After months of guest artists and involvement in the “Spider-Women” event, the core creative team, writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez, is back with a brand new story in SPIDER-GWEN #9 that eschews the event’s dimension hopping in favor of a story set solely within Gwen’s world. That’s not to say that the events of the last few months are inconsequential, as Gwen’s loss of her powers in the crossover looms large.

READ: Catch up on the last issue of SPIDER-GWEN here!

SPIDER-GWEN #9 begins with the New York DA informing Detective Frank Castle that he’s not going to pursue charges against Gwen Stacy for being Spider-Woman, as Castle has provided little solid evidence and it would simply be seen as PR move against Gwen’s whistleblowing father. Not one to take no for an answer, we learn that Frank is stalking our titular heroine. Gwen meanwhile is despondent at the loss of her powers and the apparent uselessness of her time under the mask and wary of how and when to use the limited supply of “super charge” pills that return her powers for brief periods. Eventually, she decides to go out with her friends in The Mary Janes to try and pull out of her funk.

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The night out, highlighted by a trip to a rock club where she crowd-surfs, initially provides Gwen with the emotional respite she desired. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when the trip leaves the club as Gwen realizes she’s now paranoid of everything and everyone around her. The girls arrive at the newly rebuilt Hot Dog restaurant Gwen worked at until it was destroyed in her battle with the Green Goblin. There they learn that the former owner was forced to sell his business due to the battle, which  drives a guilty Gwen to nearly get rid of her power pills and permanently give up the superhero game. However, the book’s conclusion not only stops her but also potentially alters the series’ status quo from here on out.

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While I mostly enjoyed Gwen’s part in “Spider-Women,” I was really hoping  the series would be getting back to stories set on Gwen’s Earth with this issue. I’m happy to say that not only did they do so but Latour and Rodriguez also turned out a truly spectacular issue. As with a vast majority of SPIDER-GWEN stories told since the character was introduced, this one revolves more around Gwen’s character than the particular plot, and it’s one of the series’ best. Instead of crafting a cliche “I must get my powers back at any cost” story, Latour’s script explores whether Gwen truly wants to get them back at all. This is beautifully expressed in a novel way early on in the issue when Gwen writes out all her hopes and fears in a text message to Glory, only to then delete it and simply go out with the girls instead.

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From there, I really liked how the story found Gwen grappling with the pros and cons of being Spider-Woman. Her split between wanting to help people and protect herself vs wanting to be free to live her life and rid herself of the guilt she feels from her actions really resonated with me. Thanks to years of reading comics, I know that Gwen will eventually get her powers back, but I can truly see both sides of her emotional conflict and frankly think both have merit.

The only thing close to a weak point in the book’s script is the on-going Frank Castle storyline. It’s never been one of my favorite parts of the SPIDER-GWEN mythos, and the way it was used early in this story didn’t help. However, the end of the issue gave me hope that this particular storyline is about to get much more interesting.

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Robbi Rodriguez really outdoes himself upon his return to the series after a few months off. His visual storytelling is breathtaking as usual, and it should be noted that outside of one brief flashback panel Gwen doesn’t appear in costume at all. It’s simply human drama for the entirety of the issue, and Rodriguez and colorist Rico Renzi nail it. Two sequences, in particular, stand out to me. The first is the aforementioned text message scene. Rodriguez’s pencils and Renzi’s colors take an everyday, mundane physical task and imbue it with all of the pain and turmoil Gwen is feeling inside. Secondly, I loved the crowd surfing scene. The way Gwen’s body positioning and posture changes as she briefly is able to let go of her pain and worry is really well done.

SPIDER-GWEN #9 is a home run issue from Latour and Rodriguez. It firmly plants the book back in Gwen’s universe and tells an emotional tale that’s sure to pull at the heartstrings of longtime fans. At the same time, the issue’s ending definitely sets up for big things to come and makes it a good jumping on point for new readers.

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