Ghost-Spider #3 Review

by Charles Martin on October 23, 2019

Ghost-Spider #3 Review
Writer: Seanan McGuire
Penciller: Takeshi Miyazawa
Inkers: Takeshi Miyazawa & Rosi Kämpe
Colourist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Gwen Stacy is still having a blast with her secret, ordinary life on Earth-616. Peter Parker even warns her that she's tempting fate, and sure enough, this issue includes a consequential development back on Earth-65 to make her second-guess the feasibility of having it all.

It's a serious injury inflicted on one of her supporting cast members, and it would be awfully easy to dismiss as random violence. The art team throws up a thin barricade against that problem by slapping some easy-to-miss crescent moon armbands on the violence-perpetrators; they're Man-Wolf thugs. So this may yet be part of a larger plot against Gwen.

Thank goodness, because the main antagonists seem to be dragging their feet in a problematic way.

While reviewing the last issue, I was uncertain (i.e confused) about how much, if anything, Jackal-65 and Jackal-616 knew about each other. #3 gives enough spotlight to both of them to make it clear (I think) that the two Jackals aren't even aware of each other's existence yet. 

If there's a villainous team-up in the offing, it's going to take a painfully long time to get rolling. Big "if," though. It'd be entirely possible -- maybe even the stronger plotting choice -- for Gwen to beat the two Jackals in sequence instead of in parallel.

The artists and colourist do another formidable job telling Gwen's story here, striking a superb balance between inventive superhero acrobatics and expressive character interactions. 

Ian Herring lets a little contrast sneak into Gwen's two worlds, a very welcome development. Colours bend toward the neon for the key action scene on Earth-65. It's a neat blend of environmental and stylistic influence. The strong colours are justified by the night-time setting and its abundance of outdoor lighting, but they're also a callback to the original, high-intensity look of Earth-65.

I risk doing Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe a disservice if I say only that they're doing their usual thing. Their "usual thing" is simply a fantastic job of making a young spider-hero's life look real with talented, organic linework. Little touches -- like the way an eye warps when seen through a test tube -- reveal how much hard work goes into crafting this effortless-looking visual performance.

In the script, Seanan McGuire retains a confident grip on Gwen's voice and keeps her sympathetic and appealing. She also makes good use of this issue's plot developments to expand and complicate the story of Benji, Gwen's new college pal.

But the script keeps the hero and her antagonists widely separated and devotes possibly too much time to the villains. Because the Jackals are separate, there are two entirely different anti-Gwen schemes to keep track of. 

The author's naturally reluctant to spill too many beans about those schemes. And that does some damage, in a Catch-22 way, to the realism and enjoyability of this issue's villain scenes. They feel stiff, uninformative, and over-long.

I'm confident that the compromise going on here comes from good long-term plotting. This issue's villain focus, while problematic in the short term, will probably pay off by keeping future developments from seeming random or arbitrary.

Ghost-Spider #3 starts to hammer on Gwen's brief moment of dimension-hopping happiness. Despite the issue's heavy focus on her main antagonists, the first blows come from further afield. Another serving of outstanding art and more excellent characterization for Gwen backstop the slow-moving villain plots and keep the reading experience rewarding. 

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I'm a big fan of non-onomatopoeic sound effects. I'm fully on board when Gwen leaps up to stick on a ceiling with noises that somehow sound like "LEAP!" and "STICK!"