Gwen Stacy is no stranger to dimension-hopping hijinks. I mean, besides fighting bad guys and looking great in a spider-themed hoodie-leotard thing, that’s basically what she does. Imagine her surprise when she finds herself in a medieval land, tasked by a Gandalf-looking wizard to protect a mystical orb, and forced to do battle with the similarly-confused White Fox. As the two heroes duke it out across different realms in the land of Questworld, their shared experience leads to an inevitable team-up, all while magical shenanigans ensue in the all-new Spider-Gwen Annual.
Released under the banner of “Contest of Chaos”, this deluxe issue drops readers smack-dab into the middle of Marvel’s latest event, the catalyst of which is none other than “WandaVision’s” breakout star Agatha Harkness. If you haven’t kept up with the story up to this point, you’ll likely be a little lost even with the recap and character intros. Luckily, writer Karla Pacheco seems to understand this and wisely puts both Gwen in the role of a confused, displaced hero, trying desperately to understand what the heck is going on! She also manages to build an engaging dynamic between Gwen and Ami, aka White Fox, two heroes that have never even met before now. Their adventure turns out to be a fun, meta-take on both confusing tie-ins and the classic team-up trope as both heroes eventually unite against a common foe, leading to a surprising conclusion that is really just a cliffhanger to the next tie-in.
Joining Pacheco are artists Rosi Kampe and Marika Cresta, along with colorist Irma Kniivila, who deliver action-packed scenes in a distinctly classic Marvel style; the medieval scenes in particular evoke the aesthetic of Claremont and Davis’ early “Excalibur” run. There are a few moments that could be handled differently, specifically the lack of transitions when switching from flashbacks to the present day or even during our heroes’ journey from one area of Questworld to another. Their designs for both Gwen and Ami, whose attire changes in each new realm, are inspired and each one would make for a fun action figure, or Funko Pop!
As with the other “Contest of Chaos” books, this issue includes a back-up tale by writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Alberto Foche, continuing the adventures of Clea, Spider-Man, and Jessica Jones. In the latest chapter, Marvel’s most unlikely trio uncover more secrets about the strange events transpiring in the main universe, leading to a metaphysical confrontation with the enemy behind it all. Spoiler: it was Agatha all along.
Spider-Gwen Annual #14.99
- Writers: Karla Pacheco, Stephanie Phillips
- Artists: Rosi Kampe, Marika Cresta, Alberto Foche
- Colorists: Irma Kniivila, Raul Angulo
- Letterer: VC’s Ariana Maher
- Editors: Michelle Marchese, Alanna Smith
- Publisher: Marvel Comics