The “Gwenom” arc has had its fair share of ups and downs. With this new story arc Jason Latour has been able to explore a darker side of Gwen Stacy’s character as she goes through her own Black Suit saga. That darker side has forced Gwen to get even more involved with the Kingpin of Crime, Matt Murdock, world as he manipulates the young Spider-Woman. Though the one weakness in all of this is that it has taken Gwen away from her supporting cast as they have gone into the background. That weakness is something that the last issue of Spider-Gwen addressed as it ended with Gwen meeting Uncle Ben. How will this meeting go with everything that has happened? Let’s find out with Spider-Gwen #28.
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the concert venue where The Mary Janes canceled a gig Gwen Stacy (wearing her symbiote costume without the mask) has gathered her bandmates, Ben and May Parker. Gwen admits to everyone that she decided to taken on the identity of Spider-Woman so that those around her didn’t hold her back as they only thought of her as “Gwen Stacy.” Gwen, while her symbiote suit reacts, says that she does not have time to keep up the lies and knows what she needs to get things done.
At Matt Murdock’s apartment Officer Rogers asks why Matt won’t just kill him. Matt slaps Rogers and says he is a professional puppet master and he needs an audience to know why he does what he does.
Matt then explains how as a child an Oscorp deliver truck crashed and killed his mom after the toxic chemicals it was carrying spilled on her. Matt’s mom ended up spreading the toxic chemicals on Matt’s eyes, causing him to go blind.
He then recounts how Silvermane did not like that Jack Murdock won a championship match that he was told to lose. Silvermane then sent his men to kill Jack in front of Matt. When the men went to kill Matt he was saved by Stick.
Stick then recruited and trained Matt to fight in a war he was involved in. During one of their missions Stick was killed by the Hand and Matt was taken by the group. The leader of the Hand then had Matt train and join their ranks.
During that time Matt was forced to kill those he thought as siblings and lovers. Through all endless torture and trials Matt became more than the Hand could control so they sent him to New York to occupy his time.
It was there that Matt worked for Wilson Fisk until he decided to take everything from Fisk. Eventually Matt felt like there was nothing else left for him to do. When he was about to kill himself he saw Spider-Woman. Seeing her gave him a new purpose as he did not feel alone anymore.
Back at the concert venue Gwen says she understand that all that she told everyone is a lot to take in and she does not expect them to trust or forgive her. She continues by saying she just wanted them to all know before the last of Gwen Stacy dies.
Glory Grant speaks up and says that Gwen is there sister and that want to help her however they can. Em Jay then asks what Gwen meant that “Gwen Stacy has to die.”
Gwen reveals that she believes that she cannot defeat Matt Murdock without letting go of all the things that connect her to who she once was. Em Jay, Glory and Betty all think that is crazy and that she should maybe let Captain America take care of things.
Ben finally speaks up and says that he agrees with Gwen. He goes on to say that to make Peter’s death count Gwen has to do everything in her power to take Matt down.
Back at the apartment Matt says upon seeing Spider-Woman he finally saw someone else that knew what it meant to wield real power and wanted her by his side. Matt thanks Roger for listening to his story and then kills him with his blade.
Back at the concert venue Gwen gets a call and is told that it is finally time to take the war to Matt.
Back at his apartment Matt hears things going on outside. Otomo enters the apartment and says that there is an intruder in the building. Matt tells Otomo to deploy his ninjas and to prepare for war.
In the stairwell Punisher, wearing an Iron Man gauntlet, walks up the stairs ready for a war. End of issue.
The Good: Spider-Gwen #28 is exactly the chapter that the “Gwenom” arc needed. While previous chapters have done a good job exploring how the symbiote was affecting Gwen Stacy there was something missing. That missing element was Gwen interacting in someway with her supporting cast. That is exactly what Jason Latour addresses with Spider-Gwen #28 and in the process adds an intriguing layer to the series moving forward.
Opening Spider-Gwen #28 with Gwen having gathered all the remaining people she is close to was a fantastic way to show how far she has fallen. Through this scene Latour is able to explore how the constant battle for control has gotten to Gwen. Even though she did not want to admit it before Matt Murdock’s constant presence in her life has slowly whittled her will down. Now at her breaking point Gwen can admit that what is holding her back is the feeling that she must continue to be a righteous superhero.
Making this point by Gwen stating that she must give up on trying to live the typical superhero and secret identity double life is that thing holding her back from doing what she must. Saying this to all the people she cares about while wearing the symbiote suit without a mask made this even more personal. Seeing her facial reactions made it seem like it was Gwen talking to everyone and not the symbiote or Spider-Woman.
That personal touch made the way this version of the symbiote works even more sinister. Because, while the symbiote did act more like a prop it was clear that it was feeding into the darker parts of Gwen’s character. All the negative feelings that Gwen has been living with are what the symbiote is bringing to the forefront. In that way it made this version of the symbiote even more interesting than the Venom version over in the main Marvel Universe.
While Gwen’s development under the influence of the symbiote was what kicked things off Latour made sure her supporting cast were not just props in this entire situation. Having Em Jay and Glory speak up about how no matter what Gwen believes they still see her as a sister was incredibly important. It showed that all the arguments that Gwen, Em Jay, Glory and Betty got into in the past was something you expect from a family. To them Gwen is not just a friend or bandmate and they won’t simply give up on her even if Gwen wants to give up on herself. In showing these characters in this light Latour sets up Em Jay, Glory and Betty to be even more important to the series moving forward.
At the same time, the Mary Janes voicing their opinions made Ben Parker’s own perspective even stronger. After all that we heard from Em Jay and Glory hearing Ben voice the complete opposite showed how deeply Peter Parker’s death affected them. And it is clear that learning that Gwen now potentially has the power to take down the Kingpin of Crime, Ben is a bit blinded by what “responsibility” means in order to get revenge. With this swerve in Ben’s character it’ll be very interesting not only to see how it affects what Gwen does next but also how his relationship with May could possibly change as she sees a darker part of her husband.
All of the development with Gwen was made better by the character development from Matt Murdock’s side of the story. After his long-term presence in Spider-Gwen we finally got to learn why this version of Matt is such an evil bastard. Learning that Matt’s origin is not all that different from the main Marvel Universe one was a good way for the reader to immediately feel connected to the character. In starting that way Latour was able to make the fact that Matt eventually ended up being trained by the Hand an unfortunate turn of events for him and the world. Because with the Hand we see that all the malicious intentions inside of Matt were enhanced and his heroic traits were never had a chance to be fully nurtured.
In an interesting turn of events Latour revealing that Matt actually got to such a point in his power that he contemplated suicide was very intriguing. This twisted turn made the fact that it was Spider-Woman’s sudden presence in New York act as a catalyst for Matt to not kill himself come off as extremely creepy. This particular character reveal made all of the scenes between Matt and Gwen now have a completely different context. It almost makes you shiver a bit thinking back to how Matt continued to manipulate Gwen everytime they shared a scene together.
All of the character work is made even better by Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork. Rodriguez once again excels at giving Spider-Gwen a unique look that you don’t find in the Marvel Universe. Gwen’s reactions in particular were strong as Rodriguez showed how much of a battle is raging on inside her head as she makes her speech about giving up on living a double life. Rodriguez artwork is even stronger with Matt Murdock’s part of Spider-Gwen #28. Rodriguez was able to show how dark things got in Matt’s life and why his obsession with power has completely consumed him.
The Bad: The only part of Spider-Gwen #28 that did not come off particularly well was the ending involving Punisher. The Punisher character has not been a great addition to Spider-Gwen’s world. Much like his Marvel Universe counterpart, the Punisher of this world is completely one-note. And seeing Punisher team-up with Spider-Woman creates a little bit less interest in the war Gwen is in with Matt.
Overall: Spider-Gwen #28 is by far the strongest chapter in the “Gwenom” story arc. Jason Latour nails how important it was that Gwen Stacy revealed everything about her life as Spider-Woman to those she is closest to. The reactions of Em Jay, Glory Grant and Ben Parker made Gwen’s character development even stronger. On the other side of things Latour was able to add an extra sinister layer to sadistic this universe’s Matt Murdock is. Now with everything revealed Latour has created even more excitement for what happens next in the “Gwenom” arc.