Radioactive Spider-Gwen #2 has fun quips, a creative take on the Captain America mythos, and the usual stylized, bouncy art from Robbi Rodriguez and garish colors from Rico Renzi. But unfortunately for a second straight issue, Spider-Gwen seems like a supporting player in her own story to Cap and her dad, the final page cliffhanger is a not that funny in-joke, and the focus seems to be more on the dead Peter Parker than the living Gwen Stacy. It’s like if the issues of Amazing Spider-Man were fixated on Gwen instead of bringing in the Punisher or doing the first actually, good “Clone Saga”. (Gerry Conway had a great run on that title.) Spider-Gwen #2 isn’t a horrible comic by any means, but the book has yet to top Edge of Spider-Verse #2 (Spider-Gwen’s origin) in the monthly series.
However, there are several delightful things about Spider-Gwen #2. First, there is the comedy, both physical and through dialogue. The funniest sequence of the comic features Spider-Gwen making non-stop dad jokes in an attempt to get Captain America (who is an African American female and called Samantha Wilson in this universe) to lose her cool. Even funnier is Rodriguez’s reaction shots of Cap, who is just punching, flipping, and kicking, but says, “Heh” with a stone-cold glare on her face. Rodriguez and Renzi show how embarrassingly outclassed Gwen is in this fight with red streaking everywhere and wrapping up the brief battle with a sucker punch punctuated by Clayton Cowles’ pink lettering. Rodriguez’s cartoon-y style gives these action scenes a lot of fun, bounce and rhythm to them, but he tightens his lines during the serious talking parts like when George Stacy tells Uncle Ben that Spider-Gwen wasn’t Peter’s killer and that he isn’t afraid to go outside the law to apprehend the real killer.
Samantha Wilson’s two page origin sequence with its Jack Kirby-style poses and an emphatic color palette from Renzi that reminded me of Tim Sale’s current work on Captain America: White is a study in the economy of superhero storytelling. Latour and Rodriguez show readers that Captain American (Even in the 1940s.) doesn’t have to be a blond, white, straight man and has to be an overlooked underdog, who fights for freedom. They even throw in some of the more fantastical elements of Cap stories and take a page from Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch’s Captain America: Reborn by having her fight through time back to the present. (With a fun cameo from Devil Dinosaur along the way.) But this tight, focused flashback becomes bloated as Latour introduces all kinds of supporting characters to Spider-Gwen #2, including Cap’s clone sidekick Falcon-13, Peggy Carter, Director of SHIELD, and S.I.L.K., an HYDRA-esque secret society with a penchant for genetic experimentation. Basically, they end up hogging the spotlight along with the long dead Peter Parker. That two pager does act as an excellent back-door pilot for a possible Samantha Wilson, Captain America spinoff, which would be a lot of fun as it could explore both the race and gender politics of the 1940s along with having fun, time travel and killer robot shenanigans.
Instead of letting Spider-Gwen web swing, fight crime, and be in a band (No Mary Janes members appear in this issue.) on her own, Radioactive Spider-Gwen #2 is all about Peter Parker from Curt Connors’ non-stop cries about him to the conversation between George Stacy and Uncle Ben, which should be a key subplot, but actually bookends the issue’s story. (If you don’t count the Bodega Bandit tag at the end.) Yes, solving Peter Parker’s murder while avoiding the NYPD would make a compelling story, but Latour swerves away from this mystery plot to world build some more with the introduction of Captain America and her cohorts. And despite getting a compelling origin story, Spider-Gwen and Cap barely get to talk to each other about heroism or really anything as they go to the next action beat with more characters flooding in. Radioactive Spider-Gwen #2 has some funny moments, introduces a great new character to the Marvel library of characters, and fun art and colors from Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi, but falls short of its full potential as a title.