And now for something completely different.
If you aren’t familiar with Hannah Blumenreich, she’s the artist behind the appropriately-titled Spidey-Zine, which depicts slice-of-life misadventures of a newly-minted Spider-Man interacting with the denizens of New York City. Her fan work is prolific and well-done, which caught Marvel’s attention and led to some official work on assorted Spider-Man projects. She contributed a story to the recent Amazing Spider-Man #25, and now provides the majority of this month’s issue of Spider-Gwen.
I appreciate Marvel’s efforts here. Digital tools and social media have made it possible for fans to create professional-level work for some time now, and it’s always encouraging to see someone make that leap into generating official content. This is a trend I want to see continue, and strikes me as a great way to inject new blood into the industry. Further, it’s also working in tandem with another great trope of the Spider-Man saga, the spotlight issue on his supporting cast. In this instance, we’re treated to the Mary Janes having to make a concert when their drummer is on the other side of the world battling ninja. As my first review for this site shows, I’m a huge fan of Gwen’s bandmates. In concept, this was a great pairing, particularly since the female leads would be written by a female creator.
Unfortunately, in practice, this didn’t quite come together. There’s nothing technically wrong with the execution, but the final product leaves me conflicted. The Mary Janes perform a chore before going to a show, deal with a creepy stalker, and Em Jay and Glory resolve an argument. These are mostly pedestrian events, but there’s nothing exceptional or interesting about them beyond the knowledge that they exist within Spider-Woman’s world. Even the exterior threat presented by Betty’s stalker is introduced from nowhere and dropped almost immediately, both physically and narratively; there’s no time for tension to build before Em Jay reminds us she’s a badass no matter what universe we’re in.
With Spidey-Zine, so much of the humor and enjoyment comes from the juxtaposition of the fantastical character of Spider-Man interacting and addressing completely average people and situations. Here, the fantastical element is entirely off-panel in Madripoor, (or in the Watchers’ domain), leaving us without a superhero story so much as a story of three college-aged female musicians heading to a gig. It might be the most realistic portrayal of three college-aged female musicians of all time, (I’ve only ever met one of those three characteristics, so I’m not one to judge there), but it’s not a compelling issue of Spider-Gwen.
Spider-Gwen operates in a world where everything is slightly more psychedelic and extreme than the “normal” Marvel Universe, so the tonal mismatch is even more striking. Again, the last time we followed these three, they wandered into a haunted deathtrap that Betty had to rescue them from with an axe. That didn’t involve any supervillainy; they just stumbled into it performing normal halloween shenanigans.
Earth-65 is weird, you guys.
It is entirely possible that I’m in the minority opinion, and this book had the intended resonance with the majority of readers. But as someone who enjoys Hannah Blumenreich’s independent work, I don’t think her voice was suited to the voice Spider-Gwen has developed so far. I can see why it would work on paper, but the execution feels like a misapplication of her talents. You should read Spidey-Zine to see her style in its element, and also because it’s pretty great. I’m hopeful the next project she’s on for Marvel is a better fit.
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