In Review: Spider-Gwen Omnibus Volume One

Review by Finn Miles

The Book: Gwen Stacy is back in the webs and has an all-new, all-different mystery to solve: the reappearance of the Lizard! The Spider-Woman of Earth-65 was convinced that the Lizard died in her arms along with Peter Parker. But a new reptilian rampage leaves her with doubts not only about Peter’s life, but his death as well. Troubles begin to mount as the Osborns of Gwen’s world make their debut, and she finds herself on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most wanted list!

Perhaps some wise words from a mentor figure could help – how about Jessica Drew, the Spider-Woman of Earth-616? What lessons about power and responsibility will Jess have to share, and what use will they be when Gwen battles the Goblins?

Spider-Gwen Omnibus Volume One - cover by Robbi Rodriguez

The Review: A product of the 2010s and now a major character in the highly acclaimed duology, and soon to be trilogy, that comprises the multi million dollar “Spider-Verse” motion picture franchise, Spider-Gwen has become a mainstay of the new up-and-coming wave of Marvel characters. Her status as a veritable “Spider-Man alternate” virtually cemented alongside Spider-Verse protagonist and co-star Miles Morales, with whom she regularly shares panel space and arguably outshines.

It is perhaps fitting, then, that such an argument has only been compounded further by a simple reread of Jason Latour’s and Robbi Rodriguez’s 2015 run on the character in preparation for this review, this time in the form of Panini Comics recently-released 2023 Omnibus which, a 2014 Edge of Spider-Verse prequel comic notwithstanding, collects the first eleven issues of the series into a single trade paperback tome.

Of course, it is hard to talk about this run without first talking about the iconic artstyle that has become a staple of the character, and Rodriguez once again brings out Gwen’s punk rock persona with tight yet surreal pencils that contain a striking edge, one brought to life with the “poppy”, zany and soulful colours of Rico Renzi, which virtually jump at the opportunity to paint a mood, bursting from the page with expressionist zeal whenever they are gifted the chance to do so.

To aid in the splash of imagery sits a narrative written by Jason Latour who, despite not quite living up to the book’s artistic flair, manages to do fine work in this run, not only providing a fine narrative confine in which to contain the vivid visual splendour that unfolds therein, but also embuing Spider-Gwen with meaningful dialogue that reflects her youthful exuberance; managing to tie in the quippy dialogue emblemic of the Spider-Man family without erring on the side of being grating.

Ultimately, however, one can not escape the sense that what holds everything together here is simply the fundamental premise of Spider-Gwen, invariably also referred to by the newer “Ghost Spider” moniker or, in canon, as simply “Spider-Woman”, as a character and what she offers, compared to her contemporaries.

It could be argued that Miles Morales, despite a promising start under the direction of co-creator Brian Michael Bendis, and the relative sucess of on screen renditions, has largely played second fiddle to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, either serving as a sort of budget alternative or borderline side kick for the hero. In contrast, Spider-Gwen takes the classic and tragic character of Gwen Stacy, a love interest whose untimely demise forms monumental part of the Spider-Man mythos, and imagines her in a parallel universe where Peter and her essentially trade places.

The result? Gwen becomes the titular superhero, whereas Peter becomes the tragic loss that spurs events forward as he dies in Gwen’s arms.

As such we are presented with an alternative take on the traditional Spider-Man mythology, that introduces interesting twists on the villains and supporting cast of the franchise in both expected and more unconventional ways, with the welcome bonus of one of the most compelling new costume designs derived from a Marvel legacy character in recent memory. That this narrative undercroft is then built upon with the presence of a central mystery concerning the unanswered details of this Peter Parker’s death, as well as expanding upon the relationship Gwen has with her universe’s Captain Stacy, only sweetens the deal provided here.

The Spider-Gwen Omnibus is unlikely to go down amongst the absolute greatest superhero tales ever told, but, as it stands, it is a fun and mostly endearing ride, with a likeable cast of characters, interesting twists on Spider-Man lore; offering eye-catching, stylised art that stands out amidst many of its mainstream peers, especially when juxtaposed to some of the disappointing art that has recently graced the pages of its big brother title, The Amazing Spider-Man.

The Spider-Gwen Omnibus is thus a visual treat that, depsite some odd character casting, is backed up by a solid and enduring narrative backbone.


Finn Miles

Dear reader, a review is an opinion. Other opinions are available, including yours

Spider-Gwen Omnibus Volume One by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, Chris Visions and Rico Renzi | Published by Panini Comics | ISBN: 978-1804910467 | Collecting: Edge of Spider-Verse (2014) #2, Spider-Gwen (2015) #1-5 and Spider-Gwen (2015) Volume 2 #1-6 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Spider-Gwen - Ghost-Spider (Panini UK, May 2023)

• Also Available: Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider Modern Era Epic Collection: Edge of Spider-Verse by Robbi Rodriguez

The origin of the breakout star Gwen Stacy of Earth-65, who captured the hearts of comic fans everywhere as Spider-Gwen. On Earth-65, the radioactive spider didn’t bite Peter Parker – it bit Gwen Stacy! Now Gwen fights crime as Spider-Woman… just don’t tell her police chief father!

In the wake of SPIDER-VERSE, Gwen splits her time between school, heroism and playing in her band the Mary Janes, while dodging NYPD lieutenant Frank Castle! But what really happened the night her world’s Peter Parker died, and how does it connect to a new reptilian rampage? Gwen s troubles pile up as her world’s Osborns debut and she finds herself on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most wanted list! Can a team-up between Gwen, Silk and Jessica Drew – the Spider-Woman of the prime Marvel Universe – help Gwen learn lessons about power and responsibility?

Collecting: Edge of Spider-Verse (2014) 2, Spider-Gwen (2015A) 1-5, Spider-Gwen (2015B) 1-15, Spider-Gwen Annual (2016) 1, All-New Wolverine Annual (2016) 1 – available here from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Categories: Comics, Features, Reviews, US Comics

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