it’s funny because people want to draw comparisons between Mara Jade and Mary Jane because they both have red hair and similar names and are loved by the hero, but the most fascinating thing they have in common is the fact that neither of them were created just to be the “love interest”
like when you read the classic Spider-Man comics and read interviews with both characters’ respective writers you learn that they were both created organically and weren’t meant to be with the hero until it was soon inevitable
Mara and Mary Jane both grew as characters and became richly drawn because there was less pressure on them
eventually both characters were well-developed enough that they were soon the ONLY available choice for the hero
aaaaand both got screwed by management, but let’s not dwell
I mean, it’s kind of neat to see a whole comic book basically willed into existence by the readers, right?
An alternate version of Gwen Stacy who got spider-powers in place of Pete Parker (who gets fridged in a pleasant three-panel ode to the misogynistic excesses of nerd culture) is a pretty intriguing idea, and Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi’s original Edge of Spider-Verse did a really good job of setting the initial stage.
And so with Spider-Gwen #1, we return to the wild world of Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman, some time after we were last here, time spent with Gwen shooting across the multiverse. In the mean time: suddenly everybody cares where costumed miscreant Spider-Woman went, Captain Stacy’s trying to get ahold of his daughter, the Mary Janes went viral but everybody thinks Gwen quit, and a new super-villain is in town.
This first issue does a decent job of jumping back into the world-building right away; we’re given the status quo for this world and it seems to be that Spider-Woman is the only super-hero (and everyone thinks she’s a criminal). In Edge of Spider-Verse, we were teased with references to Janet Van Dyne and Dazzler, but they seem to be celebrities who aren’t super-heroes. This issue, we’re shown that there probably isn’t a Fantastic Four (because Ben Grimm is human-looking and running around Brooklyn as a cop), that with Matt Murdock working for the Kingpin, Foggy Nelson seems to be deputy mayor; that Frank Castle isn’t the Punisher but is a loose cannon cop working the Spider-Woman task-force.
And really, my prime criticism is that the “cameos by people who are super or super-adjacent in the 616” is front-loaded a little too much with this issue. I say that now, but I think having Frank Castle’s status quo and knowing that this world has no Fantastic Four will probably be appreciated in an issue or two, when we’re deeper into Gwen’s life.
But otherwise: the R&R artwork is fab, bright and kinetic and kicky. Gwen is (a) funnier than Peter Parker has been in a while and (b) different than Peter Parker, feels distinct. Her comedy has a different flavour, and it’s nice to see character who has traditionally been treated as one of the Great Martyrs of Marvel get a bit of edge to her. The Mary Janes have solid, briefly drawn personalities–much like Gwen, MJ herself is suddenly untethered from having to be some sweet and perfect archetype, and Gloria Grant is great.
It’s a little imperfect, but it’s a solid beginning, and I am really excited for more.