Graphic Novel Review: Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted?

Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted?

Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted? - Credit: Archant

The break-out comics character of 2015 is in her own title at last...

(Panini Books)

It was a defining moment in comics history. Having kidnapped Peter Parker’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, the Green Goblin pushed her from the top of New York’s George Washington Bridge. She may have already been dead by the time Spider-Man’s desperate web-line snapped her neck, but in truth we’ll never know, and her tragic passing has haunted the wall-crawler ever since.

But in a universe one step removed from our own, it was Gwen Stacy who ended up being bitten by a radioactive spider and gained remarkable arachnid powers, becoming the masked vigilante known as Spider-Woman, or as comics readers have christened her, “Spider-Gwen”…

First seen in the epic multiversal crossover saga Spider-Verse, she became an overnight success, winning legions of fans and inspiring cosplayers to don her attire within weeks of her debut – even before the launch of her solo title.

Her first appearance in the Edge of Spider-Verse prelude event is collected here together with the complete run of her first series (it was relaunched following the Secret Wars event), which sets up both the character and the slightly different world in which she inhabits.

Gwen’s universe saw the death of Peter Parker after he transformed himself into the Lizard, a Matthew Murdock who works for the Kingpin of crime, and a Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, who works within the NYPD, but isn’t afraid of breaking the rules to get what he wants.

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Gwen herself is still at high school, and enjoys a sideline with girl band The Mary Janes while trying to make up for the guilt she feels over Peter’s death. After revealing her secret identity to her police captain dad George Stacy, she also finds herself acting as a confidant to Parker’s grieving aunt May, and has to deal with being wanted as a criminal…

Smart, sassy and offering an instant appeal across ages, genders and interests, Spider-Gwen is so much more than a simple alternative take on any of the mainstream Marvel webslingers.

It’s reverential without ever being derivative, entertaining yet thought-provoking, and neatly blends human interest drama with costumed superheroics in a way that feels fresh and fun all at the same time.

Highly recommended.