Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective

Seanan McGuire’s Ghost-Spider Retrospective

Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective

A few weeks ago when Ghost-Spider #10 was released it was revealed in a letter from the editor that it was the final issue of the series. As a fan of Seanan McGuire’s work on Ghost-Spider up to this point, it was a bit of a sad note to end the series on. As the final issue, Ghost-Spider #10, showed there is a lot of untapped potential with Gwen Stacy as one of the Spider-Woman at Marvel. But while it was a downer to learn the series has now ended there are plenty of things that McGuire did during her run to make it a comic Marvel, and Spider-Man fans specifically, should read.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Gwen Stacy begins to go by Ghost-Spider as her new ongoing starts as shown in Ghost-Spider #1. Click for full page view.

One of the big things that Seanan McGuire was charged with was transitioning Gwen Stacy to being Ghost-Spider. Before this on Earth-65 Gwen was known as Spider-Woman while in the mainstream she is commonly called Spider-Gwen. Marvel has slowly tried to transition Gwen’s superhero identity to be Ghost-Spider, first in their Marvel Rising animated movies where the character appeared under the Ghost-Spider moniker. Then in the current Spider-Man animated series, Gwen has also started to go by that name when she officially became a superhero.

But even then Gwen has still commonly gone by Spider-Gwen as her superhero name. To Seanan McGuire’s immense talent she has put in the groundwork to make Gwen’s Ghost-Spider superhero name be a thing. There was no more going back and forth with her being Spider-Woman. Gwen fully embraced Ghost-Spider as her superhero name.

The transition to Ghost-Spider was also important in signifying Gwen moving on from everything that happened to her during the conflict with Kingpin Matt Murdock. Gwen was in need of a restart after all of those events wrecked her personal and superhero life. By going with the Ghost-Spider name Gwen was able to restart from zero and work her way back up to what she can know as a normal life. Even if that normal life didn’t happen given her responsibilities McGuire was able to set course for what comes next for Gwen both in her personal and Ghost-Spider lives moving forward.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Gwen Stacy splits her time between Earth-65 and Earth-616 as shown in Ghost-Spider #6. Click for full page view.

One of the hooks for this volume of Ghost-Spider was the fact that Gwen Stacy started to split her time between her continuity on Earth-65 and the main Marvel Universe on Earth-616. This change happened as Gwen wanted to try out having a normal college life after all her Spider-Woman adventures, specifically with the aftermath of the war with Kingpin Matt Murdock, stopped her from being able to do that. At least that was the case on Earth-65 as everyone knows Gwen was Spider-Woman/Ghost-Spider.

Having her identity publicly known is something that McGuire did not try to hide or erase. It is a part of Gwen’s character that McGuire fully embraced. In doing so we got to see how the weight of being a superhero, specifically one from the Spider-Family, has on someone. While Gwen did her best to keep up a positive outlook on things weren’t easy. Splitting time between her band, the MJs, and trying to still be New York City’s resident superhero wasn’t easy. Her relationship with Mary Jane and her bandmates, in particular, was a bit all over the place as Gwen was splitting her time so much she wasn’t practicing as much as the others.

This was made tougher with Gwen becoming a student at Empire State University on Earth-616, the same school Peter Parker is currently back at as well. Gwen joining Earth-616 is something that Marvel clearly wants given her popularity continues to grow after her appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This status quo also helped changed things up for Gwen as she didn’t really get to have a chance to have some normalcy after graduating high school. She was thrust right into all the conflicts that Kingpin Matt Murdock caused. And you could see in her interactions with other ESU students that having the ability to go to college was something she wanted.

Gwen’s interaction with Peter Parker was a big part of her life on Earth-616. This was a change of pace because Gwen and Earth-616 Peter didn’t interact much, even in the Spider-Verse events. The change in their dynamic with Gwen being younger while Peter was the experienced hero trying to give her some guidance was refreshing. Hopefully, with Gwen being more of a permanent part of Earth-616 for the foreseeable future we not only get to see Gwen’s dynamic with Peter but her interaction with Jessica Jones, Miles Morales, Cindy Moon, and Anya Corazon.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Gwen Stacy has a terrifying first clash with Earth-616 Miles Warren as seen in Ghost-Spider #5. Click for full page view.

With Gwen becoming a student at Empire State University it was only a matter of time before she met Miles Warren. McGuire didn’t wait to long to have Gwen run into Miles Warren as the first story arc of Ghost-Spider dealt with that. Admittedly, Miles Warren has always been one of my least favorite Spider-Man villains. The character, both as Miles Warren and Jackal, has never been that interesting past the original introduction of the clones.

All that said, McGuire took Miles Warren to another level as his attraction for Gwen made him a completely different threat in Ghost-Spider than Spider-Man. McGuire did a great job using the character’s history trying to clone the Earth-616 Gwen Stacy to make him even more menacing. With how the first meeting between Ghost-Spider and Jackal went there are a lot of future storylines that were set-up. McGuire moved Jackal into a spot where he could actually become one of Ghost-Spider’s greatest villains. Which is needed for whenever Gwen gets a new ongoing as Kingpin Matt Murdock’s story ran its course in Spider-Gwen.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker have an explosive argument about the Outlawed direction as shown in Ghost-Spider #8. Click for full page view.

A big part of the second half of Ghost-Spider was Gwen learning about the Kamala Law that was enacted by the United States government after Kamala Khan was injured during one of the Champions fight with a villain. The Kamala Law is very similar to the Registration Act that caused the original Marvel Civil War. Like the Registration Act, the Kamala’s Law is going to cause all the next generation heroes like Miss Marvel and Miles Morales. While the information on Kamala’s Law is sparse, as the story just started right before the comic book industry was shut down, we do know that heroes under the age of 21 must-have mentors or else they won’t be allowed to work as vigilante superheroes

While the last few issues of Ghost-Spider focused on Gwen’s adventures in her own universe of Earth-65 there were seeds planted the last time Gwen was on Earth-616. Peter is one of the veteran heroes was made well aware of Kamala’s Law when it was announced. Trying to make sure Gwen heard it from him first Peter told her about Kamala’s Law, which at that point was just barely announced. This caused a lot of tension between Peter and Gwen as the former immediately offered to work with the latter as her “mentor.” With the information being fresh and Gwen has been a superhero for several years at this point this obviously didn’t sit well with her.

Now with the whole Outlawed direction with Kamala’s Law is still not developed yet McGuire did a great job establishing two of the main sides of this story. With Peter, we see how even for the veteran heroes who are against the law they will be trying to help the younger heroes through this. At least that is what Peter seems to look to do with Gwen and likely Miles since they are part of his Spider-Family. At the same time, you do understand that Gwen, like the other next-generation heroes, sees this as unfairly pushed on them without their voice being heard. With Gwen being part of Earth-616 now it won’t be surprising to see both Peter and her be part of this Outlawed story alongside the Champions and Avengers.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Gwen’s relation with her father, George Stacy, is still the heart of the series as shown in Ghost-Spider #9

One of the standout elements of Gwen’s career as a superhero has been her relationship with her father, Captain George Stacy. Unlike Peter Parker, Gwen’s father learned early on that she was Spider-Woman and now Ghost-Spider before it became public. Gwen and George Stacy’s relationship has always been complex with how they approach stopping bad guys. McGuire tapped into what their working and family relationship would be now that the world of Earth-65 knew Gwen was Ghost-Spider.

To George’s credit, he has grown to understand that being Ghost-Spider is something that Gwen wants to do. McGuire made sure to show that George is a supportive father who still shows great concern when he views that Gwen may be taking one to many risks. The best part of how McGuire worked Gwen and George’s relationship was that they openly discussed their respective sides of the conversations they had. Even when they raised their voices they were each given the chance to get their side across.

That was best shown in Ghost-Spider #9 when Gwen talked to her father about Kamala’s Law that was put into place on Earth-616. George was not afraid to state that he understood why Kamala’s Law was implemented and why Peter approached her with the information in the way he did. Having George state his reasoning made Gwen’s side of not being for Kamala’s Law be a stronger stance. Having both sides of the argument properly portrayed McGuire put a spotlight on the strength of Gwen and George’s family relationship. It made the goodbye they have at the end of Ghost-Spider #10 even harder when you see them hug.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Earth-65 Sue and Johnny Storm lead Gwen Stacy to leave her universe in Ghost-Spider #10. Click for full page view.

With Kingpin Matt Murdock behind bars, there was a big hole left when it came to villains on Earth-65. Matt Murdock had a hand in almost every threat that Gwen came up against as Spider-Woman. Without him around Gwen was left with only the normal criminals to stop on patrol. McGuire started to fill that hole that Matt Murdock left behind with both Man-Wolf and Jackal but those two villains weren’t enough to fill that spot.

That is where the Earth-65 versions of Sue and Johnny Storm came in. Unlike their Earth-616 counterparts, McGuire twisted Sue and Johnny’s origins to be social media celebrities who mysteriously disappeared several years earlier. As we learn after both Sue and Johnny reappeared these characters were not at all like the heroic Fantastic Four members we love on Earth-616. It didn’t take long to learn that Sue and Johnny’s return meant incredibly dangerous things for Gwen as Ghost-Spider.

Positioning Sue and Johnny Storm as antagonists immediately provided the major villains that superheroes need to overcome. McGuire did a great job building both characters up so that when their turn happened it was as effective as possible. Putting over Earth-65 Sue and Johnny Storm as major villains was the fact that Ghost-Spider ended with them not only defeating Ghost-Spider but forcing Gwen to leave Earth-65. Leaving on this note set-up a major storyline for whenever Marvel decides to publish a new Ghost-Spider series.


Seanan McGuire Ghost-Spider Retrospective
Gwen Stacy leaves Earth-65 for the time being and joins Earth-616 as shown in Ghost-Spider #10. Click for full page view.

Overall, I thank Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ig Guara for delivering a fantastic series in Ghost-Spider. While it was definitely disappointing to see Ghost-Spider end so soon, especially as McGuire and company started to set up the next stage for the character, I appreciate all the work that went into the ten-issue plus annual that was published. This Ghost-Spider series tapped into what has made the Earth-65 version of Gwen Stacy such a fascinating, multi-layered character.

Even though this volume of Ghost-Spider is over it does not mean Gwen Stacy will be disappearing. With how Ghost-Spider #10 ended Gwen is now positioned to be a major part of the main Marvel Universe in the immediate future. Given Gwen’s position as a next-generation hero she will likely join the Champions in fighting against Kamala’s Law that will be driving the Outlawed storyline. In addition to that, with Nick Spencer getting Amazing Spider-Man ready for the next big Spider-Man event Gwen will also take part in that story alongside Peter, Miles, Jessica, and other Spider-Family members.

Hopefully, as Marvel gets back to a normal publishing schedule they can start to set-up when Gwen’s next ongoing Ghost-Spider series will be. Especially, with Marvel starting to explore a digital strategy for their publishing line we could see Ghost-Spider return in that format with a mini-series or ongoing. And with how well her run went, hopefully, McGuire is given another shot to telling more Ghost-Spider stories.

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2 thoughts on “Seanan McGuire’s Ghost-Spider Retrospective

  1. Really thanks for your words^^ This series was very important to me. Gwen and Miles Morales were responsible for rekindling my love for super heroes!

    1. Thank you very much for so many fun comics with Ghost-Spider. Looking forward to what you are working on next.

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