By Jason Latour, Chris Brunner, Rico Renzi, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire, Chris Visions, Jim Campbell, Olivia Margraf, John Rauch, Veronica Fish, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Veronica Gandini, James Harren, Annapaola Maretllo, Vero Gandiniand, and Clayton Cowles.
The very popular Spider-Gwen is getting her very first Annual with Jason Latour at the helm crafting each story in this oversized issue. Spider-Gwen Annual #1 delivers everything that a reader could desire from an Annual issue with special guest appearances from some Marvel fan-favorites, some crazy stories that help to build backstory for our main hero, and plenty of laugh out loud moments. With five separate stories this issue feels complete with great disparate stories that each bring something unique to the table. This issue is a must read for any Spider-Gwen fanatics out there, but it is also a good introduction to anyone who may be interested to see what all the Spider-hype is about.
The issue begins with a story from Gwen’s early days in the spider hoodie, with great art from Chris Brunner and colors from Rico Renzi. The book starts out with a story that may seem familiar with a newly Spiderized Gwen looking for some quick money. So, she decides to enter a wrestling competition against the Savage She-Hulk. Things go sideways when a familiar scenario unfolds that may seem familiar for anyone who has ever seen a Spider-Man movie or read a single Spider-Man comic. This defining moment teaches our Spider-hero a different lesson than what we may have expected, but it is satisfying to see a world where loss does not have to define a hero’s character. This is a fantastic way to start Spider-Gwen Annual #1, a familiar tale with a new twist that also highlights what makes Gwen so great, but distinct from other Spider-heroes, she has a natural sense of responsibility.
The first story has fantastic, energetic art from Brunner that really captures the reader with a double splash page that shows Gwen’s fantasy about winning the money and also She-Hulk’s friendship. The gritty feel of Brunner’s lines against the bright colors Renzi brings to the table creates a dynamic that captures the readers and stands out from the other tales.
Enter Koala Kommander, a deadly enemy of Spider-Gwen and this Annual issue finally shows readers the origin of him and his bears of death. Honestly, who doesn’t love a bad guy with a good alliteration in the name? Well, this only gets a single page in this issue, but it does not downplay the great art we get from Emi Lenox and Jordie Bellaire. It is a light-hearted tale that serves as a great upbeat moment between two heavier stories.
The next story is a Spider-Gwen team up with Captain America. This story is the real stand out from this issue, with great watercolor art from Chris Visions and Jim Campbell. This issue features a villain who looks a lot like Prince; yeah the now deceased but once artist Prince. It is everything to see Visions design this bad guy who wears all purple, but also plays a keyboard. This particular story gets kind of deep, entering into territory that explores if all the realities are interconnected within Marvel or if a person’s fate is already predetermined within a comic book from the mind of a writer. The Steve Rogers of Gwen’s universe a successful comic book writer, and she finds that he is writing the real life adventures of her friend Captain America, Samantha Wilson from Earth-65. This story has a lot of touching moments amidst the ridiculous villains we get to see Captain America, Samantha Wilson, take down. If you look close enough you see another celebrity cameo in this story, one that certainly is everywhere these days. Another new villain gets introduced that Visions brilliantly and subtlety styles to appear like a familiar face as the bad guy, M.O.D.A.A.K. (Mental Organism Designed As America’s King).
The fourth story from Latour in Spider-Gwen Annual #1 revolved around The Watcher and we only get a brief glimpse of our girl Gwen. We see The Watcher deciding to watch The Mary Janes, Gwen’s band, and he is severely disappointed. The Watcher expected crazy times from a group of girls in a band in a big city, but he got them binge watching and passively looking for gigs. This is another lighthearted story that shows the softer side of The Watcher, he curses under his breath as he watches the band mates watch reality TV and while Spider-Gwen takes on Koala Kommander. The art from Olivia Margraf, and colors from John Rauch have a Disney princess quality to them. The Watcher resembles a Dragon Ball Z character and each band mate has flowing hair and big eyes.
The last story in this annual issue shows a typical week for current day Spider-Gwen as she teams up with other Spider-themed heroes from her universe to take on the likes of Stilt Man. We get art from Veronica Fish, Latour himself, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Veronica Gandini, James Harren, Annapaola Maretllo, Vero Gandini, and colors from Jordie Bellaire. Essentially each page features a different art team in this closing story. This is classic Spider-Gwen art, her iconic white, black, and pink outfit standing out against the warm and cool colors of the background. There is some great character posing with lots of action shots of Spider-Gwen and her spider compatriots in very spider-friendly shots. We get lots of crouching, upside down people, and kicking in mid-air amidst some webbing. This is what happens in a reader’s brain when they think of a Spider-Gwen story. This story is great not only for the great special guest appearances we get, but it also shows the influence Gwen is having in her city. It is a great way for LaTour to end the issue, bringing home the heart of what makes this character click with fans.
She is arguably a better modern-day adaptation of Spider-Man than the current Peter Parker. He is now rich and successful, the complete opposite of what we think of when we think classic Spider-Man. He was a teenager struggling to balance work, a love life, and a life webbing up bad guys. This void has arguable been filled by Gwen Stacy in our comic lives with her taking up the spider mantle as the young super hero struggling to balance everything. Spider-Gwen’s popularity is due to her reliability to all readers, not only as Gwen Stacy the struggling musician, but also Spider-Gwen a super hero trying to take on larger than life problems.
This issue is a better than expected surprise that will surely bring some new perspective on Spider-Gwen. The varied art in this issue is a nice balance to provide a little something for everyone who picks up this issue, with a wide variety of styles on display in each story. Latour really took a lot on his plate by writing the entire issue, but it absolutely paid off. The stories are as varied as the art, but there is a reason for each story and the order they are presented in provides a great overarching understanding to this character. When Spider-Gwen was first introduced in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 in 2014, many thought it would be a flash in the pan that she would not really take off in a self-titled book. Thanks in large part to the love and dedication of writer Jason Latour; we have seen Spider-Gwen become a mainstay in the Marvel Universe. She has a wide-reaching audience and plenty of stories to share.