Face it Tiger: You’re Still Reading the Same Stuff (and enjoying it)

I’ve been a Spider-Gwen fan ever since Edge of Spider-Verse. For those unfamiliar, Spider-Gwen is an alternative universe Marvel comic book, in which Gwen Stacey (typically a love interest for Peter Parker) is bitten by the radioactive Spider. Gwen, becomes that universe’s Spider-Man (or Spider-Woman as the case is), while Peter Parker dies tragically – fulfilling Uncle Ben’s narrative role. In this universe, everything is trendy to the point of being ironic and pretentious. CD’s never replaced vinyl, soft drinks use real sugar, Donald Trump is M.O.D.O.K. (or M.O.D.A.A.K. in this universe - Mental Organism Designed As America's King), the Unicorn is a Brony, the Green Goblin was Harry Osborn’s D&D character, Daredevil is the Kingpin of Crime and on it goes, countless reordering’s of existing continent to achieve the simulacrum of new – or at least distinct – material.

The universe of Gwen Stacey as Spider-Woman seemed to have a freshness to it that other alternate takes on Spider-Man didn’t seem to hold. Don’t get me wrong, Gerard Way’s Peni Parker was brilliant and interesting to read. But the Gwen Stacey storyline seemed to achieve a certain balance of familiar, Spider-Man action, with a fresh take on the existing character. And so I kept reading, first through Spider-Verse and then the limited series and finally, here I am with issue twenty-eight sitting on my desk – following Gwen’s adventures through her battles with familiar-yet-unfamiliar villains such as Rhino and Lizard along with reimaginings of classic Spider-Man storylines like that of the Black Costume saga – titled the eye-roll worthy “Gwenom” story arch in the pages of Spider-Gwen. The point is, I guess, that I am not really reading something new. Rather, I’m reading the same stories and characters that I enjoyed as a teenager, back when Ben Reilly was Spider-Man (I never really had the opportunity to read much “Peter Parker”, by the time I started reading Marvel the Clone Saga was well underway and I’d only just started picking up Spider-Man when the titles switch to Scarlett Spider). It’s the same kind of anti-reboot-reboot, a restart without negating the existing continuity that we see every time a new origin movie comes out, along with other shifts to alternate characters occupying the same persona – like the Ultimate Comics Miles Morales as Spider-Man (now wrapped back into the mainstream continuity) or Miguel O’Hara as Spider-Man 2099.

So, what makes reading these same characters and story-lines, already detailed in decades of Spider-Man comics, pleasurable when put forward in a different form with Spider-Gwen? On one hand, I’m older now… so my tastes have matured and are different to what they were back then. Sure, I still enjoy the same concepts and ideas. That is why I’ve been reading superhero comics for decades. But the means of expression that I enjoy now aren’t the same as back then. As a teenager I didn’t really pay attention to the art style or how many words were crammed into a speech bubble – so long as, on a casual flick through the comic, I could see blood, big muscles, big boobs and big fights. These days, I want nuance and narrative. I want a balanced words-per-speech-bubble count. The kind I see in Jonathan Hickman’s East Of West or Grant Morrison’s Multiversity. Art these days also needs to be expressive and evocative of the narrative for me, the way the black-and-white pallet works for the Walking Dead. It has to carry at least 50% of the story.

Spider-Gwen hits that mark for me. The art is somewhere between expressionism and punk-rock-sketch-book. And the word count isn’t excessive. In that sense, with Spider-Gwen, I have the opportunity to revisit the old storylines and their concepts that I enjoyed without having to revisit those elements of that I’ve now grown out of.

Face it Tiger: You’re Still Reading the Same Stuff (and enjoying it) Face it Tiger: You’re Still Reading the Same Stuff (and enjoying it) Reviewed by Nicholas William Moll on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 Rating: 5
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