Spider-Gwen vol. 1 and 2 were weird. Let's face it, they were. My best friend Eileen told me when she first saw Into the Spider-Verse that she squealed with excitement when Gwen came onto the scene. She said that even though she'd never read a Spider-Gwen comic, she had been aware of her character and aesthetic for years. Upon hearing this, I desperately wanted to suggest some comics to her, but they're all... just strange.
Let's start with the big-bad, Matt Murdock. Why? I get that he's Earth-67's version of Kingpin, it's all flip-flopped, but... why? It was just such a strange choice for her main villain. She was constantly fighting with his army of Hand ninjas, then she was working for him for a bit... It was strange. Not to mention her ongoing feud with Frank Castle. Again, why?
Then we veered off into super crazy stories, like entire issues centered around two Watchers arguing with each other, and then Gwen going to Madripoor to fight MORE ninjas and Wolverine! It was just so oddball, and strange, and sometimes it didn't really feel like the writer, Jason Latour, even wanted to write a Gwen Stacy story.
It wasn't all bad. Turning Gwen into the quintessential dimension-hopping Spider led to fun adventures like Sitting in a Tree and the time she hung out with 616 Gwen Stacy, creating the splinter 617 universe. I loved that story. There was also Spider-Women, with Silk and Jessica Drew, where an evil Cindy Moon terrorized Gwen and took her powers! Gripping storytelling!
The personal, more Gwen-centric issues were the ones I favored. I liked watching her try to save Harry from himself, or struggle to tell Uncle Ben she's the reason Peter died, or try to keep her dad safe, or come to terms with the Gwenom Symbiote. I have to say though, the Mary Janes were CRIMINALLY underutilized. She was always blowing them off, for something or another. And granted, that's a classic Spider-Hero staple, but it was just so easy sometimes to forget she's a drummer in a band. Seriously, the issue with Mysterio and the haunted house was, I honestly think, my favorite of those original volumes.
And then the whole thing ended with her publicly outing herself and going to jail. Like... What!? I just think that, for my friend Eileen, who can get pretty nerdy but not that nerdy, the original Spider-Gwen comics weren't very accessible. She'd disconnect when it came to all the Hand and Matt Murdock and freaking Frank Castle stuff. And that was a lot of the stuff.
This leads us to Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider. Seanan McGuire's so-far 9-issue run has quickly become one of my favorite comic books, and a great, accessible, Spider-Gwen story. Actually, let me back up. From issue 5 and up, because the first 4 were forced to tie into Spider-Geddon, which I do not blame her for. And even those had a cool story arc! (Also, what's with #1's launching inside of big events now? I don't think that's a great idea, but that's a topic for another time, as is Spider-Geddon.) But once McGuire was free of the tie-in shackles, she picked up where Latour left off and ran with it!
These stories are personal. Gwen's trying to date Harry, and form a better connection with her band. They're action packed. Her fight with the Man-Wolf in issue #9 was nothing short of epic. They're heroic! Gwen's become something of a 'Hero for Hire', but when she leapt into that massive fire in issue #7 to save as many people as she could, honestly one of the best sequences I've read this year. The Gwenom Symbiote is slowly unraveling, creating challenges for our hero to overcome in and out of battle! She's getting a better, more relatable relationship with her dad. But most importantly, McGuire is setting up a big-bad who should have been in the Spider-Gwen comics from the start:
MILES WARREN! You all remember him? Everyone's favorite pedophile with an obsessive hangup on Gwen Stacy! He's also known as the freaking Jackal! Okay, hear me out. Go back to vol. 1 and 2, and replace Matt Murdock and the Hand with Miles Warren and a clone army. Replace Frank Castle with an Earth-67 version of Ben Reilly or Kaine. I mean, right? A clone with Peter's face haunting Gwen for her original sin? The Jackal writes himself as a Spider-Gwen antagonist!
Listen, I have nothing against the original Spider-Gwen comics. Without them we wouldn't even have Spider-Gwen as a character. But we forget that she was meant as a one-off for Edge of Spider-Verse #2, kind of like Peni Parker, help out in the Spider-Verse storyline and never be seen or heard from again until the likes of Spider-Geddon. And maybe stretching a one-off character story into an entire comic series because she took off in popularity may not have been the best idea in hindsight. Of course Spider-Gwen merch was flying off the shelves (like Eileen said, the aesthetic is so unique), but the comics weren't really representative, I believe, of what a Gwen Stacy with Spider powers story should be. The Ghost-Spider comics, however, are knocking it out of the park. Which begs the question, why are starting at #1 AGAIN in August!?!? Anyways, Face Front True Believers, enjoy the Mary Janes hit single Face it Tiger below, and I'll see you in the Multiverse.