Gwen Stacy #2 Review

by Charles Martin on March 11, 2020

Gwen Stacy #2 Review
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Todd Nauck
Colourist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Despite the urging of her father, her friends, and the cover of this issue, Gwen Stacy can't concentrate on her class president election while there's a criminal conspiracy aimed at her dad. So it's time for some all-out Nancy Drew action for her.

The creators continue the good work of assembling a vibrant high school life for Gwen. Their supporting cast shines here, with detectives DeWolff and Watanabe particularly standing out as the professional reflections of Gwen's turn as an amateur sleuth. But this issue is really all about Gwen and the Osborns.

Christos Gage scripts an impressive "first meeting" flashback for Gwen and Harry, showing how their shared adversities (they're both motherless) brought them together.

In the present, though, Gwen's inquisitive investigations pull her path across Norman Osborn's, twice. These scenes are tight and claustrophobic, full of ominous menace. That's entirely reasonable, given what we readers know about Norman's extracurricular activities.

In fact, considering that Gwen is staring down the man who is destined to kill her, there's an argument to be made that these confrontations aren't menacing enough.

But on the other hand, Mr. Gage deserves plenty of credit for playing these encounters close to the vest. Putting Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn face-to-face gives an author a lot of options. This one resists the temptation to go overboard with continuity gags or contentious retcons, instead letting the menace develop organically from the details of this story rather than from Marvel history.

Artist Todd Nauck is working hard throughout the issue, using his considerable talent for expressive exaggeration to enliven a story that's almost entirely conversation. Mr. Nauck lavishes details on all of the characters, emphasizing their realism without ever losing his distinctive personal style. Even though his layouts push the characters to the front in almost every panel, they are rendered with enough care and precision to carry the story almost without fault. 

Rachelle Rosenberg builds a vibrant, full-spectrum palette to complement the tone of both the art and the script. Gwen's world pops with primary and secondary colours. But Ms. Rosenberg also has a deft hand for modulation; she uses nuanced shading (especially of flesh tones) to enhance the artwork and lend it depth.

This issue treats its characters very well, both visually and narratively. It's just as engaging as #1 -- taken together, they're a strong argument in favour of following the series. But on its own, #2 doesn't get much in the way of plot development. (And this despite a heavier-than-average load of verbiage.) This is the time-honoured second act in a detective story, the part where red herring clues are investigated and discarded. It's plenty of fun on first read, but I suspect #2 is destined to slide below the other issues in hindsight.

Gwen Stacy #2 continues to paint an endearing and well-rounded portrait of the pre-Peter-Parker part of its protagonist's life. Gwen is hard at work sleuthing on her dad's situation. While this issue doesn't reward her efforts with a lot of decisive plot development, there's still plenty to enjoy, particularly some meaningful encounters with the Osborns.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Keep your eyes on the details: This issue does confirm that Spider-Man is out there.