Writer: Jason Latour / Artist: Robbi Rodriguez / Marvel Comics
After a rather ‘meh’ issue #10, Radioactive Spider-Gwen gets back into its regular form in an arc that continues to delve into Gwen Stacy’s insecurities as she clashes with Earth-65’s Punisher. The good part is the depth of self-discovery Gwen has to face as her powers are no longer forced on her, but a choice she can make. What does it mean if she needs to be a spider hero? What does it mean if she chooses to walk away? The questions play in her head as she’s figuring out who she is with and without the mask, and deciding how confident she is as that person. Seeing her in doubt and pushing through towards an inner breakthrough makes you root even harder for her, because the pressure she’s placing on herself not only reveals how much it matters to her, but also how much she wants to do what’s right. You root for her because no matter how many mistakes she’s made Gwen Stacy is a good person. A good person trying her damndest to find herself.
While Gwen’s inner struggle and finite powers are a great read, the downside lies in a plot that feels unclear in regard to Gwen’s motivations to clap back at Frank Castle. Currently, Frank wants to unmask Spider-Gwen, to which Gwen responds by wanting to “hold him accountable,” so it reads like ‘I’m going after him because he’s coming after me,’ which feels more odd that heroic. I’m glad to read a Spider-Gwen vs Punisher clash, I only wish the circumstances were angled at a different moral conflict and that Gwen’s motivation for going on the offensive were holier. Regardless, we have a Black kid Richard Reed, Spider-Women cameos, and glimpse at the Avengers, and Gwen building her confidence back in a well-paced story arc, so no one should be complaining in the grand scheme of what’s turning into yet another brilliant Spider-Gwen book with deep emotions and vibrant art.
One of the biggest strengths of Spider-Gwen books has been her relatability by means of putting readers in her shoes, seeing her inner thoughts and perspectives. Those exact means were showcased well in #11 as readers rifle through Gwen’s choices one by one as she weighs her options. Should she run? Go to the police? Seek help from Captain America? Kneel to Matt Murdock? Including the audience into Gwen’s thought process affords more credibility in her decisions, because even if we don’t agree with them, we know where they came from; even more important, outside the character, our confidence in Gwen’s writing is reinforced knowing Latour thought through her options thoroughly as well.
Overall, a great pick-me-up in a series that continues to be a fast, fun, thoughtful read. Yet another reminder why Spider-Gwen is one of my favorite series on shelves.