Edge of Spider-Verse #2 – Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez (Marvel Comics)
Originally, I was going to just take a picture of the words ‘Previously in Spider-Woman’ and leave it at that. Because they’re potent words, more potent than they should have to be.
I love the way ‘Previously in…’ implies not only an alternate universe where Gwen Stacy is Spider-Woman – and where, based on the Times Square billboards just visible in the bottom left, superheroines like The Wasp and Dazzler are the A-list – but also one where Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman has been a best-selling comic for decades.
It’s great that with one isolate issue to tell Gwen’s story, Latour doesn’t default to an origin – beyond this almost-All-Star-Superman-level compressed spread, at least – but delivers just another installment in her ongoing narrative, with a costume design from Rodriguez that only loosely quotes the ‘original’ Spider-Man’s duds.
And I was going to leave it at that, but then there’s the Peter thing. Naturally, the gender swap puts him in the role of hero-motivating fridge stuffing instead of Gwen, but also… let’s borrow from Tom Ewing here, who made a really smart point back in April that leapt to mind the moment I saw these pages:
"We are now in a position where we also know what bright, nerdy, badly socialised young men who feel they haven’t had any lucky breaks in life can think and act like, because vast chunks of web culture is a monument to that. Especially now, with so many dudes using the comfort blanket of ‘nice guy’/’beta male’ or whatever status as an excuse and cover story for all sorts of inhuman and revolting bullshit. Spider-Man is the perfect, iconic, character to critique that, but I can hardly think of any examples of it."
Raise your longboxes to the sky, because here at last we have a prime example.
Humiliated by bullying – and at least partly, the story seems to suggest, by having to be protected by Gwen – he injects himself with a batch of what turns out to be Lizard serum, muttering “I’ll show them who’s pathetic”, and effectively stuffing himself in the fridge in the process.
On a textual level, it’s a tragedy. On a meta one, it’s a perfectly enactment of the nerd entitlement that the internet is rife with at the moment: Discovering that he’s not the hero of the book, Peter’s only choice as the single white male cast member of an audience-relatable age is to make himself the villain.
I don’t like to lean on authorial intent too much but, um, there might be a subtext there?