Event comics are hard to do, and I do not envy anyone who writes them. As the demand for a more cinematic, long-form format superhero stories in the vein of Infinity War and Endgame or even Into The Spider-Verse increases, so too does the pressure on comics writers. These multi-million, nay, billion-dollar movies are born out of comics events, sure, but they also inform them. See a new Thanos comic scheduled around Endgame‘s release. See Spider-Geddon, the Spider-Verse sequel based on a partially abandoned Slott idea and helmed by Christos Gage release near Into the Spider-Verse.
This circuitous, demanding relationship between the ever-expanding Marvel brand is why I took it easier on Spider-Geddon‘s faults — of which there were quite a few — than I might have a traditional mini- or maxi- series. ‘Geddon lacked a certain something, yes, but it was strong in all the right places: character, humor, team antics, and…Spider-Gwen.
Spider-Gwen, whose tie-in series Ghost-Spider (also the beginning of her upcoming relaunch) written by Seanan McGuire with art by Rosi Kampe and colors by Ian Herring collected here, is the best of the tie-ins, if not the best books of the whole event.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
Gwen Stacy makes her sensational return! The Spider-Woman of Earth-65 is picking up right where she left off, fighting crime in her home reality — unaware it sits on the precipice of interdimensional calamity! Spider-Geddon is about to rock Gwen’s world! Finding herself trapped in a parallel dimension as her friends and fellow Spiders are dying — with her teleporter watch destroyed and no way to get home — what can Gwen do to stop the Inheritors from wreaking havoc across the Web of Life and Destiny?
Ostensibly, this is what Ghost-Spider: Spider-Geddon is about. Superheroes, bigger-than-life conflicts, alternate realities, and the expanded Spider-Verse. McGuire does a very good job at keeping pace with all of that, especially so given that she’s burdened with starting her run during an event (those are already notoriously hard to do now, remember). The fight scenes are fun, the quips and back and forth with Harry feel like home, and the web-slinging is high-flying Spider-antics done right. Where Ghost-Spider really succeeds though is in the in-between, in the character-driven, introspective moments between all those big event comic moments. Where McGuire so effortlessly sets up the stakes not only for Gwen’s involvement in this particular larger than life fight, but also for where Gwen, and the run, will be going from there.
Over the course of three tie-in issues, Gwen attempts to interrogate and reestablish her identity. It’s not just her doing this in-character, though — it’s also a new writer doing so in the best of ways. Gwen travels to an alternate reality where she faces her own Green Goblin, reunites with friends both dead and alive, with family, and with the world at large. A kind of rehabilitation for a character whose self-doubt has never been stronger following Latour’s run. Over the course of fantastic, character and dialogue-driven issues, she examines her own identity and place, which she’s questioning even in the context of the Spider-Verse (her closest friends and teammates). This alternate reality acts not only as a good catch for a comic event, but as a good prism for a character and writer to change directions, even if slightly. It’s also a lot of fun! A sneaker wearing, sleek as heck Goblin is always good in my book.
Then, the most important issue not only of this collection, but of Spider-Geddon as a whole: issue #4. A stunningly somber, introspective, and important story about loss, identity, and loved ones. As Gwen goes from dimension to dimension telling the families of the Spiders killed in the war with The Inheritors of their loss, she reflects. She reflects on what it means to be a person wearing a costume, fighting crime, and she’s terrified of it. But she also reflects on what it means to be a symbol, a “legend” and those never die, as she says. She can be a person under a mask, terrified of the job, terrified of her own inability to juggle her family, school, friends, and crimefighting but she can be someone with a mask on fighting crime on behalf of those that can’t, those that are just like her, and those that have passed — a kind of remembrancer, a ghost. It’s a stunningly simple, but enormously effective message that not only establishes a very realized voice and direction for Gwen, but also for this creative team early on in the way that all the best Spider stories do.
The art team — Rosi Kampe, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ian Herring — keep pace. While Gwen’s suit is spectacularly designed (my favorite, aside from the O.G. Symbiote) it is one of the more difficult Spider-suits to make expressive, with a lack of lines, and a white on white detail. Kampe surmounts this seemingly effortlessly: Gwen comes across as awe-struck, suspicious, gleeful and serious all the same. It conveys a ton of character, and is paired extremely well with her fluid, ballerina-esque physique and choreography. It’s also used well for a dialogue-heavy book, where well utilized layouts, closeups, and Herring’s color keep things interesting. Scenes awash in purples, pinks, blues, and some neon greens and yellows feel unique and lively — wholly developed for Gwen’s stories and her’s alone and deployed here very effectively in an almost neo-noir way. New character designs like the aforementioned female Green Goblin: sneakers, sleek mask, and a cool hoodie shawl are all in keeping with the book’s tone and stylized take as well. The video comic included as the final issue here is nothing special, but it’s unessential to the story and tacked on in a way that doesn’t pull the preceding art down in the slightest.
All said and done, Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider: Spider-Geddon is a title full of hyphens and colons, but fuller still of character, determination and care. This team seemingly effortlessly surpasses the tremendous burden of writing not only event comics but starting their run in the middle of them to deliver something referential, reverent, and still sleek and refreshing. The book has only gotten better from here, too, and I would encourage anyone interested not only in Gwen Stacy, but in everything a Spider book can be outside of Peter Parker, to check this out. Legends never die.