Spider-Gwen: The Ghost Spider #1 Review: Gwen's Bizarre Adventure In The 616

Gwen Stacy is leaping realities with her latest series, but is her new comic swinging high?

Spider-Gwen, a.k.a. the Gwen Stacy of Earth-65, has become a powerhouse in the Marvel universe. Garnering quite a few comic book series in her past, the wall-crawler also hit it big thanks to her role in both Spider-Man: Enter The Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. Now Gwen is staring down the barrel of a brand new comic that flips the script on her status quo, dropping her onto Earth-616 and adding a major mystery to her arrival.

For reasons that are yet to be revealed, Spider-Gwen now finds herself stuck in the 616 universe, a plane that she has encountered more times than I care to count. In a disastrous attempt to create a bank account, Gwen finds herself throwing on the costume once again to stop a gang of bank robbers. Luckily, Stacy isn't entirely alone on this Earth, as she is joined by Ouroboros of the "TVA," a.k.a. the Time Variance Authority, once again for reasons unknown. Of course, thanks to a run-in with one of Spidey's most dangerous villains, Kraven The Hunter, Gwen costumes up and gets more than she bargained for. 

When it comes to this new take on Gwen Stacy, I always felt that one of the most appealing factors to the alternate reality web-slinger was how she differed from the original version of the character, who came sans-spider powers. Instead of being one of Peter Parker's most notable love interests, the Gwen of Earth-65 created her own identity as a high-schooler attempting to make it big with her band while juggling school and superheroics. The new status quo is quite the departure from what we've seen from Gwen in the past and so far, it seems to both hit and miss in its execution.

To start, Earth-65 worked well to create alternate versions of established characters, helping to regularly add something unexpected into Gwen's web-swinging journey. Matt Murdock was the kingpin of New York City, Frank Castle was a police officer who took his job a little too seriously, and Peter Parker died taking on the role of Curt Connors in this universe. Ghost Spider is removed from those interesting components that helped create a budding universe for herself. There are also some moments that left me scratching my head as I would have to imagine that Gwen would know that walking into a bank with no identification and looking to open an account wouldn't fly on any Earth. 

(Photo: Marvel Comics)

On the flip side, there are some solid aspects in Gwen's traversal through the 616 in that her struggles are elevated by being almost completely alone and far from home. Spider-Gwen experiencing a city, for example, that is different but wildly similar to her own makes for an interesting set piece and some compelling introspection for Gwen herself. Writer Stephanie Phillips counteracts Gwen's light-heartedness with the ever-looming shadow of the original Gwen Stacy and the events surrounding her death. Since the original Gwen is often thought of as a casualty so massive that it changed superhero comics forever, and it makes for a compelling dynamic at times. 

The mystery of why Gwen is, apparently, on the run in the 616 is a strong one, as it offers some juicy tidbits and gives Gwen the chance to bounce off her new "handler," the TVA's Ouroboros of Loki's second season. The pair have a strong dynamic and "O.B." works as a good mentor to Gwen as she tries to figure out her place in the 616 now that she appears to be a permanent refugee. O.B. also lays out some ground rules for Gwen's stay, adding rules for Stacy to inevitably break. 

I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to talk about artist Federica Mancin's work here, as the penciler brings both a youthful, energetic style to the proceedings, which works perfectly for a character like Ghost Spider. There's a fluidity and originality in the action scenes specifically which captures the quick flow of her battles and the agility that is inherent in all "spider heroes." Being a comic book artist is no simple task and Mancin seems to take this responsibility to heart as she lays out some fantastic action beats in Gwen's new series. 

Spider-Gwen: The Ghost Spider #1 takes a lot of risks in presenting a new world for Gwen to "conquer." The new Marvel Comics series can sometimes feel like it "throws out the baby with the bathwater" but there is still enough here for both Gwen and Spidey fans alike to enjoy. Gwen Stacy's new series has a shaky dismount but just barely sticks the landing.

Published by Marvel Comics

On May 22, 2024

Written By Stephanie Phillips

Art By Federica Mancin

Colors By Matt Milla

Letters By Ariana Maher

Cover By Mark Brooks