Spider-Gwen momentarily returns to low stakes character-driven drama in the best of ways.
This review contains spoilers for Spider-Geddon #2 (seriously!)
While the Spider-verse at large seemingly goes to Hell in a vampiric handbasket at the hands of The Inheritors, Gwen Stacy finds herself struggling with the realities of her world and responsibility on a much smaller scale throughout most of Ghost-Spider #1. It’s a quiet, subtly daring choice from writer Seanan McGuire and artist Rosi Kampe that pays off in spades.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
We pick up with Gwen right where we left her – fighting crime through her home reality, unaware that it sits on the precipice of interdimensional calamity! Someone’s gonna be late to band practice…
It’s a simple, pared down premise that opens up gradually, under the excellent penmanship of McGuire who writes a relatable, if uncompromisingly open, Gwen that is struggling (fresh out of jail) but fiery and fun, too. The time taken to fully explore how Gwen feels about her situation, about herself, about heroism and responsibility and villainy is welcome and needed and I’m glad that the book takes the time to hone in on those issues while elsewhere big things are happening. The character work is fantastic, needed, and largely unfound in other Spider-Geddon tie-ins (see the most recent Peter Parker) so this is a pleasant surprise that feels worth relishing in.
Especially so, because this character-first approach makes the introduction of that bigger plot through a quick collage of the fake-out death of Gwen in Spider-Geddon #2 followed by the introduction of an alternate reality Goblin, and Peter feel understandable and unique to Gwen rather than a static catch-up of Spider-Geddon events. There’s a levity and lightness, wholly unique to this book and honed by McGuire, that keeps things fun and earnest through a well-meaning, and necessary, transition that feels weighed down (and repetitive amongst its peers) a bit compared to the first half of the issue, but successful nonetheless.
Kampe’s art, accompanied by Ian Herring’s fantastic color work does a commendable, if imperfect job in keeping pace and tone. The characters are rendered well and brought to life in a poppy-bright neo-noir world that feels warm and inviting, but also shadowy and slightly scary — as Gwen’s story itself does. The ability Kampe has to give so many expressions to Spider-Gwen in her limited mask design is especially impressive, too. However, while the the final battle between a new Green Goblin and Gwen is full of cool character design, the actual fluidity and mechanics of it are confusing and unimpressive. I found myself wishing the movement was over so that I could focus on other things almost as soon as it started — this is thrown into real perspective by the surprising and rewarding character-focused scene that immediately follows.
All in all, Ghost-Spider #1 is a success. Sure, it struggles with its obligation to the larger Spider-Geddon story, but it barrels through those issues with a keen eye for character both in narrative and art that does it well in the end. People love Spider-Gwen with good reason. It seems that Seanan McGuire and Rosi Kampe know and appreciate that, and I commend them for it because this issue is all the better for that respect. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.