Writer: Jason Latour / Artist: Chris Visions / Marvel Comics
How interesting is a Spider-Gwen comic without Spider-Gwen? In a fascinating gamble of plot development, the entirety of Radioactive Spider-Gwen #5 goes without sight of Gwen Stacy, and instead relies on building the peripheral story plots we’ve seen thus far: Frank Castle chasing Spider-Woman, Detective Stacy’s struggle with his daughter’s identity, and whatever the hell Earth-65 Daredevil does as a bad guy. How does it all work out? Well, not so great.
For a single issue I understand trying to develop other characters that surround our star. I’ve criticized this great series in the past, in fact, for failing to do just that – coming short in developing a supporting cast around Gwen that makes us care for her relationships with others. Issue #5 seems to go too far too soon though, jumping ahead to an issue whose reliance is on several characters who not only feel like temporary plot pawns, but also ones we’ve barely seen enough to care about in Earth-65. With the exception of Papa Stacy, the cast of characters had each been given brief cameos in the past, having built hardly enough interest to support an issue without Gwen Stacy in the equation. To make it a little worse, readers’ attentions had to be divided amongst all of them – Captain Stacy, Frank Castle, Matt Murdock, Sam Wilson – reaching broader with several characters when it might have been better to reach deeper with one or two.
I do appreciate the direction the comic meant to take, seemingly trying to show us there’s more to the series than just Gwen; but, at least this once, it accidentally reinforced the opposite. Weak supporting characters continues to be Spider-Gwen’s biggest problem. It’s a happy problem to have, perhaps, when it’s due to the star being so well-liked that other characters are wack by comparison. Reading Spider-Gwen is like watching Beyoncé and a group made entirely of Michelle’s.
This is going somewhere though. Now that everybody has a role to play, it should be a short matter of time before they build into characters strong enough that they actually can hold up an entire issue, and with the return of Gwen we should be looking at a more dynamic cast and more interesting interactions between them and Spider-Gwen. In the meantime, a little patience is required for the bigger payoff – and hey, if it means seeing more Samantha Wilson, I’m willing to sit down and wait.
Chris Visions takes over on artwork for issue #5, a change from Robbi Rodriguez that is significant yet non-distracting. I was most impressed with the cool cityscape backgrounds during Detective Stacy’s run-in with Matt Murdock, although detailed backgrounds are rare through the issue in general. The perspectives from having Detective Stacy and Murdock on a rooftop while Castle is mixes it up on the street below made for some cool scenes. There are a lot of simple pastel backgrounds otherwise, which somehow just work because Rico Renzi’s color choices are consistently fun and amazing.
Look forward to the return of Robbi Rodriguez and Gwen Stacy both.
Reading Radioactive Spider-Gwen? Catch up on previous reviews here.