GwenHero

A farewell to Radioactive Spider-Gwen

Contributed by
Jul 10, 2018

At the end of this month the stewards of Spider-Gwen, Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez, are ending their involvement in the series. No word of replacements, or of what Spider-Gwen's future holds in book form, has been released. Marvel seems to still be invested in the character, with her new moniker of Ghost Spider in Marvel Rising, as well as her appearance in the trailer for the animated theatrical Spider-Verse film, but, at the time of writing, fans have no idea what’s about to happen to Spider-Gwen in the comic book world. Given the uncertain nature of any comic these days, there's every reason to believe that Gwen’s book is coming to an end. 

But even if it isn’t, even if Marvel has a secret announcement up its sleeve or a big bold relaunch of the character, perhaps by introducing Gwen Stacy back into the Earth 616 timeline in order to team her up with the more familiar slate of heroes, her story as we know it is about to conclude. While I’ve certainly had my occasional bits of hair-pulling frustration with the book, it’s still a series that I’m going to be very sad to see go. 

I remember standing in a comic book shop in Ventura, California, a couple of years back, waiting to perform a stand-up comedy show in the back room and quietly browsing the racks once I’d perused all of the Doctor Who figures and Funko Pops. As I came to an issue of Radioactive Spider-Gwen, I turned to my friend Jeff, my go-to expert on all things comics, with a raised eyebrow and puzzled look on my face. I nodded toward the book and muttered a simple “Explain.”

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My place as a consumer of comic books was very different then than it is now. I had loved them as a kid, even going so far as to subscribe to books I followed, most notably the Amazing Spider-Man. Yet, as I’d gotten older, I’d fallen off following comics. Crossover events, universe reboots, bad experiences at a few comic shops, and of course the easier draw of cartoons and movies just made comics a thing of my past. And yet, as I stood in that shop and Jeff started to tell me about this book set in a universe where Gwen Stacy had in fact not been killed by the Green Goblin but had instead been bitten by the spider herself, it was something I immediately knew I needed in my life. 

I fell in love with Spider-Gwen pretty quickly. It was a very easy book to get into. It had its own parallel universe, so there wasn’t a need to dig into some big backstory (although I did end up plowing through Spider-Verse and the other tie-in works that featured Gwen). It used Gwen’s police captain father and the death of Peter Parker as a different take on the “with Great Power comes Great Responsibility” angle. There were fun interludes with Gwen’s band, the Mary Janes, and a great villain in the sadistically evil, raised-by-the-Hand version of Matt Murdock who had become the Kingpin instead of Daredevil. While the guest artwork sometimes went a little wonky, and occasionally the story would veer into a strange interlude involving quipping Watchers or forced romance plots with Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, the book would always keep me coming back for more. 

Latour and Rodriguez had a vision for Gwen Stacy. I had believed that what made the character so interesting was that Spider-Gwen was the sole survivor of Gwens, the one who grew strong while other versions of her had died in seemingly every other universe. But recent storylines have challenged that concept, taken away the element of passive survival. They’ve led us down a path where our Gwen and others are not just in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time — the scene of a spider bite, the destined bridge of doom. Through the use of universe jumping and just a twinge of time travel (sorta), they’ve managed to create a storyline that completely turns the history and future of Gwen Stacy on its head without retconning away what happened to her all those years ago. It's a story of how Gwen Stacy chose her own fate, choosing to not be a victim and to take accountability for her actions in order to be the hero her world deserved. 

If this is truly the end of her book, it’ll be a bit sad. Not long after I learned about Spider-Gwen, I also discovered a new comic shop in my neighborhood with a really cool vibe, and Gwen’s was the first book I added to my pull list, one that would grow to include books like Saga, Paper Girls, DC’s Bombshells, Kim & Kim, Vixens, and so many others. The many hours I’ve spent standing around the counter at that shop in the last several years happened because of an early bond with one of the clerks over our mutual love of the character.  Because of Spider-Gwen, I fell back in love with comics, and while that will go on even if she doesn’t, I’m still hoping I’ll get to see her around once in a while. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.