Gwen Stacy #1 Review

by Harlan Ivester on February 11, 2020

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Todd Nauck
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

            Remember 2014? When it seemed like Marvel was just throwing Gwen Stacy’s at any wall they could to see where she would stick? Aside from my own nostalgia for that time (when I started reading current comics), I think that was a good thing for the publisher. Spider-Gwen and Gwenpool will always hold a special place in my heart for their own reasons, but I don’t think any Gwen will ever be as important to the medium as the original, 616. And yet, it’s been so long since we had a great story featuring her.

            Gwen Stacy #1 shows us what our titular protagonist was up to before her short-lived days at ESU. Things you would expect from what we already know about Gwen – running for class president, studying, high school drama, and that kind of thing. Gage honors these traits that we remember her for while expanding on them in interesting ways. She is indeed the daughter of the police captain. What does that mean for how she thinks, and how people think of her? On paper, a story about a character whose fate is sealed shouldn’t be interesting, but Gage offers a unique perspective that keeps things fresh. As one would expect, there are many Easter eggs and cameos for fans of the Lee run to appreciate, as well as some tie-ins to the modern era. Thankfully, these are all pulled off in a way that feels natural, rather than forced and banking on nostalgia. In fact, the issue’s most powerful moment comes from a very brief cameo. Its impact is subtle, taking a moment to sink in. My only gripes with the script are a couple moments of strange dialogue, but they’re very minor.
            Todd Nauck offers a take on the Spider(less) corner of the Marvel universe that is faithful to its original interpretation in design but feels decidedly modern because of its layout. There’s a wonky limb here or there, but on the whole, his characters are very well animated. Even in a conversation that could be considered mundane, you get a believable range of emotions telegraphed clearly. Rachelle Rosenberg adds valuable dynamics to each panel, always mindful of the setting and blending tones in a realistic way. Sometimes it’s the way a character is blocking the light, or how the shadows suggest something sinister. The collaboration between these two goes a long way in helping the story hit the mark in each scene.

            Gwen Stacy #1 is much more than readers will be expecting. The cynics will call this another cash grab – “Who asked for this?!” – but readers will be delighted to find proof that Gwen Stacy is a great character even without Peter Parker. The visuals nail the tone on every page, creating a feeling that can turn on a dime when it needs to. You won’t regret giving this one a read.

Our Score:


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