Saturday, January 23, 2016

Spider-Gwen #2 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I don't know how Latour and Rodriguez keep doing it, but every issue of this series just keeps getting better and better.

I think the answer is that they work off each other in ways that few authors and artists do.  You occasionally get two people at the top of their individual games working together to deliver amazing issues, like Geoff Johns and Jim Lee did on the early "Justice League" issues.  But, their work didn't necessarily play off each other.  Latour and Rodriguez are more like Snyder and Jock on "Detective Comics," where their efforts combine to create a unique feel.  Whereas Snyder and Jock transformed Gotham City into a living character (and a central one, at that), Latour and Rodriguez have infused this series with a unmistakably defined pop sensibility.  (It reminds me of the graphic design of Gillen and McKelvie's "Young Avengers.")  They show the consistency of this vision in this issue, drawing inspiration from the first "Spider-Gwen" #1.  This time, they use this Sunday comic-strip panel that they used for Gwen's origin in that issue to give us the origin of this Universe's Captain America.  It keeps on combining the narrative and the visual in a consistent way, making you feel like you're part of something awesome.

But, they just don't rest on their laurels.  Gwen comments that Cap is her dad's favorite hero, and it reminds us that we may be seeing her for the first time, but she's a known figure in Gwen's Universe.  It's what makes their interaction so special here, as Gwen grapples with encountering someone so outside her league.  But, it also makes what Gwen does here so brave.  We learn that some nefarious organization called S.I.L.K. created the Lizards, with Dr. Connors' help, that attacked her at the end of last issue.  Cap is sure that Connors created them, but Gwen tells her the real story -- the one that she's kept secret:  Peter did.  When Cap wants to retreat, Gwen continues fighting, telling Cap that she can't let these Lizards be Peter's legacy.  Cap is suitably inspired, and, together, they take down Dr. Connors and his Lizards.  Cap even lets Gwen escape and explains to DeWolff that Connors is the copy-cat and that Peter was the real Lizard.

Latour makes sure that the implication of this revelation -- depending on where DeWolff goes with it -- isn't lost on us.  Outside the sewers, this issue shows Captain Stacy trying to convince Ben Parker that he doesn't really want to know who killed Peter.  I'll be honest, I can't remember if Gwen has actually told her dad that Peter was the Lizard.  But, even if she didn't, it's pretty clear that he's smart enough to put together the facts on his own.  Shifting from that ominous conversation, the issue ends on a happy note, with Gwen giving the Bodega Bandit a new Bandito in the form of the helpful rat from last issue.

Honestly, this issue is nothing but heart.  Sure, it's filled with the requisite Spider-Humor:  Gwen trying to get Cap to crack a smile over her terrible puns is legitimately LOL funny.  But, it's Gwen inspiring Cap, Cap helping Gwen, George talking to Ben, the Bandit getting a new Bandito:  these interactions remind us why this series is so special.  It accomplishes that rare feat in comics, where you forget that you're reading about fictional characters and feel like you're watching a reality TV show.  I can't think of a higher compliment than that.

***** (five of five stars)

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