In this week’s Marvel Rundown, we swing on over to Earth-65 to check in with Gwen Stacy, the Gwentastic Ghost-Spider, in Spider-Gwen: Smash #1. This review contains MILD SPOILERS, so head on down to the Rapid Rundown for spoiler-free takes on Daredevil: Gang War #1, Punisher #2, and X-Men Red #18!

What did you think of this week’s batch of fresh Marvel Comics, True Believers? The Beat wants to hear from you! Give us a shout-out, here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat, and let us know what you’re thinking.

Spider-Gwen: Smash #1

Spider-Gwen: Smash #1 

Writer: Melissa Flores
Penciller: Enid Balám
Inkers: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Fer Sifuentes-Sujo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: David Nakayama

Gwen Stacy (a.k.a. Ghost-Spider) hasn’t been feeling quite at home on good ol’ Earth-65, so how’s about a tour with her band to get to know her home dimension again?

This is a great premise to me for a Spider-Gwen series, as it’s felt like she’s spent a pretty significant amount of time hanging out in other universes lately, rather than her own. Melissa Flores does a great job of capturing Gwen’s mix of early 20s angst with an extreme sense of dissociation with the world she’s found herself in.

Enid Balám’s style (with inks from Elisabetta D’Amico) skews away from a more traditional house with these stretchy, bendy people, who feel as though they’re in constant motion. There’s some great action here for sure, but it’s wicked cool to see how Balám and D’Amico render the band playing their sets, whether it’s in a quiet bar or in Madison Square Garden. Colorist Fer Sifuentes-Sujo handles these distinct settings well, while keeping the book consistent from scene to scene with a nice vivid palette.

It’s cool to see new twists on established 616 characters, especially a version of Dazzler who can roller skate on her own beams of light. But we don’t really get anyone outside of Dazzler who’s all that different from their mainline self. It feels like that’ll come further in the series, but I’d love to see writers in these parallel Earths really experiment with doppelgangers.

There’s some interesting set-up at the end with a surprising choice for who the villain is, and I’m excited to see how Flores plays with this idea. They tie directly into that desire for a unique spin on alternate Earth characters, and I’m hoping to see some weird and wacky plots moving forward.

Verdict: STRONG BROWSE. I think this is fun, and I enjoy how much time we spend with the supporting cast, but I’d like to see a bit more from this world.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Daredevil: Gang War #1
    • The Gang War event spills into Hell’s Kitchen! The Heat, a new gang introduced in the current series of Daredevil, are destroying the infamous New York neighborhood. Readers might expect Matt Murdock to deal with this problem. Instead it’s Elektra, who is also currently Daredevil, that tussles with them. That’s the biggest problem with this issue. The existence of The Heat and who they are continues to be a major subplot in Daredevil currently. Here it gets revealed who the Heat are and the plot hints this series may reveal who might control them. These revelations should take place in the main Daredevil series not a tie-in to a larger event. Meanwhile Elektra fights The Heat with full knowledge of what’s going on in the main book, even though she’s not appeared much there. For tie-in to the current event, this seems more like a dumping ground for Daredevil sub plots. —DM
  • Punisher #2
    • The Punisher #2 is another strong issue for this retooled title, doubling down on great comics art and high action sequences. I think this is one of the best-looking Marvel Comics in a good while, illustrated to gritty perfection by Dave Watcher with colors by Dan Brown and letters by Cory Petit. David Pepose script serves up a lot of fun visuals, too. I think the biggest compliment I can give this book, though, is that the pacing and action are so good that while I’m reading it I entirely forget there’s real world controversy around the character’s symbology. What I especially liked about this second issue is how it also gave the hero some really nasty foes to wail. Just great stuff all around in this one. —ZQ
  • X-Men Red #18
    • Al Ewing made me a believer. Arakko and its inhabitants as a concept never appealed to me; it wasn’t what I came to an X-men book for. But Ewing is a gifted teller of tales and his lyrical dialogue and sense of sweeping history created a cast of characters who came alive. These last few issues dragged a bit with long blocks of prose, but Ewing reaches out and grabs you in this final issue, reminding readers of his ability to craft unforgettable, fist-pumping moments. Yildiray Cinar’s art is stunning, with a tremendous sense of scale and dynamic action. His depiction of Storm’s raw power, combined with Ewing’s mastery of her poise and righteous anger makes this series, here at its end, a defining moment for Orono Monroe. Combined with rich colors by Federico Blee, this final battle for Arakko leaps off the page. Letterer Arianna Maher brings it all together, melding in big prose, dialogue, and sound effects that adds to the epic scale. The series wasn’t always perfect, but it never failed to make you appreciate how much fun superhero books can be. This issue feels crammed with more than it can handle but manages a satisfying if bittersweet victory despite that. As the Krakoa era comes to an end, the greatest loss may be the end of Ewing’s time playing in the mutant sandbox. At least we have the return of Magneto to look forward to. —TR

NEXT WEEK: Star Wars: Revelations #1 and Rom and the X-Men!