Image Courtesy of Marvel.com
Spoilers: Keep in mind that my method of reviewing involves spoilers for purposes of analysis. If you care about being spoiled and have not read Spider-Gwen #3 yet, please avoid this review until you do!!
Okay. First of all, can I just talk for a minute about how much I love this cover? It’s my blog. Of course I can. This is the first time in years that I was this excited to own a comic, because I wanted the cover. The cover art on this issue is masterful. The image of Gwen perched on top a telephone pole, looking down like a predator with the giant punisher skull behind her in that eerie psychedelic pink, while the skull’s eyes almost make wings for Gwen is so cool. Combine that with the fact that the telephone pole is drawn to resemble a Christian cross, which brings in imagery of both forgiveness (something Gwen has been struggling with) and also a degree of mysticism. All of those elements combine to turn the book’s standard pastel color scheme into something surreal and sinister and I LOVE IT!
All right, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the comic, shall we? The opening scene of this comic really fooled me. It starts out with George Stacy telling Gwen that she can’t be Spider-Woman anymore, and Gwen continuing this line of argument she has had in issue #2. Saying that she has to be Spider-Woman, and the only way for her to get better at that is to ignore her life as Gwen Stacy: “It’s Gwen Stacy, dad. Gwen Stacy is the problem.” I don’t mind that whole mentality as a direction for Gwen. God knows, Peter went through that enough times, but I really felt like this was going to be another issue of Gwen angsting over cutting people out of her life in order to focus on the superheroing, essentially rehashing issue $2. And while there is some of that, what I didn’t expect was that the writers would do such a great job of SHOWING the differences between how Gwen feels as Gwen Stacy and how she feels as Spider-Woman, because as soon as the Vulture shows up, and she puts on the suit, her personality totally shifts. She is witty and quipping with Vulture and just generally a more confident person. All of her angst goes away. We as readers finally see that it’s not just that Gwen feels she needs to focus on being Spider-Woman as some sort of penance. She WANTS to focus on being Spider-Woman, because when she is, her pain goes away.
Finally, we have a cool fight scene between Gwen and Frank Castle, who we see donning something resembling his punisher gear (Classic skull T-shirt, and clubs in this case instead of an arsenal of guns, but definitely evidence that Frank Castle’s alter ego exists on Earth-65). The fight is intense, including a scary moment where Castle removes Gwen’s mask, but then… doesn’t recognize her as anything other than “just a girl.” A statement that does more than just set Gwen up for her triumphant “Yeah. That’s right. …I’m ‘Just’ a girl” line, before clocking Castle and running off (wrapping up Vulture as a present for the cops on the way). Castle’s statement also serves to show readers that he didn’t even look at the picture of Gwen that George showed him in the previous issue. This causes some dramatic irony for careful readers, because it’s the fact that Frank Castle avoids personal connections (like Gwen is doing), choosing instead to throw himself into his work (like Gwen is doing) that causes him to miss something that would be have been a vital clue in discovering precisely what he wanted to find (Spider-Woman’s identity). We all know Gwen is making a mistake by walling herself off, and that she has to come through the other side as a more complete human being and better super hero, but it was clever writing to use Castle as the ghost of vigilante future: demonstrating what Gwen could become, if she continues down this road.