Welcome back to Earth-65, where Peter Parker is dead and Gwen Stacy is your web-slinging Spider-Woman. Spider-Gwen had recently returned to her home universe after the events of the Spider-Verse storyline and she continues to struggle to define her role as a masked vigilante. Mayor J. Jonah Jameson leads the public outcry aimed at bringing her to justice. He blames her for the death of Peter Parker (which we all know is not the case), thus she's an outlaw. Gwen’s father, Police Captain George Stacy, aware of her secret identity, has defended Spider-Woman publicly. This has led to his removal from leading the task force responsible for capturing her. His replacement is Detective Frank Castle, a hard-nosed no-nonsense cop dedicated to bringing Spider-Woman to justice.
After drawing the Vulture into a fight, Gwen found herself in over her head against the former Oscorp employee. Convinced she needs to find the Vulture and bring him to justice, Gwen first decides to break the silent treatment she'd been giving her father.
Captain George Stacy arrives at his home in Forest Hills and is surprised to find his daughter, fully garbed as Spider-Woman, waiting for his return. George’s initial response is to scold Gwen, claiming that she should be more careful since someone could follow her to their house. He also claims that their safety would be in jeopardy if her secret was uncovered, both cops and criminals alike would be out for blood if the truth were known.
Their conversation quickly shifts as they discuss her role as Spider-Woman. George wants her to give up her crusade but Gwen claims that she cannot walk away. She tells him that she would love to stop lying (ie, be Spider-Woman) but that she can only help people if she wears the mask. In fact, Gwen doubles-down on that position and claims that it is not Spider-Woman that is the problem, it is Gwen Stacy. She is still haunted by the death of Peter Parker and her father senses her pain. George hugs his daughter and tells her that she needs to forgive herself before anyone else can.
Before Gwen could utter another word, her Spider-Sense goes crazy and the Vulture comes crashing-in through the window. Gwen fears that he’s uncovered her identity, however her fears quickly dissolve as she realizes that Toomes is there for her father. The Vulture is convinced that George has a connection to Spider-Woman and he’s determined to beat it out of him. Toomes’ attack is bolstered by a weaponized gas that fills the Stacy household.
While the Vulture is preoccupied with George, Gwen shifts back into her Spider-Woman costume and attacks the villain. Her attack is neutralized by the gas as it eventually gets the best of her. Spider-Gwen is saved by her father who fires a shot right into the mid-section of the Vulture. The injury causes Toomes to bail out of the fight, however he doesn’t make it very far. The gunshot wound prevents the Vulture from flying efficiently and he crashes into a cop car.
Spider-Gwen catches up to him out in the street and she drops a haymaker on him, sending him careening back in to the cop car. All the while, an unknown figure runs into the Stacy household. Even though the Vulture was subdued, his weaponized gas continued to impair Spider-Gwen as she attempts to flee the scene before the cops arrived.
As Gwen struggles to escape the gas, she is confronted by a masked (more specifically a gas-masked) individual. The figure is none other than Detective Frank Castle decked out in his Punisher attire. Castle closes in on Gwen whilst ignoring the calls from his fellow police officers. Castle was in the zone and had no time for his law enforcement cohorts, he simply utters, “she’s mine”. Spider-Woman gets the upper hand initially, but Castle surprises her with an electro-shock emitted from his attire.
The electricity is enough to subdue Gwen and allow Castle to unmask her. Castle is shocked to see that, “She’s just a girl.” Castle’s shock left him vulnerable to a resurgent Gwen’s attack, she drops a haymaker that sends Castle crashing into different a cop car.
Gwen reluctantly leaves Vulture for the cops and vows to herself that Spider-Woman is not a criminal. Meanwhile, the unknown figure that rushed into the Stacy household is revealed to be their neighbor, Ben Parker. Whilst watching the interaction between Ben and George, Spider-Gwen snakes into the bedroom of her former (boy)friend, Peter Parker.
I'm going to try something different with this commentary. A little good point/bad point regarding this issue of Spider-Gwen. I usually list all the things I liked, then get into the things I didn't like about the story so this will be a change of pace for me.
First bad point involves Detective Frank Castle. He's been depicted thus far as having a short fuse (to say the least) and that he seems to eat/drink/sleep whatever case he's assigned. One assumes that he's been a top-notch detective over the years since he was chosen to lead the task-force assigned to arrest Spider-Woman. But therein lies the problem, Frank Castle is clearly a nut-job, seemingly unfit to be a member of the police let alone lead a task force. My quibble with this detail (Castle going full-costumed vigilante and ignoring the calls from his fellow police officers) involves the storytelling. There's no progression of this descent built into any prior issue; we can tell he's a jerk but why would he forego the appropriate police tactics just put on a costume and go fisticuffs with a 'criminal.' His hatred for Spider-Woman is not even clear, he's waging a personal war on a vigilante and we have no idea why its so personal to him. Moreover, as far as we can tell, his family has not died or anything terribly tragic like that, so what's pushed him over the edge? I feel like the writer is relying too much on 616 dogma (ie, Frank Castle must become the Punisher), without actually developing a story that takes Castle down that path.
First good point, George Stacy and Ben Parker. These two never met in the 616 (perhaps in 616 heaven I suppose), so the writer is seizing the opportunity to have a relationship develop between these two Spider-Verse martyrs and I'm certainly excited to see how this is handled. There could not be a more apt paternal duo to help mentor Gwen into becoming a true hero, hopefully we see this come to fruition.
Second bad point, Gwen's nonsensical deductions at the story's end. Specifically around the fact that she's worried about the Vulture revealing her secret identity to the world, but not Frank Castle?!? Granted Castle may not have recognized her as Gwen Stacy, but he actually unmasked her right outside of George Stacy's house. It is not difficult to imagine that Castle would put two-and-two together and figure out who she was. How was that not a thought in her head? There's three pages of story dedicated to her fight with Castle, how could Gwen not be concerned with the ramifications of that fight?
Second good point, Toomes and Norman Osborn. Mr. Osborn got his first official mention in this issue as someone directly responsible for Toomes' current mental state. The Vulture claimed to have been 'choked into silence' as his work was sold off by Osborn, thus the reason for him getting a little wacky. So we can assume that Norman is once again evil in this universe, the question is how evil. And the second question is how does the Earth-65 Norman Osborn deal with the Earth-65 Gwen Stacy.
I'll end with a few (small) annoyances from the story. First, the Vulture's use of weaponized gas against the Stacys. I can buy that inside their home it was quite effective, but for it to have been able to subdue Spider-Gwen out in the wide-open street was a bit of a stretch. That came off as a little too much of plot device and I had a hard time buying it. Second, Castle's unmasking Spider-Gwen and then saying "you're just a girl"...which ended up being Gwen's 'girl power' moment as she says, "that's right, just a girl". That sequence was a little cliche. Obviously she was of the female gender (she's called Spider-Woman for cripes sake), so the surprise comes in the fact that she's young. She can shoot webs and stick to walls but somehow the fact that she's a young kid astonished Castle. That whole series of events came off a little over the top and unnecessary.
One step forward and two steps back from last issue. Not terrible though and it did build intrigue in a new direction. 2.5 Webs, we'll see what next ish brings.