If you somehow missed the memo, Radioactive Spider-Gwen #7 is actually part 2 of the “Spider-Women” crossover event that kicked off earlier this month with Spider-Women Alpha. That said, you can easily jump in here and have a great time. This is a hilarious issue that successfully balances charming character moments, surreal comedy, a playground brawl, and unashamedly goofy pop culture references, all anchored by aggressively charming visuals from guest artist Bengal and colorist Rico Renzi. It’s a welcome change of pace from the heavier themes of the previous arc.
So far, “Spider-Women” seems more personal than other crossover events and is stronger for it. Instead of another “end of the world, stakes have never been higher” scenario, we get interrupted brunch plans, an interdimensional dilemma, and a character-driven story as Gwen and Earth Prime’s Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) and Cindy Moon (Silk) have to work around their differences to get back home.
It’s a clever setup to push each Spider-Woman out of her depth, giving the writers room to highlight them as individuals while also letting them (sort of) work together as a team. Jess is the reluctant mentor, trying to guide her younger and more reckless counterparts while also anxious to get back to her son. Cindy acts before thinking, eager to make up for lost time and find her family. Meanwhile, Gwen is still navigating the balance between her two identities.
Despite the challenge of three distinct leads, Jason Latour quickly brings the group together by highlighting the humorous side of Spider-Gwen’s storytelling style. The team vibe is more “annoyed” than “crisis mode”, leading to great one-liners and a fun pace to the dialogue. The issue is also loaded with fantastic (ahem) visual gags hinting at what a weird and wonderful place Earth-65 can be. The well-timed return of Gwen’s oldest nemesis makes for a laugh-out-loud sequence, and the introduction of a famous Earth-65 counterpart was nicely handled in a way that embraces the silliness of multiple dimensions in the first place.
It’s not all comedy, though. There’s a building theme emerging about family and how they’re at the heart of what drives each of our heroes. This being Gwen’s book, we check in with The Mary Janes and without spoiling the surprise, I’ll note that the visuals of Jess meeting the band had me in hysterics. I enjoyed seeing Jess encouraging Gwen to appreciate the people in her life, as it nicely picked up on the themes of the series to date. I can also never get enough of George, whose warm conversation with Jess sees them bond as parents and overcoming the fears that come with that job.
During our recent interview with Robbi Rodriguez, we learned that guest artist Bengal came to the creative team’s attention through some Spider-Gwen sketches that he’d been posting for fun. What an amazing find! In the same way that Chris Visions’ heavier and moodier approach locked into the darker themes of issue 5, Bengal’s lighthearted style is a perfect fit for the silly character moments and surreal plot points of this fun issue. His character designs use shorter figures and wide-eyed and large-mouthed expressions, which lend a great sense of humor and cartoonish charm to the story.
It always takes a page or two for me to adjust to a new artist, which is why I really appreciate how the colors tie things together here. Renzi carefully follows the rhythm of the script as the colors gradually move from cool greens to warmer pinks and purples before shifting to a dramatic red for the cliffhanger.