No matter what continuity you’re in, it’s a trademark of the Osborn clan to royally tick off every faction they come in contact with, and it usually rains hell down around whatever spider-person is nearest them. In an amazing feat, Harry Osborn has managed to alienate S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Hand and the Kingpin at the same time, leaving Spider-Woman caught in the middle.
“Spider-Woman caught in the middle” seems to be the running theme of this issue, as she bounces from place to place around Madripoor, alternately chasing or leading Harry from one danger to the next. It’s actually my major gripe with the issue: Gwen is not the driving force of the narrative at this point. It’s fine for her to be in over her head and trapped in a reactionary position, but the entire premise of her involvement was Murdock’s insistence that Gwen could affect the outcome. This issue doesn’t make the best case for that assumption.
This is partially due to the introduction of Earth-65 Wolverine, alias Mr. Murderhands, and Shadowcat, who in this universe is the result of a laboratory experiment to fuse all of Wolverine’s teenage girl proteges together. I’m not opposed to introducing these characters in theory; heck, the Claremont/Miller ninja-fighting Wolverine this version is an homage to is my favorite incarnation of the character. Rather, I’m cautious that the narrative doesn’t become overstuffed with the introduction of these two and their backstories, which kind of happened when Captain America and Falcon were introduced at the end of the Lizard arc.
(On the other hand, we’ve almost got enough characters to form an Earth-65 Avengers team, and that would be pretty boss. Maybe I should shut up.)
This isn’t to say that I have an issue with all the new characters introduced; Elsa Brock has a small scene with Murdock which hints at another aspect of her character. I’d already enjoyed her amoral scientific glee at the abomination she revealed last issue, but this time around we get a glimpse at some serious anger issues lurking beneath the surface. Even if the narrative diverts course and she doesn’t become Venom, (a sure possibility with this title), I’m still interested to see where this character goes as a future antagonist.
Gwen’s present antagonists, however, turn up the heat at the issue’s conclusion with their sudden but inevitable betrayal. For as much as Gwen wasn’t the driving force of the narrative this month, her scene with Harry at the end of the issue was legitimately touching. Further, it highlights how much Gwen has changed as a person, and possibly not for the better.
Right now, Harry is where Gwen was at the beginning of the series: obsessed with the circumstances that shattered their lives and wishing he could return to that safer status quo. Gwen has found a measure of closure to that tragedy, but her new obsession with being Spider-Woman may be just as unhealthy, and is driving her to the same extremes that drove Harry to become the Green Goblin.
And then ninja show up and everything hits the fan, as it is wont to happen. “Predators” is firing on all cylinders, and I’m confident Gwen will be back in the driver’s seat next issue.