Welcome back to Earth-65, where Peter Parker is dead and Gwen Stacy is your web-slinging Spider-Woman. Spider-Gwen had recently returned to her home universe after the events of the Spider-Verse storyline and she continues to struggle to define her role as a masked vigilante. Mayor J. Jonah Jameson leads the public outcry aimed at bringing her to justice. He blames her for the death of Peter Parker (which we all know is not the case), thus she's an outlaw. Gwen’s father, Police Captain George Stacy, aware of her secret identity, has defended Spider-Woman publicly. This has led to his removal from leading the task force responsible for capturing her.
After drawing the Vulture into a fight, Gwen found herself in over her heard against the former Oscorp employee. Toomes used Spider-Gwen’s web-line as a tether to drop her from high above the sky. This issue picks up from that point.
Our story begins with Spider-Gwen returning to consciousness aboard a garbage boat floating down the Hudson river. She’s serenaded by her Spider-Verse cohort, Peter Porker the Spider-Ham. After a brief pep-talk, Porker explains how she was able to survive her fall from the sky. Apparently she quickly spun some web-wings to help break the fall. Despite her resourcefulness, the fall caused Gwen to look and feel about as good as the contents of the garbage boat. To make matters worse, Gwen suddenly realized she had lost her cell phone, which contained ‘her whole life’ (ie, details that could reveal she’s Spider-Woman).
Luckily for Gwen her father was one step ahead of her, he retrieved her phone from the Spider-Woman "crime" scene after duping an unsuspecting fellow police officer. Unfortunately for Captain Stacy his wit did not allow him to evade the active detectives on the Spider-Woman case, Frank Castle and Jean DeWolff. They convince George to help them in pursuing the Kingpin lead (the Rhino had implemented the Kingpin’s involvement with Spider-Woman).
Meanwhile, Gwen returns to consciousness unaware of her surroundings for a second time, this time in the presence of her former band mates Glory Grant and Mary Jane. Gwen was brought to the apartment by Randy Robertson who had apparently found her drunk at a bar in Manhattan (more on this little tidbit later). Once Gwen got her bearings she decided to leave, but not before her mere presence induced a bickering-battle between MJ and Glory. MJ was still bitter about Gwen’s late-arrival for the biggest night of their lives (the band’s last gig). As Gwen walks out, MJ and Glory tell her that “The Mary Janes need you”. Gwen does not turn back.
The story then shifts over to the Kingpin’s prison cell, where Fisk is being interrogated by Frank Castle. Castle loses his cool (yet again) and threatens the Kingpin’s life. However, Fisk's lawyer (Matt Murdock) quickly diffuses the situation. Murdock was not in-person to do so, he was on the phone…because his actual location was high atop a building with some goons and a beat-down Vulture. After hanging up the phone with Castle, Murdock turns to Toomes and scolds him for attempting to kill Spider-Woman. Murdock claims that Spider-Woman’s life is for the Kingpin to take (because she had refused his hand). The Vulture’s new task is to find Spider-Woman (alive) and bring her to Murdock.
Meanwhile, Spider-Gwen is swinging through the city getting sage advice from Peter Porker. She’s convinced she needs to find the Vulture, he’s convinced she’s running from some truth and that her heroic vigilantism is being carried out for the wrong reasons. Moments later Gwen confronts her father as he’s leaving a bar and returning home. She tells him, “I’m looking for you”…
This universe is beginning to unfurl and there’s a slight uptick in the intrigue, namely the history behind the Kingpin and Captain George Stacy. That interaction is magnified by Matt Murdock’s role as the Kingpin’s enforcer (as well as his lawyer). It's a bit weird reading Murdock as a criminal, but I have to admit it works well and helps to make this universe unique. Alternate universes are made for this sort of swap-out, I'm anxious to see how this plays out.
The incorporation of Spider-Ham is a plus as well. It's a Jiminey Cricket meets Ted combination so his likeability score is high. He’s portrayed as a figment of Gwen’s fuzzy consciousness (too many knocks to the head I suppose), yet his insight touches on some of the questions I raised in my review of the prior issue. In particular, Gwen’s effort to bring down the Vulture despite the fact that so many other issues are going on in her life. He makes a rather salient remark whilst they’re both sitting on the couch listening to MJ and Glory argue. He explains to her that “being a super hero is way more than facing bad guys…sometimes you gotta face real life.” Later, Porker calls Gwen out for running from the truth, a comment that leads her to find her father at the story’s end. Porker has become her comedic moral compass, it serves the story well and allows a mechanism for Gwen to be her own person yet still see a touch of the light/kind-hearted Peter Parker who is usually donning the Spider-attire.
Gwen's head is clearly not in the right place and this goes back to the notion that the death of Peter Parker did not seem to send Gwen down the right path; rather it has sent her on a downward spiral. She needs to right the ship and I’m not sure how that’s going to happen…perhaps George Stacy’s days are numbered in this universe as well. I mentioned Gwen's disposition (as a complaint) in the prior issue's review, Spider-Ham's role seems to be here to address that shortcoming.
There’s some weird things going on with the plot that I hope to see addressed in upcoming issues. I mentioned in the above section about Gwen being found drunk by Randy Robertson at a Manhattan bar (she had apparently called him). This seemed at odds with Gwen’s motivations in the last panel she was seen prior. She was quite worried (ie, frantic) about getting back to find her phone which contained ‘her life’. So how did she end up drunk at a bar? Was that a cover by Randy to explain her mental state? Did she give up trying to find her phone and drown her miseries in alcohol? Did she even bother to find her phone? This is a completely glossed over yet significant development. The author is clearly depicting Gwen as hitting rock-bottom, I’m just not sure how far she's sunk…this needs to be addressed further as the story continues.
Couple of quick thoughts:
In this universe, Frank Castle’s family is still alive (at least it appears that way)…but with the way he aggressively attacks criminals it is not difficult to imagine he’s made enough enemies looking for some payback. I’d expect to see his wife and child killed soon, sending ol’ Castle boy over the edge in the not too distant future.
MJ continues to be portrayed as a self-serving, immature bad-friend. I can’t imagine the author wants to continue down this road, unless he really wants us to think the Earth-65's MJ has basically no redeemable qualities. Guess we’ll wait and see.
Overall, an improvement from the prior book, clearly building toward some ambitious developments…but at the end of the day we didn’t get that much to chew on here. 3 webs, certainly worth the purchase of the next installment.