Best Shots Advance Reviews: SPIDER-VERSE #2 (Spider-Gwen!), Snyder/Jock's WYTCHES #1

Gwen the Spider-Woman in Edge of Spider-Verse #2
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Edge of Spider-Verse #2
Written by Jason Latour
Art by Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

There’s a lot of fun to be had with events like Spider-Verse. It’s expanding into total “What If?” territory by allowing creators to play to their own strengths and put a spin on the traditional web-slinging tale. This time around, Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez imagine what might happen if Gwen Stacy had been bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker, and they’ve got a decidedly punk rock take on the concept. Early preview pages had many fans clamoring for more, but the big ideas at work have to get wrapped rather quickly. There’s solid storytelling in this one, but balancing pacing versus the page count proves to be a little bit more than the creative team can handle.

Jason Latour really gets to flip the script pretty easily in this one. With Gwen gaining spider-powers, it’s easy to go on down the line to make wholesale changes to the story, and it’s interesting to see what kinds of things stay the same. Where Latour gets to have some fun is in seeing how this great power and responsibility weighs on someone that we haven’t seen carry that sort of burden in their personal life. By putting Gwen in a band, Latour sets up a sort of parallel to Peter’s photo job and gives us some different visual signifiers. If Captain Stacy is sort of Gwen’s Aunt May, it might actually be a more interesting dynamic considering Stacy’s role in bringing Spider-Woman in for murder. Gwen’s relationship with Peter remains the tragic heart that binds them them together but Latour gives it a good little twist. But Latour’s goals for the issue are rushed to a conclusion. We’re given a solid understanding on the world and, sadly, a hasty wrap-up so that we can move on to the next chapter of Spider-Verse.

Robbi Rodriguez brings a ton of style to this issue. Energy is intrinsic to Spidey titles, and Rodriguez delivers a ton of it here. His work is very angular and sharp, punctuating the panels and keeping the story flowing in much the same way that Gwen’s drumming would help keep her band together. This helps immensely in the action scenes that really play up Gwen’s powers and Rodriguez’ knack for fight choreography. Where that angular approach hurts the story is in some of his expression work. Some of the faces end up looking too pointy and inhuman.

The world around the characters is interesting, as well. Together with colorist Rico Renzi, Rodriguez gives us a much darker New York City than we’re used to seeing in Amazing Spider-Man. It’s only fitting then that Gwen’s costume is white, providing contrast as well as visually highlighting her relationship to the city. Rico Renzi has a tendency to involve a lot of neon colors that cut through the darkness and definitely give this New York an almost Blade Runner vibe. It takes away some of the effectiveness of the costume but it definitely helps make the setting seem so much more bleak.

Edge of Spider-Verse #2 is not a perfect comic, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s stretching the tapestry of Spider-Man’s legacy and broadening the definition of what it means to be a hero. To do that without ticking anyone off is a definite win for any creative team. But they are beholden to the parameters set out by the publisher and shoehorning their story into a small space doesn’t serve the story well. Rodriguez is a nice change from what we’re used to from most capes comics and hopefully, we’ll see even more of him in the future. His style matches Latour’s storytelling sensibilities very well, and maybe that bond will be strengthened if they work together more. For now, this first look at Spider-Gwen is a welcome one, and a good example of how the Spider-Verse can benefit from a little bit of playful experimentation.

Art from Wytches #1
Art from Wytches #1
Credit: Image Comics

Wytches #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts
Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Taking the macabre American folk story elements of Severed and mixing with them the haunting atmosphere of works like Locke and Key, Scott Snyder and Jock have reunited to craft Wytches. Taking place in an unnamed American city, the setting is rife with real-life horrors, as writer Charlie Rook tries to start a new life with his traumatized daughter Sailor. Yet just as unsettling are the demonic forces that are already rearing their head, and the helplessness the Rook family is going through.

It seems to that Snyder really poured a lot of himself into this series. Not just because the Charlie is a professional comic writer/artist, but because he's a father as well and can empathize with trying to guard his children from the outside world. Things have not gone well for the Rook family, as we're shown in a flashback with bullying and attempted sexual assault. Add in horrifying things already happening with their "fresh start" and it's a disturbing read you can't look away from. It's a blending of horror genres rarely seen these days.

I've never been a fan of Jock's art in superhero worlds, but he really fits well with Wytches. His jagged style just feels more fitted for something creepy, with this book's twisted creatures and ungodly abominations. From the first jarring pages to the last, it all builds a mystery with horrific imagery and violent images that make for a book that is perfect for the upcoming Halloween season. Matt Hollingsworth's muted and moody color scheme moves the book's tone back and forth from Sailor's optimism and hope for a fresh start to the discouraging fact some things never change with charcoal grays and midnight blues.

For what it's worth, it's a solid premiere with very few faults. While I do like the fact that the city the Rooks live in remains unspecified for now, there's no real idea of the distance they had to travel to get their new beginnings. The cliffhanger is interesting as well, as it adds more to the Rooks - Sailor specifically - as they are unable to run and get away from their horrid fates. The creature design themselves though are considerably tame for what I anticipated, and visually reminiscent of the vampires of American Vampire. Then again, there could be more to these creatures waiting to be exposed later.

Fans of Snyder's other horror book Severed might be attracted to this more than his American Vampire readers. It's a slice of Americana and family life through a nightmarish filter. True, Wytches makes no bones about being a legit horror comic in the vein as the 1950s EC books, but there's still a family element to it that gives this comic an even more grounded approach. And that might be the most frightening thing about it.

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