Heroes Reborn: Night-Gwen #1 Review

by Charles Martin on June 09, 2021

Heroes Reborn: Night-Gwen #1 Review
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Farid Karami
Colourist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Meet the Gwen Stacy of the Heroes Reborn universe. By day, she's a compassionate psychiatrist working at Ravencroft. By night, she's Nightbird, Nighthawk's crime-fighting partner in Washington D.C.

(Ain't it great that so many of the Heroes Reborn stories are set in Washington and can therefore say they're "in DC"? It really ices the "what if the Justice League was in the Marvel Universe" cake.)

Anywhoo, beyond her professional and heroic careers, Gwen is also dating detective Misty Knight. And while this comic comes equipped with a solid conflict with a supervillain pursuing a personal connection with Gwen, it's the protagonist's relationship that fascinates me. Secret identity tensions are baked in right from the start, and I'd love to see them explored further.

Gwen keeps her nighttime activities secret from Misty, and with good reason: Misty hates the capes. They bust bad guys, but rarely in a way that legally sticks. And both Misty and Gwen are quietly aware of the inherent wrongness of the Squadron Supreme. 

Gwen heroes with Nighthawk as much to keep him from killing people as to stop bad guys.

The job of illustrating this tense status quo goes to Farid Karami, and the artist does a great deal to anchor the story with the sort of realistic, detailed portrayal it needs. From crime scenes to restaurants to superhero lairs, Night-Gwen exists in a thoroughly believable world. The characters are equally realistic, with outstanding costumes and solid emotive work.

Colourist Erick Arciniega contributes to the visual impression with a palette that's muted to suit the nighttime setting. The colour choices are wise, though, emphasizing the details of the art with sharp contrast instead of high intensity.

The plot moving Vita Ayala's script forward is a relatively simple affair, a case of Gwen slowly realizing that a string of recent murders is connected to her past. It leads to an inevitable supervillain confrontation, livened up with a not-too-shocking twist.

But "Nightbird beats a bad guy" is not the main attraction here. The author is remarkably successful in building up Gwen's world. And I want to emphasize the character focus that makes this one-shot noteworthy. Yes, Vita Ayala shows us a bit more of the Heroes Reborn universe. But they lash this world-building tightly to Gwen's point of view. So this becomes not just another look at another alternate universe, but a personalized tour of Gwen's universe.

I admit I'm not keeping up with every issue of the Heroes Reborn event, but I've read a good chunk of it. And this is the first tie-in I've read that feels built to go places, the first one that gets a "hey, I could stand to read more of this!" out of me.

Even if it was clear from draft one that this was going to be a stand-alone comic, Vita Ayala put in all the effort necessary to bring a compelling protagonist to life. They tweak and twist Gwen Stacy's background (adding a strong and seldom-seen maternal influence) to produce a remarkable hero who is into empathy as much as Batwoman-esque butt-kicking.

The compassion and courage displayed by this version of Gwen Stacy are remarkable and appealing. They serve the purpose of the one-shot well, illuminating the darkness of the Heroes Reborn world with a contrasting light. And they just might deserve a longer look.

If anybody told the creative team behind Heroes Reborn: Night-Gwen #1 that they were making a "fire and forget" one-shot, they threw that sentiment right out the window. With detailed, high-flying art and nuanced character writing, they've produced a fully-rounded protagonist. Watching this Gwen Stacy deal with a straightforward threat from her past merely whets the appetite and suggests there should be more. 

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Farid Karami draws terrific gadgets and vehicles. His tech gives Night-Gwen the Bat-tastic edge she needs.