Spider-Gwen is no more—long live Ghost-Spider! Gwen Stacy’s new web-swinging alter-ego officially takes flight this week in the all-new Ghost-Spider #1. Will the jumping-on point for the character hook new readers?
Then, the Acts of Evil annuals storyline continues as Wade Wilson faces off against Nightmare in the latest Deadpool Annual! Does first-time comic writer Dana Schwartz‘s debut pass muster? And finally, secrets are revealed as Jonathan Hickman‘s X-Men saga marches on in Powers of X #3! We’ve got reviews and discussion of a trio of exciting books in this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Written by Seanan McGuire
Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Jorge Molina
Joe Grunenwald: The Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 is back with a new identity on a new earth. Sam, what did you think of Ghost-Spider‘s first outing as a partial resident of the main Marvel U?
Samantha Puc: Although this is a new title that features Gwen Stacy shedding her “Spider-Gwen” name in favor of the death-embracing “Ghost-Spider,” this #1 is a direct continuation of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider, which ended last month on #10. Therefore it’s hard to judge this as a first outing or debut issue, because it technically isn’t! That said, I love that Gwen is taking on this identity and trying to do what’s right for her, even if it’s making things awkward with her friends back in Earth-65. How do you feel?
Grunenwald: This is very much a direct continuation of the previous title, which I think might actually work against it a little bit. As first issues go, this one is…kind of boring? Writer Seanan McGuire does a lot of table-setting, which is fine for the 11th issue of a series with an established readership. As a book that’s meant to make new readers get excited about a series, though, I don’t know that this was the issue to do it. It’s not bad at all — the dialogue and characterization are entertaining, and Tak Miyazawa‘s art is superb as always — it just felt like it was missing something. Maybe I was expecting too much? Am I way off-base here?
Puc: I don’t think you’re off base! I don’t think this issue suffers at the hands of its creative team, but it does suffer at the hands of a rebranding. Gwen has been long overdue for her own Spidey codename that didn’t reveal her identity from the jump, so it makes sense to give her a new title; it even makes sense to ease into that through a transitionary title before going full Ghost. However, it does plant this issue between a rock and a hard place. Readers often approach #1s as jumping-on points, which makes total sense, but this isn’t quite that, although it does start a new arc.
Grunenwald: I know Marvel would never pass up the opportunity for a new #1 issue, but I really wish the numbering hadn’t started over. It’s honestly misleading. Also the fact that Miles is on the cover but not anywhere in the issue, which was disappointing to me as I love his and Gwen’s relationship. Gripes about the technical aspects of the issue’s presentation aside, this was a really entertaining comic. It was nice to see Gwen and the 616 Peter Parker spend some one-on-one time together, and as soon as I knew Gwen was enrolling at ESU I started to anticipate the meeting that takes place at the end of the issue. The cliffhanger has me excited for what’s coming.
Puc: Seconded re: Miles. I’m always irked when characters are on covers who don’t appear in the pages themselves, but this was especially disappointing! That said, I also found this issue really entertaining. I appreciate that Seanan McGuire isn’t ignoring how awkward it is for Gwen-65 and Peter-616 to interact, given how their respective histories played out, but that they’re also able to have banter and co-exist in a healthy way.
I am very excited about the cliffhanger — and it’s really cool to see Gwen’s two worlds colliding, so to speak, even when she’s trying so hard to keep them separate for her own sake. Was there anything else in this issue that really stood out to you?
Grunenwald: I was glad to see that the book’s not abandoning Earth-65 entirely. I’ve grown attached to Gwen’s supporting cast, her father in particular, and it was great to have a few pages devoted to what’s going on with him back at home. I also agree with you that the way things on both earths sort of came together at the end was a nice development. I hope McGuire and Miyazawa continue to have room to explore the fact that life on Earth-65 doesn’t stop just because Gwen’s away.
Puc: Me too. I think there’s plenty of story to be told in Earth-65 and it seems like McGuire and Miyazawa are interested in telling it, which is exciting. I love how these two handle Gwen and her world(s), especially since there’s so much focus on character development and growth. I think superhero comics sometimes lack that, but it’s such a fundamental thing that can be done so beautifully when the creators are given room to breathe. It seems like it’s been eons since Spider-Geddon, although for these characters, it hasn’t — and it’s nice to see longform storytelling balanced against villain-of-the-arc plots.
Grunenwald: I had…completely forgotten about Spider-Geddon? Which was a very formative experience for Gwen, so that’s on me. And I couldn’t agree more about the focus on character growth. So often corporate-owned ‘Big 2’ superhero comics can only present “the illusion of change,” and the thing that excited me so much initially about Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez‘s Spider-Gwen was getting to read a series completely divorced from the main Marvel U, where anything was possible and the characters would be allowed to change and grow. We’ve seen a lot of that for Gwen over the course of both her original series and the previous McGuire-written Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider series, and hopefully that won’t change now that she’s being integrated more into the main Marvel U.
The only other things I wanted to mention were a few little details that I enjoyed. I love the idea that Tony Stark has set up a whole scholarship program at ESU for people from other dimensions, and that everyone will know Gwen’s not from that earth. I’m excited to meet her classmates and find out where they’re from. I also liked the discussion between Gwen and Peter about her symbiote, and her relationship with it. I look forward to seeing how that plays out in future issues.
Puc: Yes! I like that Gwen’s world is separate from the Marvel U, but it is also fun to see her venture into the bigger universe and interact with its characters, without losing any of the stuff that makes her quintessentially Gwen, if that makes sense. The scholarship made me beam — what a cool nugget of info, and I love the way it was presented. Regarding Gwen’s symbiote, I love how it plays into the story and feels like a friend who sometimes Goes Through Things and has to be supported. It’s very, very good.
Do you have any other thoughts before we deliver a verdict?
Grunenwald: I think I’m ready if you are! There’s a lot to like for regular readers of Gwen’s adventures, as well as for new readers who may just be coming to the character after watching Into the Spider-Verse. McGuire’s writing is solid, and Miyazawa’s art is excellent. The only thing holding this book back a little for me is the #1 on the cover, but I think as we’ve talked about it I’ve gotten past my hesitation in that regard. If you’re already a fan of Gwen’s you’ll love this one, and if you’re not, I would definitely give her a chance. Ghost-Spider #1 gets a BUY from me.
Puc: I have gushed about this creative team all year, because they’re knocking it out of the park with every single issue. While I agree that this issue doesn’t feel like a #1, it is definitely the start of a new arc, and the backstory is readily available for anyone who wants or needs it. I’m maybe a little biased, because I just love this take on Gwen so much, but Ghost-Spider #1 gets a BUY from me as well!
Grunenwald: And go read what’s come before! It’s all great!
Puc: Yes, yes, yes! ALL THE GWEN.
Final Verdict: It’s a unanimous BUY from Joe and Samantha!
Deadpool Annual #1
Written by Dana Schwartz
Illustrated by Reilly Brown
Inked by Nelson DeCastro with Craig Yeung
Colored by Matt Herms with GURU-eFX
Letters VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover by Aaron Kuder and Michael Garland
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
The Acts of Evil crossover is mixing up Marvel heroes with villains from other properties in new one-shot stories. Deadpool Annual #1 is the latest entry of the crossover. The title features an unconventionally heartwarming tale centered around Deadpool’s quest to help a young child to conquer his nightmares. Wade Wilson battles Dr. Strange villain Nightmare himself to save Peter Quincy from his bad dreams.
Author Dana Schwartz takes the title in a truly unexpected direction towards the end of the issue. The book actually carries a surprising element of subtext and depth beneath the surface. Schwartz weaves a morbid tale floating beneath Deadpool’s superheroics that carries a few unexpected twists. If you are anything like me, Deadpool’s commonplace absurdist humor is still going to be too obvious to ignore. Schwartz plays on familiar sight gags or fourth-wall-breaking humor that just isn’t as funny as the script thinks it is. There’s a gag about a particular Nightmare-esque creator that merited a cringe. The script snuck a couple of interesting laughs about odd subjects like a vaccination that didn’t earn the absurdly long run-time of the bit. The intrigue of learning what is actually going on in Quincy’s home and the fabled letter kicking the whole thing off ALMOST brings the title towards something worthy of further attention.
Reilly Brown is an incredibly talented artist who lends a fairly predictable take on his art during the Deadpool scenes. When Brown switched up his style for the opening Nightmare title, I was delighted by the odd horror tone in the issue. When the pages blending the Nightmare scenes came in, I was in awe of how versatile a creator Brown is. I would have like to see Brown stay with the horror-laden effect whenever Deadpool was in The Dream Realm. Brown’s art is never bad in the issue; it just has a bad habit of being generic in the context of the everyday Deadpool issue. Everyone on the creative team is talented, but Deadpool may not be the best showcase for these creators.
Schwartz and Brown go there in this issue, showing some truly horrifying psychological drama that merits attention from the reader. The issue has a bad habit of loading the pages with so-so gags and cheesy dialogue, but the content of the story itself is not all fun and games. Switching the context to include Nightmare made the chapter a less conventional Deadpool story that could appeal to a wider audience. Deadpool Annual #1 isn’t a home run, but it is a surprisingly effective meditation on Wade Wilson’s character.
Final Verdict: BROWSE. Deadpool Annual #1 carries a fascinating message beneath the cringe-laden, surface-level Deadpool humor.
Powers of X #3
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by R.B. Silva
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design Work by Tom Muller
Cover by R.B. Silva & Marte Gracia
Alexander Jones: Chloe, I said last week that I wanted an entire issue of Powers of X to focus only on one timeline and this week I got my wish! What were your first impressions of Powers of X #3 that focused singularly on the X2: Year One Hundred?
Chloe Maveal: I was actually thinking about you saying that while I was reading this issue! For someone who has been delightfully confused by Powers of X thus far, this week’s issue #3 provided a really clean timeline that was easy—and compelling—to follow. The focus on year 100 seemed to really give some much-needed emphasis on Nimrod’s role and answered a lot of questions about what this alternate timeline of the X-Men actually represents in Hickman’s new history. Do you feel like it delivered content for the story that you wouldn’t have gotten if it had the shared timeline feel that it usually does?
Jones: While I enjoyed discovering more about this timeline I couldn’t help but think about just how important all the aspects are left unresolved in the current timeline. I had a lot of trouble investing in some of these characters and forgetting about the timelines of the present day. I was really happy with how the last couple pages brought important developments from House of X #2 back to the forefront. This issue is also an impressive centerpiece for Nimrod who has been amusing in prior issues but posed an impressive physical threat in this chapter of the title.
Maveal: That was the big difference for me as well. While we knew that Nimrod was a threat from previous issues, this seemed to drive the nail in on just how massive that really is in the scale of several timelines. I mean, last issue we saw Magneto, Xavier, and Cyclops discussing when Nimrod would come online…and that was ninety years previous to what we saw in this issue. But now with what’s going on with Moira, the question feels bigger as to whether these aren’t sequential years at all but entirely different time threads altogether.
Jones: The more I reflect on the issue and consider how it informs both mini-series and reinforces what came before, the more positive it makes me on the issue. The threat of Nimrod received a major sense of definition in the issue. I do think this story will ultimately be the most notable for serving as an interesting continuity retcon for the stories up to this point but who is to say that a massive continuity retcon is a bad thing? As a huge fan of previous Hickman works, I was also really happy and intrigued at the concepts of incursions coming back into the story. Ultimately the title is a prequel to the big status quo coming in Hickman’s Dawn of X titles, but I’m fascinated in how both titles really do feel like prequels of what is yet to come in both books.
Maveal: I wasn’t a massive fan of Hickman’s Avengers; the incursion passed me by. But what I really enjoyed was this also felt like a callback to a time period that I AM familiar with in X-Men which is the Claremont/Byrne run of the 1980s and the “Days of Future Past” storyline. In this case, it felt like Moira, through death and “rebirth”, is traveling through time from a sentinel-controlled future to prevent it from happening. If that ain’t a tip of the hat to Kitty Pryde then I’m at a loss. Ultimately I just think it’s really cool that there ARE what seem to be little callbacks among this massive retcon.
Jones: I think it is definitely worth singing the praise of this franchise from a scripting perspective. I’m going to look back on this particular issue fondly. I also want to take a little more time to highlight R.B. Silva in this discussion. Silva’s pencils are truly beautiful in the issue. Silva finally gets an opportunity to show off some action in pitting Apocalypse against Nimrod. Marte Gracia’s incredibly polished color palette is very expressive and cohesive across both mini-series. Both Silva and Gracia add a lot of fascinating effects to the issue. The silhouettes on the last page led the issue towards a strong emotional climax. I loved the pages with motion blur and huge explosions. I think this issue is the best we have seen from Silva on an X-Men comic to date.
Maveal: I don’t want to give away too much obviously, but the use of color on the last panel between Moira and Wolverine is…genuinely spectacular. I let out a little gasp and everything. There’s no doubt that the linework and colors both have been consistently stunning and do a bang-up job of fitting the mood that the script is trying to put out there. I’d totally second you on this being one of Silva’s best, bar none.
Jones: I was really happy to see Silva get the chance to do so much with the page this time around. I felt he was given the opportunity to explore political tension and actually deliver some payoff with an action scene all in the course of one issue. This chapter had some pretty high stakes and the end of the issue needed strong line-work to deliver a truly powerful emotional climax. It is commendable that when the title first started we truly had no idea what was going on and Hickman, Silva, and Gracia continually add more context to the title to the point where we have a solid idea on the plot now for both titles.
Maveal: I have a working crazy-wall theory about this. It feels to me like Hickman is hoping to keep readers unsteady in one way or another. House of X has been a whirlwind of backdrop info that sticks to the “world outside your door” in a greatly warped way. But Powers of X has been the catalyst; keeping us on our feet and curious about a) what the hell is happening and b) how does this tie in. Basically, while one book is steady, the other knocks that steadiness out of balance immediately afterward. I think this is entirely purposeful so that nothing ever seems predictable. But with this issue following a more traditional format of a singular timeline, I’m completely knocked for a loop and excited to see what is going to rock the boat next. Is it going to be Powers of X #4? Or should we expect to see new developments to break the steadiness of House of X #3 next week? I may as well have a wall in my house with a red string leading from page to page.
Jones: I think there’s quite a bit of merit to what you are saying. I keep comparing this series to Hickman’s Avengers run but I believe it is for good reason. I don’t think Hickman wants readers to understand what is going on completely because that would ruin some of the mystery. I am really excited to return to House of X #3 next week as that title deals with the direct status quo of mutants. Is there anything else you want to add about Powers of X #3 before delivering a final verdict on the story?
Maveal: Nimrod looks like a big pink robot shark/stringray-with legs hybrid and I’m here for it? Yes, that’s the big statement I’m choosing it end on. Which is to say, this is a very loud cry of BUY from me. It’s all coming together and all of the confusion is very worth it.
Jones: I think for me this particular chapter is still a BORROW but I think we are so close to the big plot elements Hickman and Silva are teasing. If you are a fan of these books make sure to not miss this issue!
Final Verdict: Powers of X #3 disrupts the Rundown! Chloe says BUY, Alexander says BORROW!
Next week: Marvel Comics #1000!