Thanksgiving doesn’t get enough love, and that’s a shame. Sure, it’s less lucrative than Halloween or Christmas, but it’s still an important holiday that brings plenty of its own traditions to the literal and metaphorical table: football, parades, making deals with evil ninja lawyers to help out your father when he’s in jail, hand-traced turkeys…
Actually, I think one of those might just apply to Gwen.
With George Stacy still in the clink and Matt Murdock being insufferably smug, Spider-Gwen #14 forces Gwen to face a common dilemma, (being forced by circumstances to spend a holiday alone), and imbues it with classic Spider-Verse pathos. Gwen believes it’s her fault that her father is in the position he is, and even when the opportunity presents itself, she doesn’t try to alleviate at least some of her holiday loneliness. Fortunately, she’s not the only Spider-Woman available to save the day this time around…
If Jason Latour is going to dedicate a run of issues to specific holidays, the obvious goal is to capture the spirit of each celebration; what’s a bit more difficult is to use the conflicting nature of each event to forward his overarching plot. I’d have been satisfied with the former, but I’m greatly impressed that he’s also done the latter. Last issue’s Halloween Spooktacular was all about a group of young people getting into mischief on Halloween night, and it ended with Gwen in a very low emotional state. Her friends tried to help her, but not only did they not entirely understand the scope of her feelings, they also lacked the life experience to place those feelings into proper context.
Thanksgiving, though, isn’t characterized by youngins running amuck; it’s characterized by families bridging gaps, both physical and generational, and being thankful for what blessings you have. If last issue is defined by Gwen’s relationship with her friends, this issue is defined by her relationship with her elders, and that bond is what pushes her forward. May Parker has experienced loss as well, and has the wisdom to tell Gwen Stacy what she needs to hear. Jessica Drew has lived a manic superhero life, and knows what the Spider-Woman of Earth-65 needs to hear. Gwen is in a better place at the end of this issue than the last, and this improved disposition and renewed spirit is a natural outgrowth of her holiday experience.
Granted, she doesn’t get to fight the Koala Kommander, but you can’t have everything.
I’d mentioned in the review for last issue that I occasionally had trouble following Robbi Rodriguez’s frenetic pencils through some action sequences in past issues, but this issue showcases a strength of his style: that same energy comes through even in dialogue-heavy scenes, so that even a conversation between two women on a subway train is visually engaging. My personal favorite sequence is the conversation between George, Gwen, and Matt Murdock at the beginning of the issue. George and Gwen are stationary throughout, but Murdock is in a different position and posture in each panel, giving the impression he’s practically slithering around the two of them. So much of Murdock’s personality is captured visually in those two pages; I love it.
However, only half of the issue is by Rodriguez this time around; right at the staples on my physical copy, Chris Visions takes over, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit jarring. It’s not that Visions is a bad artist; far from it. It’s that his style is different from Rodriquez’s in just about every fashion. Visions zigs where Rodriquez zags, and switching from one to another in the middle of the story isn’t an entirely smooth transition. Still, Visions got to draw Koala Kommander, and nothing can ever take that away from him.
Spider-Gwen #14 moves our heroine out of her funk and puts her in a position to be more active in tackling the situation she’s found herself in. The resolution was a bit trite, but a necessary emotional journey for Gwen to move through; here’s hoping next issue sees her take back control of her life and stuff some coal down Murdock’s stockings.
Oh, and speaking of Murdock: whoever had the idea to have him insult the reader on the cover? Nice.