Gwen Stacy isn’t around in Jason Latour and Chris Visions’ “Spider-Gwen” #5, but that doesn’t mean the story suffers for it. In fact, it’s more of a testimony to the depth of this universe, as it’s developed enough characters to carry the story even in Spider-Woman’s absence. The outcome of Gwen’s showdown with Harry Osborn remains unknown, but her absence this issue actually serves to heighten the tension while her father has a showdown his own.
Setting Gwen’s fate aside for at least this issue, Latour gives himself the opportunity to explore some of the title’s supporting cast. The issue is largely divided into two storylines: one featuring Captain America’s investigation of Spider-Woman, which turns into an investigation of someone else entirely, and George Stacy’s tense encounter with Matt Murdock, which culminates in a potentially game-changing moment. Latour fills the issue with unexplored character dynamics, such as Cap’s interactions with Jean DeWolff and Captain Stacy’s with Matt Murdock.
Visions begins the Stacy/Murdock sequence with an impressively laid out page displaying Murdock’s prowess, starting with an innocent close-up before panning back to reveal Murdock’s rather intimidating surroundings. Visions and from letter Clayton Cowles embellish this page with random snippets of dialogue that Murdock can’t help but hear, with the clever usage of different fonts that adeptly convey disparate voices, which are further embellished by colorist Rico Renzi. This introduction gives way to the lengthy but taut exchange between Murdock and Stacy; it not only reminds readers of Murdock’s evil and conniving nature in this reality, but also the upstanding morals of George Stacy, which are refreshingly consistent with that of the long-gone character from the main Marvel Universe.
The exchange between Cap and Jean DeWolff is a bit of a game changer as well, as Cap enlightens Jean not only as to the nature of the misunderstood Spider-Woman, but also that of Frank Castle. Latour provides an especially curious take on Castle, establishing an origin of sorts for the character that’s unique but has many similarities to the original. There’s also a brief but intriguing development between the Falcon and Gwen’s roommate that’s ripe with potential. Visions’ take on all of these characters is nicely done; the Falcon’s wide-eyed infatuation, Castle’s haggard and driven look and Murdock’s cocky, villainous demeanor are all aptly captured, and with a kind of rough but textured flair that fills each panel; even the simplest panels look pleasantly stylish.
“Spider-Gwen” #5 tensely advances Latour’s story, and Visions’ touch gives it some style; even in the absence of the lead character, the creators know how to keep it moving and entertaining.