My only experience with any kind of superhero franchise before last week was a trip to see The Amazing Spider-Man at the cinema with my dad five years ago; so reading this spin off, alternate-reality version of characters from Spider-Man comics was a bit of baptism by fire. Spider-Gwen is set in a universe – Marvel’s Earth 65 to be precise – where it wasn’t Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider, but Gwen Stacy! Hence Spider-Woman is created and dives into her own adventures; facing a battle with the Vulture (an infamous Spider-Man villain, I found out after reading it – one of the many things that went over my head), hiding the truth of her identity from her police chief father, and arguing with her fellow members of girl band The Mary Janes (a reference to another well known Spider-Man character).
As a story, it is fast paced and very action packed, as one would expect from a superhero comic. However due to my lack of experience in this genre, I struggled to understand what was going on as I missed some references to previous comics (such as Spider-Verse) so found the plot hard to follow. Whilst reading comics over the last few weeks I’ve also discovered something which was especially highlighted to me during this book; as someone who’s grown up reading lots of novels, I tend to focus on the text in comics and not so much the pictures. It’s my autopilot to just read the text boxes or speech bubbles and not necessarily pay close attention to the art – however, in this comic the pictures are incredibly detailed with lots of action so I was missing vital information! I realised this midway through and so spent some time re-reading the comic and paying more attention to the art, which helped it to make sense.
Spider-Gwen has put a very modern, edgy twist on traditional Spider-Man comics; firstly, the protagonist is a strong woman, which as a girl I find really inspiring but is also positive in terms of representation – and reading this so close to International Woman’s Day was good timing! Also the art style is a bit more modern and digital, while the colour scheme used by the artist is very bold and vivid. Again, this isn’t something I’m used to after my first experiences of graphic novels being with the black and white Persepolis and The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, but it was good to have a change!
Honestly, I feel a little guilty saying that I didn’t really like Spider Gwen as I know that this is partly down to my inexperience with this genre of comics. So whether you are a hardcore superhero-traditionalist needing to get caught up on what’s cool these days, or a young hip comics fanatic looking for a superhero with a feminist twist, I recommend you give Spider-Gwen a go!