Best Shots Review: GWEN STACY #1

Gwen Stacy
Credit: Todd Nauck (Marvel Comics)
Credit: Marvel Comics

Gwen Stacy #1
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Todd Nauck and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Credit: Todd Nauck (Marvel Comics)

A Spider-Man icon gets a bubbly, surprisingly plotty solo series in Gwen Stacy #1. Written with a pep and charm by longtime Spider-Office writer Christos Gage and given an expressive Archie Comics-esque look by Todd Nauck and Rachelle Rosenberg, Gwen Stacy delivers an engaging, Easter egg-filled “origin story” for Gwen, centered around her run for Standard High Class President.

Standing as an unexpected mixture of Nancy Drew and Betty Cooper, Gwen Stacy #1 proves that she’s much more than just Spider-Man’s girlfriend.

Credit: Todd Nauck (Marvel Comics)

Operating in the margins of Amazing Spider-Man and Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Gage hits the ground running with a fantastic characterization for Gwen and plenty of canny action happening in the background as the plot tumbles along. Though Gwen and her BFF Harry Osborn are still very much concerned about Gwen’s presidential run, she still takes the time to join her father at the station house to bring him dinner and bond with loyal detectives Suki Watanabe and Jean DeWolff, who are working a big case involving the Crime Master and the Enforcers. This whole thread speaks to the unexpected but impressive turn Gwen takes as an amateur gumshoe, unofficially working the case with her father. It’s a savvy turn that gives Gwen a whole other layer beyond one-dimensional goodness that could absolutely sustain the rest of this miniseries.

Credit: Todd Nauck (Marvel Comics)

Meanwhile, artist Todd Nauck adapts beautifully to the period setting and expressive scripting. Bringing a real Mark Bagley-meets-Riverdale energy to the pages, Nauck’s artwork highlights Gwen’s beauty and personality in a way that never skews into cheesecake. He also brings a real energy to the scenes, though they are most centered around exposition and character interaction. Staging the scenes like personable one-acts between the characters, Nauck brings interpersonal fireworks in lieu of actual fireworks — in particular, a subdued but chilling scene where Montana and Ox show Captain Stacy how easily they can get close to his daughter. It isn’t overly dynamic or even that groundbreaking of a point of view, but it’s a highly effective example of tension and quiet menace from the creative team.

Credit: Todd Nauck (Marvel Comics)

Special consideration should also be given to Rosenberg’s colorwork. While Nauck nails the visual tone and costumes of the era, Rosenberg hammers it home with wonderfully understated colors. Rosenberg easily conjures up the mood of the 1970s, giving each interior a smoky, slightly sepia tone and the exteriors an autumnal, crisp feeling. Her colors slightly flatten in the scenes in the hospital due to the fluorescent lighting, but the mood quickly returns in the darkened final scenes at dusk and full night. Though it isn’t the most showy of efforts from Rosenberg, Gwen Stacy #1 is a wonderful and varied display of her coloring prowess.

I have to admit a certain apprehension about Gwen Stacy. But after reading it, I now admit myself pleasantly surprised thanks to the creative team’s charm, attention to canon detailing, and period artwork. By treating Gwen like an actual three-dimensional character and not a doomed romantic foil, Christos Gage, Todd Nauck, and Rachelle Rosenberg deliver both a fun, engaging tribute to the icon.

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