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Spider-Gwen #12 – REVIEW

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Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak with Gwen’s co-creator and series writer Jason Latour about all things Spider-Gwen (if you haven’t heard it, you can download it here). He’d mentioned two things during our conversation that informed my re-reading of the series to date (including this issue):

  • The book is not just about Gwen Stacy, but rather the Stacys – her dad being key to the themes he was developing and exploring, and
  • He didn’t draw much from the original 616 version when building Gwen’s character, working instead from the basic concept of “cop’s daughter.”

Spider-Gwen #12 sees these ideas brought to head with a chapter so potent that you’ll need to read it 2-3 times to fully appreciate the range of creative skills on display. That’s not me doing fanboy hyperbole, either. There’s a lot happening here, and it’s easy to miss stuff the first time around.

spider-gwen-12-4The cover’s movie poster-style layout and Gwen’s defiant pose set the perfect tone for the scale and intensity of her showdown with the Punisher. This is going to be awesome.

And it is! Visually, the issue is mainly an extended action sequence and Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi hit the ground running. They deliver panel after panel of explosive frames, all moving at a relentless pace that swept me along as a reader. Sound effects have been an iconic feature in this series and somehow they’ve been bumped up several notches here, with size and placement contributing to a sense of speed and volume. There are brilliant moments where the visual representation of an action and its sound intersect: a satisfying bloody “WHAM” as Gwen lands a punch and a speeding bullet trailed by the smoky “BAM” of the gun that fired it. They even briefly take over the dialogue as well, with Gwen’s calls for her father being particularly chilling. If you can, then I highly recommended reading this issue in the digital Guided View format for maximum effect. It feels like I say a variation of this every month, but this team somehow manages to meet its high bar and bump it up even higher.

This chapter also celebrates the bond between Gwen and her dad in an arc about accountability and choice. Until now, I’d seen Castle as a menacing but fairly one-note character within the story, but Latour has Gwen realize him as a dark version of her dad – a man who placed the job above his family, and is now so far gone that he’s lost all sense of right and wrong, with no one in his life to keep him grounded. With no accountability, Frank pursues Spider-Woman with a warped sense of justice, escalating the situation to the point where innocents are put at risk. Her monologue helped click things into place for me, which added a thought-provoking angle to an otherwise chaotic sequence.

Not only does Gwen understand why Frank has gone over the edge, she empathizes with wanting life to have meaning and purpose. The difference is that she had family and friends to help her define her place in the big scary world, instead of being alone, bitter, and angrily making the world (and everyone in it) as out to get her.

Best of all, her family is right there for our hero in her darkest hour. George shows incredible bravery and heart as he protects Spider-Woman in more than one way, and had me cheering out loud before breaking Gwen’s (and my) heart. Latour once jokingly described Captain Stacy’s super-power as “Dad Strength” in a bonus bio section, but his actions here give that phrase a whole new meaning. His last scene with Gwen is perhaps the most powerful scene in the series to date, with Rodriguez depicting moments of anguish and comfort with exceptional clarity.

spider-gwen-12-5The breakneck speed of the issue’s high-stakes action is occasionally balanced with quick moments of the series’ signature quirky humor. I laughed out loud at the sight of a preoccupied Reed with zero interest in the situation and enjoyed the oddly charming range of innocent bystanders whose evenings are interrupted by a superhero battle. You’ll have watch closely to discover the fate of the Bandit’s new sidekick…

This is a series that constantly surprises me and the ending was no exception. Even though you knew who was talking to Gwen, the dialogue, visual staging, and shifting color palette sync perfectly to create a building sense of dread over the closing scene that peaks with the final line. All that was missing was the soundtrack to complete the “season finale cliffhanger” effect.

I didn’t see the ending coming and I have no idea where things are going next. What I’m certain of is that I can’t wait.

Listen to our discussion of this issue on our podcast, the Ultimate Spin.

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