In Review: Spider-Gwen #1

The story is fine but why would any fan settle for visuals like these?

The covers: Big improvement from Marvel with this first issue of this series listing six of the covers that are available for collectors to track down. The Main cover is by Robbi Rodriguez featuring a terrific shot of Gwen in costume standing before the silhouette of a city with a monstrous lizard figure high above. The coloring is the real selling point of this cover, with fantastic pinks and oranges that compose the city against the white. The logo is placed in a cool location, practically center. The first variant is by Nick Bradshaw and Sonia Oback. This is a nice variation on Todd McFarlane‘s Spider-Man #1 cover, with Gwen sporting the same pose with a similar number of webs around her. The art is great and the coloring a cool teal. A strong selling point for me is that where the barcode belongs, Bradshaw has drawn an additional image of S-G, just as McFarlane drew an extra image of Spider-Man for the direct editions. Very, very cool! The Bruce Timm variant has Gwen in costume, but maskless, swinging between buildings, with her shooting a webline from her left hand. A joyful image that has all the Timm magic that fans have been reveling in for years. Skottie Young has provided a variant cover and the one I found online shows Spider-Woman crouched on a crooked chimney that’s surrounded by various pipes and antenna. She’s playing casually with a yo-yo. It’s a cute image, but not for me. The Hip Hop cover by Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado is just plain awesome. It’s a take on The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, featuring Gwen against the same city backdrop, posed the same as Slick Rick. It’s cool, it’s funny, it’s one to track down. The final listed cover is the Cosplay cover featuring Katherine Zan photographed by Judy Stephens. The costume and model are okay, but the setting and colors of the photograph are superior. Overall grades: Main A, Variant Bradshaw A+, Variant Timm A, Variant Young C+, Variant Hip Hop A, and Variant Cosplay B

The story: The first page of the issue retells what’s occurred previously in Spider-Gwen’s first series. This issue titled “Greater Power” written by Jason Latour opens with an elderly man at the Dollar Dog getting some food with his dog. He places the dog on the ground with a corn dog and the pooch goes outside to eat its meal. Before the dog can take a second bite a sewer grate explodes open revealing a female version of the Lizard. The scene then moves to Gwen waking up late for work at the Dollar Dog. She can’t take the train because it’s the weekend, so she decides to zip across town as Spider-Woman. However, there’s a problem with that: her web-shooters aren’t working because they’re “boogered up with dry web fluid.” This forces her to leap on buildings and cars, which, naturally, attracts the attention of the police. This story picks up plot points from the previous series, but any new reader can follow along easily: I missed the first series entirely and had no trouble figuring out what was going on. Gwen’s got the personality one would associate with Peter Parker, her father is the same familiar character, though he’s looking for a lead in the case of who murdered Peter Parker, Detectives Jean DeWolff and Frank Castle are now handling the Parker case, and Lizard sightings have got Spider-Woman checking underground. What she finds there is a surprise, and who finds her an even bigger one. This was a fun read, but not spectacular. I’ll check back in next month to see if it’s more of the same or if it improves. Overall grade: B

The art: Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork is very stylized, I’ll say that. It’s a very thin line used throughout, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of time is spent on backgrounds, which are very sparse. This isn’t evident on the first page, as Gwen’s apartment that she shares with another is an absolute mess. It’s on Pages 5 and 6, as she makes her way through the city, that Rodriguez’s loose style becomes apparent. Page 5’s settings are just a collection of geometric lines to represent a city; many of the lines don’t even go all the way to the bottom of the panel or the image’s border to complete the illusion of a building. However, the sense of motion that Rodriguez has created as Gwen zips along is quite good, especially on top of vehicles. The settings took me out of this book often (Page 7, panel one; all of 8; panels five and six on 9; 11’s second panel; etc.). The design of the Lizard is too simplistic, at a lower level of detail that one would find in any animated incarnation of this character. The scent of the lure that Gwen is using underground is very well done. The final page should be a strong moment, but comes off limp because of, again, a lack of detail. That’s the major flaw of the visuals: simplistic, seemingly rushed. I can’t believe this character has become so popular with visuals like these. Why would anyone settle for this art? Overall grade: D

The colors: Though this decent, done by Rico Renzi, I felt like I was looking at an issue of DC’s Batgirl. This issue is colored exactly like an issue of that series on Pages 4 – 6, 11, and 14 – 16. It’s fine, but shouldn’t this book be trying to carve its own identity in coloring? Once below ground, the coloring becomes more traditional and it unintentionally highlights the simplistic art. It makes me wonder how different this series would be with traditional colors throughout. Renzi’s work is okay, but it looks better in Gotham City. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, opening title, narration, signage, newspaper text, and computer text are done by VC’s Clayton Cowles. The dialogue is too frail and wispy a font that gives every character a passive tone when speaking. This makes tense dialogue come off as overly flowery. This is very similar to the style used in Marvel’s Star Wars books, and it’s equally unsuccessful there. The font used for the story’s title looks like a sloppy toss together. This was not a highpoint. Overall grade: D+

The final line: I picked this up to check out what all the buzz was about for this character. If this issue is any indication of what was previously done, I missed nothing but some neat covers. The story is fine but why would any fan settle for visuals like these? The art looks hastily rendered and the colors an attempt to cash in on a hit book from the competition. If the visuals are like this next month, I’m done with Spider-Gwen. Overall grade: C-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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