Sunday, June 28, 2015

Spider-Gwen #4 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I've never read Ultimate Spider-Man, but I think that I have a better understanding of the allure of the Ultimate Universe as a result of this series (just in time for it to be destroyed).

Latour continues to use Peter's origin story as inspiration for Gwen's own story, as we hit a number of familiar steps in this issue.  But, he's also taking advantage of the opportunity to depart from "canon" where it works for the story.  The most obvious examples of that are putting the story in a modern time frame and getting to re-imagine certain characters.  (I feel like we're getting to know Uncle Ben for the first time, since Latour isn't treating him like a saint that has to teach Peter a lesson in every appearance.)  Regarding the latter, it means that he also gets a chance to make Gwen's relationship with these characters different from Peter's relationship with them.  Here, he corrects one of the most problematic parts of Spidey's original history:  Aunt May's dislike of Spider-Man.

At the end of last issue, it felt like Latour was going to beat the well trod path of having Aunt May hate Spider-Woman.  After all, she had even more reason to hate her than the original Aunt May did Spider-Man:  whereas "our" May didn't know that Peter (and, by extension, Spider-Man) was indirectly responsible for Uncle Ben's death, Gwen's May certainly knows that Spider-Woman was involved in Peter's.  But, Latour doesn't make May as simple as that.  In an amazing seven-page (!) conversation, May makes it clear that she blamed Spider-Woman for Peter's death immediately after it happened because she needed to blame someone and JJJ, Jr. was sticking a microphone in her face.  Latour uses the scrapbook of clippings of Spider-Woman that she and Peter kept as a vehicle for May to have continued to pay attention to Spider-Woman.  This attention allows her to realize that Spider-Woman was actually helping people.  It's a beautifully crafted scene, particularly because Latour also works in May commenting on Peter not being "well" for a long time.  May makes it clear that Peter wasn't just imitating Gwen because he was tired of ridicule and wanted to escape into a fantasy; he had actually crossed the line into mental-health issues that compelled him to do what he did.  (Latour really makes it seem like Peter would've been the villain of the story if he had survived, and it's a shame that the story itself precludes the possibility of us getting to see that.)  Moreover, May encourages Gwen not to hide in her grief, sending her (thankfully) into the arms of the Mary Janes.  It all sounds too easy and convenient, but Latour really makes it feel like the logical outcome of the conversation that they have here.  Moreover, in terms of Spider-Man's mythos, it corrects, in a way, May's portrayal as a hysterical widow, turning her into a grieving woman with complicated emotions (or, in other words, a human).

If it's not clear from this review, I continue to think Latour is just doing an amazing job here.  Moreover, Rodriguez continues to kill it.  The splash page with the images from Aunt May's scrapbook imposed on Gwen's face?  Amazeballs.  Every issue, my anticipation for the next one grows.

**** (four of five stars)

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