20th Feb2020

‘Gwen Stacy #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Christos Gage | Art by Todd Nauck | Published by Marvel Comics

gwen-stacy-1-cover

I was always a Gwen Stacy guy. Sure, Mary Jane had all the great one liners and looked spectacular, but Gwen had the class and grace. Gwen also features heavily in one of the most notorious events in Spider-Man’s history (spoiler alert, she dies), and for the longest time that is what she was remembered for. Which is a shame, because she was always a vibrant supporting cast member, and should be remembered as such. Later came all the clones and alternate universe Gwen’s, but Gage and Nauck don’t want you to focus on those, they want to take us back to the beginning. The real beginning. Not when Gwen’s story intersected with Pete’s, making her a character in his story, but when Peter Parker first became a part of her life, and a supporting character for her.

We start with a nice splash page with Gwen running for school President, aided and abetted by Harry Osborn. Unfortunately not doing too well. Gage has given Gwen a very gentle retcon, making her a little more ‘girl power’ than she ever was before, a little more feisty. The jocks still perceive her as a spoiled little princess though, I guess the female version of Peter Parker, high school nerd. Gwen is also the daughter of a Police Captain, which is why several pairs of beady eyes are on her as she leaves school. Someone thinks by hurting Gwen they can send a message to her Dad and everyone else. Charming.

Rather like Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s beautifully done Spider-Man: Blue, this is clearly Gage’s love letter to a place and time in Spider-Man he clearly loves, with some gentle retconning. When Gwen visits the station to see her Dad Lieutenants DeWolff and Watanabe are there, and mention is made of Foswell (cough, Mr. Big, cough) and The Daily Bugle. Most touching, though, is the relationship between Captain Stacy and Gwen, captured perfectly in both the writing and visuals. Gwen is also something of an asset to her father, helping him with his plan to take down the Lucky Lobo gang. Gwen’s not as predictable as you think either, as her choice of romantic partner shows. No, not Flash Thompson or Peter Parker, though one has a mention and one a cameo. As I said, love letter stuff.

As we know from what eventually happens to Captain Stacy (spoiler alert, he dies), his job is a dangerous one and this attempted take down of the gang goes badly, leaving him badly shot up and in hospital. Gwen visits him, watching on the local news a story about the murder of Ben Parker. Little does she know….In the here and now though, things aren’t looking very good for Captain Stacy. His attempted sting has backfired, with him being set up as possibly killing someone to hide the fact he was a dirty cop. All rubbish of course, but convincingly done. Stacy though has a weak spot, Gwen, and is told things may not go well for her if he doesn’t walk away. The Enforcers, Montana, Ox and Fancy Dan, are in their small time crime element. Lovely cameos as they are, they can’t beat the last page. The second most famous laugh in comics (The Joker obviously takes top prize there).

I loved pretty much every page of this. Although the retconning was there, it never contradicted anything that came before, and actually sympathetically enhanced original times and places nicely. The little visual and audio easter eggs throughout were fun to notice too. This is a lovingly made book, as the last page text piece confirms, from the Editor Nick Lowe downwards, and is a joy to read. My one slight nitpick is perhaps the art could have been styled a little more retro, but it’s a small point and the art is so nice anyway, forget I mentioned it.

You may not think you like love stories, but you’ll like this one. This is love and affection for a time and a place, places and characters, that we have grown up with. Gage has shown us that, sometimes, you can go home again.

****½  4.5/5

Gwen Stacy #1 is out now from Marvel Comics.

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