accept help from the Champions, particularly when Ms. Marvel literally walks right up to him and offers to help?
Because the story is sold on the idea of teasing a relationship between Miles and Gwen, and Ms.Marvel is here to tease a romantic triangle. And if it sounds like I’m being too hard on Miles, let’s not let Gwen off the hook: she also stops Ms. Marvel from dimension-hopping after them, because of reasons.
Speaking of Ms. Marvel, I’m looking at her heart-to-heart with Gwen and I’ve just realized this issue failed the Bechdel test. This isn’t really a critique one could level at the book prior to this, and it really drives home how much character is being sidelined for plot in this event.
Robbi Rodriguez’s work on the interiors is up to his usual par, which means that while the decisions made and conversations had in this issue may drive me up a wall, they’re still visually interesting. But since I’ve already been riding the Struggle Bus for the entirety of this review, I may as well addess another Spider-Gwen-related artwork trend that bothers me. Because the title is part of my pull list, my comic store will put aside the (reasonably-attainable) variant cover versions for me. This month’s Cover Box variant, by Joe Jusko, is a nice piece that has nothing wrong with it from a technical standpoint.
From a conceptual standpoint, however…look, I know that the John Romita Sr. image of Gwen Stacy is How Gwen Stacy Looks for most folks, and I understand why. That’s been the image of the character for forty years, and really, when a Romita gives you a design, that design tends to stick in people’s minds. But Spider-Gwen has never had that aesthetic, and I’d like Marvel to get on the same page regarding what this character is supposed to look like. (Particularly if they’re trying to build a brand for her. Consistency matters!)
I know it sounds like I hated this issue, but it was more frustration than actual vitriol. There’s still two parts left to this crossover, so while there’s certainly room to change course, I’m not sure if the ship can be completely righted in the time remaining. If anyone can pull it off, Jason Latour certainly can.