Oh Marvel, I have a bone to pick with you.
So, it’s no news that I’m new to the world of comic books. We’ve discussed this. I was never even planning on getting into comic books, really. You can bet I’m not all too familiar with their marketing practices when I’ve rarely tried to crack open a comic book at all.
So imagine my surprise when, after speeding through all my Image comics with mostly positive results, I cracked Spider-Gwen to reveal… pages after pages of obnoxious advertisements*. What?! What is this?! I feel like I paid $4 for essentially a glorified comic strip + catalogue of other things I could buy!**
As a new comic book reader/customer who finds the prospect of diving into the Marvel universe daunting enough as it is, this is not helping their case.
Providing free digital copies with each physical purchase is like putting a bandaid on a freshly amputated limb. A nice thought, but not enough to take away the pain.
Back to Spider-Gwen. As I mentioned in my haul, I wasn’t sure if I should hold off on starting Spider-Gwen until I read Edge of Spider-Verse, or if I could just dive right in. The majority of friends agreed, just dive in. That said, I wish I had waited. I grew up on Spider-Man cartoons, the old 80s re-runs on Boomerang and every other superhero show he appeared in; I feel like I at least have a basic background in Spider-Man. But so much of Spider-Gwen feels directly linked to the events that occurred in Edge of Spider-Verse. Yeah, by issue #2, I feel like I sort-of got it, and the stuff that went over my head I just let go.
So that means Issue #1 was a major clusterf–k. I truly can’t describe it any other way. Sure, I loved the art style, and how muted the color palette was in comparison to other superhero comics which can run a little too colorful, shiny, and overall, distracting. I thought this take on Mary Jane– a vapid, shallow, self-serving b—h– was an absolute joy.
The choice of villain was underwhelming. I actually had to consult my boyfriend, who has more experience with/better memory of the Spider-Verse, and who confirmed that the Vulture was a failed super villain who gets resurrected every so often, but never really does well. Honestly, I didn’t care about the Vulture– he wasn’t interesting, he wasn’t scary, and I don’t yet understand his motives.
Towards the end of Issue #3 and throughout all of #4, I really started to feel for Gwen Stacy. Even if I had no idea what entirely she had been through since becoming Spider-Gwen, I liked her and wanted to keep reading more about her. She was a surprisingly complex character; I liked realizing I cared for Gwen even when she wasn’t beating up bad guys.
This series is proving to be pretty difficult to get into. I don’t know that I would have kept going had I not bought the first three issues at the same time. I ended up purchasing the fourth as an afterthought when I couldn’t find No Mercy #2 or Divinity #2, both of which had far more impressive introductions than Spider-Gwen. Overall, Spider-Gwen is a great character thrown into a mediocre storyline amidst Marvel’s poor business practices.
*after some digging, I found this is not a new practice. It at least dates back to 2012, so sometime in the past 3 years people have stopped complaining, which is why I was totally blindsided by it. I did, however, find this article, which sums up my feelings re: Image vs. Marvel comics quite nicely.
**Reference: the other series I’m currently reading are $3-$3.50 for twice the amount of actual content.