It’s impossible for me to approach this last review of Spider-Gwen’s short-lived solo title with complete objectivity. On the one hand, it’s been an inventive, memorable take on a universe very much like, yet very different from our typical Spider-world. On the other, it’s another thundering example of Marvel’s inability to stick with anything consistently, no matter how good it may be.
This issue features Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez’s unique take on Felicia Hardy, and actually focuses on her far more prominently than Gwen. It’s a bold move, and pays off nicely as we see this Felicia’s alternate origin, as well as her grudge against Matt Murdock, the right-hand man of the Kingpin in this reality. While their fight over the Kingpin’s first dollar reaches ridiculous levels of bloodshed for so purely sentimental a trinket, it gives us a chance to see Murdock and Gwen square off philosophically, ending with the typical “see ya later” sequence as the authorities signal their impending arrival.
It was fun to see Felicia portrayed as a Lady Gaga-style pop star, and it was also amusing to see that she had a none-too-friendly history with MJ and her band as each vied for musical success. While I didn’t get much of interest from the band dramas, it was intriguing to see Felicia blending this lifestyle with her other career as a thief following in her father’s footsteps. It’s a tale we’ve heard before about her, but it’s told in a different enough way that it still reads as fresh and captivating.
Towards the end of the issue, Captain Stacy gets a visit from Jean DeWolff, who affirms her faith in him even as she very purposely avoids suggesting he is somehow linked to Spider-Woman. It’s suggested that these two may or may not have been intimate at some point in the past when she kisses him on the cheek, but her simple suggestion that he watch his back as she walks off also indicates that it’s no longer a prime factor between them. We’re left wondering how things will play out on this end, as Captain Frank Castle’s people continue their investigation.
And that’s it. We’re literally left wondering this. The final page of this issue states that this is the final issue of Spider-Gwen, and that her exploits can still be seen in the pages of Spider-Verse — now on sale, of course. But this story, this version of the character, under Latour’s pen and Rodriguez’s line, is no more. This is in spite of a “To Be Continued” at the end of the narrative, and more importantly, in the minds of readers.
If I seem a little bitter about this, hopefully it’s understandable. I, like many others, have been enjoying this title immensely, and just can’t see a good reason to not at least finish this reality’s story before claiming that Secret Wars killed it. It’s not the first time Marvel has made a decidedly boneheaded maneuver, but I’m sorry to say that it never gets any easier to handle when they do it. Editorial mandate this, event fatigue that… hopefully we’ll get some resolution to this story, but I won’t hold my breath at this point.
The artwork in this installment is, as always, a wonder to behold. Robbi Rodriguez just owns the look of this book, from Felicia’s pop diva facade to the hyper-kinetic action. Sometimes the action teeters on the edge of being too busy, and then pulls back into controlled chaos, keeping things tense but always fun to look at. Set against Rico Renzi’s wild and dramatic colors, this issue in particular is a feast for the eyes, very much in the way that this series has been a feast in terms of the writing and the subtle yet distinct changes in the characters and the universe itself.
It’s therefore with a more than slightly heavy heart that I bid a bittersweet adieu to Spider-Gwen, wishing against reason that Marvel would at least tell the rest of this arc before inevitably axing it. It’s been a fun ride, and Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez along with Rico Renzi are to be commended for giving us this wonderful gem of a glimpse into this alternate Spider-world, however brief and cut-off it was. If this final issue weren’t happening before the proper conclusion of the story, I’d have fewer problems with discovering the fact. Still, even if we never see the end of this story, I’m glad it exists, and existed, alongside the Marvel Universe prior to Secret Wars. Spider-fans of all stripes should enjoy this title.
Showing off another fun take on another supporting character from the Spider-world, Spider-Gwen #5 delivers kinetic and imaginative fun bathed in beautifully rendered artwork. It's being cut off at the knees, but at least it's going out on a high note.