REVIEW: Ghost-Spider #1 Isn't Nearly as Cool as Its Hero

Story by
Art by
Takeshi Miyazawa
Colors by
Ian Herring
Letters by
VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Any superhero who can traverse alternate realities lends themselves well to an endless supply of exciting and creative stories. When comic book creators have such a character in their repertoire, they have an element that can lead to ticking clock narratives or mirrored dimensional conundrums. But not all writers and artists play with these characters on a grand scale. Sometimes, the most fascinating element of a story is treated as window dressing, which is the case in Seanan McGuire and Takeshi Miyazawa's Ghost-Spider #1.

Spider-Gwen is an endlessly fascinating character in the Marvel Comics canon. Although she debuted in a fun What If?-esque miniseries, she ended up becoming something of a pop culture icon practically overnight. The version of Gwen Stacy from Earth-65 has been the star of several comic titles and even had a predominant role in the 2018 blockbuster animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Suddenly, Spider-Gwen was on t-shirts and lunch boxes, and she was the kind of superhero who had Halloween costumes and action figures. Of course, who could blame anyone for the sudden fascination? Spider-Gwen was, and is, a wonderful character that creators Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez can be proud of.

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However, the newest title featuring the runaway hit heroine, who now goes by the less catchy moniker Ghost-Spider is well written and beautifully illustrated but is rather underwhelming considering the talent behind it.  Ghost-Spider #1 sees Gwen leaving her own dimension to attend college in the primary Marvel Universe (Earth-616) in order to seek some sense of normalcy in a life that is anything but. This sort of set-up sounds like a pitch for a high concept sitcom, and perhaps if Ghost-Spider #1 was written with sharper humor or moved at a faster clip it would play out like one.

While it still has interesting bits here and there, the biggest crime Ghost-Spider #1 commits is being far too meandering for a debut issue. Peter figuring out what's wrong with Gwen's costume is a fantastic scene, and it's actually far more engaging than the fight with a giant rat the pair of pair of web-slingers dealt with moments earlier. The bulk of the issue plays out just like that. Cool moments and ideas are almost always undercut by bland expository scenes. Now, this isn't to say you need to have awesome action sequences to have an awesome superhero comics (it doesn't hurt, of course), but if a superhero title is going to rely on dialogue heavy scenes or just playful witty banter, it needs to have more gravitas than what we're getting here. More expository, "wordy" comics can redefine fictional universe if they have something important to say, but that's not what happening here.

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Seanan McGuire is a prolific writer who has produced plenty of solid Marvel books, even some featuring Gwen Stacy, in the past, but here it feels like she's flying on auto-pilot. With that being said, McGuire's work is not necessarily bad, but it does warrant skepticism about picking up future issues of Ghost-Spider. Hopefully, the few interesting threads presented in this debut issue will be explored farther down the road. Luckily Takeshi Miyazawa's art here is great. Miyazawa's style is sharp and fun, but the exaggerated expressions on his characters' faces never fall into the realm of Saturday Morning cartoons.

Overall, if you're a die-hard fan of Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen/Ghost-Spider, then you'll probably find something to latch onto in this comic. If you're a more casual fan of the character, however, the issue leaves something to be desired. McGuire's comic book work is consistently strong, but Ghost-Spider #1 is not her best. Miyazawa's art is compelling, but it's not quite enough to save what at the end of the day is a middle-of-the-road comic book starring a character who is far too interesting to be in such a languid title.

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