Who among us has not read Amazing Spider-Man #121? “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” Now more than 43 years later, we get the story from Gwen’s point of view. And more.
Gwen is waiting in Peter Parker’s apartment when the Goblin attacks. She tries to fend him off by throwing a lamp but he releases gas from one of his pumpkin bombs to knock her unconscious. We see the gas from Gwen’s perspective so we know this is the story from her point of view. (Assuming the title wasn’t enough of a tip-off.)
Gwen regains consciousness on top of (what has finally been determined to be) the Brooklyn Bridge. She hears the Goblin call Spider-Man “Parker” and so realizes that her boyfriend is “the man who helped kill Dad.” And learning this, still paralyzed by the Goblin gas, she sheds tears. As Spidey tries to rescue her, she thinks, “Stay away from me! I trusted you, Peter. Believed in you. Loved you. It hurts. I can’t feel anything. Yet every part of me hurts.”
The Goblin knocks her off the bridge and, as she falls, she thinks, “What’d I do? I’m a kind person…caring to my family and friends. This isn’t fair. I’ve led a good…” and then Spidey snags her with his webbing and her neck snaps.
But she completes her thought (“…life.”) in a transparent tube in a lab. There a man in a Anubis-like mask tells her about how Professor Warren cloned her after her death, but, tellingly, does not identify himself as Warren. Gwen is shaken by the thought of being a clone but the Jackal assures her, “You are very real, Gwen Stacy. And you are not a clone” elaborating that she is “A reanimation. Not grown from an old blood sample from when you were still alive. Your DNA was harvested from your remains. With memories that span all the way to your death.” He further tells her that she must take a pill, which he has placed on a plate, or “your second life will go poof.” When Gwen, brandishing a knife she picked up, suggests she might be a prisoner, the Jackal tells her he wants her to join him as his business partner. He shows her his lab, which impresses her and tells her “I don’t trust myself with this. But you, you’re a good person. I need that.” Gwen is still hesitant until her father, Captain George Stacy, appears, no longer needing his cane. He asks Gwen to “be a part of this with me” and Gwen readily swallows her pill.
The last panel is a close-up of the Jackal’s mouth as he breaks into a rather enigmatic smile.
First let’s look at how cleverly Slott and Frenz have inserted this story into ASM #121. The second panel of the story is a close reproduction of page 11 panel 6 of the original story. In that story, Gwen is thinking something different than what she says here but she could be talking just seconds after her thoughts. None of Gwen’s confrontation with the Goblin is shown in the original. Spidey enters the apartment to find Gwen’s handbag, the pumpkin bomb and a lamp amongst the things lying on the floor. So, now we know why the pumpkin was left there (other than as a calling card) and how the lamp ended up there. Once Gwen recovers consciousness, she hears the same dialogue that Gobby and Spidey say on page 14 panel 1, page 17 panels 4-6, and page 18 panels 1-4 of the original. There are sentences left out and Spidey does have some dialogue he doesn’t have in the original that can be attributed to the new panel taking place between panels shown in the original. It’s not perfect but it certainly works and gives us the idea that Gwen is conscious and hears the Goblin call Spidey “Parker” which I find fascinating.
But I said the second panel. What about the first panel? That’s a shot of the Green Goblin smiling enigmatically just as the Jackal does at the end of the story in the same close-up, the same panel size and shape. And note that the Jackal does not refer to himself as Miles Warren. Does this mean the Jackal is Norman Osborn? Could be.
After Gwen wakes up in the Jackal’s lab, she is nicely skeptical, prepared to defend herself and (something not shown enough in the original stories) has a firm knowledge of science. The Jackal sways her with appeals for help and, finally, with the appearance of her father. How can she possibly say no? A good sequence. The appearance of Captain Stacy, by the way, ties in nicely with Gwen still blaming Spidey for his death, which is the one thing I don’t buy here. My recollection is that Gwen quit blaming Spidey long before her death. Anyone want to check the old issues and see if I’m right?
The choice of Ron Frenz as the artist is inspired. Although he wasn’t drawing Spidey in 1973, Frenz’s style has become a classic Spidey look. With Gil Kane gone, it’s the next best thing. I particularly like the many facial expressions Gwen gets in this story and Ron’s Goblin looks like the Goblin should.
All right, so let’s look at something the Jackal says in this story. “You are very real, Gwen Stacy. And you are not a clone.” But his explanation still sounds like cloning to me. Does it matter that she has memories right up to the moment of her death so that there is no time between her death and her awakening in the tube? Doesn’t she need her original body to not be a clone? Actually, a lot of Marvel characters are no longer in their original bodies, including Spidey who regenerated in “The Other” storyline (back in Amazing Spider-Man #527, February 2006). Come to think of it, there was a Dr. Strange story sometime in the 70s where the whole universe was reimagined so, technically, no one is the original. Still, the comic is called “Clone Conspiracy,” so where does this all get us? To “wait and see.”
This may seem like nit-picking but it is important because I suspect the purpose of this series is to bring back some long-dead characters. But we don’t want them to be thought of as clones. So, is Gwen going to come back to life and to the series? Or is this just another tease that will have her degenerate at the end? More on this in next issue’s review.
As a Gwen Stacy fan, how can I not love this story? Five webs. Oh, except that business about Gwen still blaming Spidey for her father’s death. So, four and a half webs.