Open Mike Night - Spider-Gwen #1/Amazing Spider-Man #131 (Aunt May goes Nuclear!)

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

Open Mike Night

by Mike Maillaro and Mike Weaver


Spider-Gwen #1

Written by: Jason Latour
Art by: Robbi Rodriguez
Colored by:  Rico Renzi
Lettered by: VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover by: Robbi Rodriguez

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro: Spider-Gwen, Spider-Gwen, does whatever a Spider ken.   

Before we get to reviewing the issue itself, I want to go on record that I really liked the Edge of Spider-Verse story that introduced us to Spider-Gwen, and her brief appearances in Spider-Verse were terrific.  She also gave us the phrases “fridged from a bridge” which might be my favorite quote in comics ever.

All in all, I thought the world they are building here was kind of fun.  Take a lot of familiar names (everyone from Ben Grimm and Frank Castle), apply them to completely different situations and see what happens.  But at the same time, I was kind of bugged by HOW different the universe was.  It almost feels like you could have slapped any names on these characters and it wouldn’t have changed the book all that much.  

This doesn’t feel quite like an alternate reality Spider-Man story as much as a new superhero book that just uses familiar names.  Think Tangent or Just Imagine...both of which will be featured in future editions of Crisis on Infinite Mikes...on sale now!

Weaver: I found the reality very hit or miss.  Some things were pretty fascinating to see, and I liked the Mary Janes especially here, but I didn’t feel like Grimm really fit in, and I especially didn’t like “everything is different...same old Vulture.”  At least so far, there is nothing to really distinguish him from the original reality Vulture.

That said, Gwen’s banter is pretty good, and I like the graffiti angle, especially the graffiti “trap” to lure in Vulture.  As far as interesting me in the next issue, I have to say...if I could choose only one of Silk #2 and Spider Gwen #2, Silk all the way.

Maillaro: I think you kind of have to include Spider-Woman in that discussion, and that book is actually far better than either of them...come to think about it that is where Spider-Gwen said the Fridged from a bridge line…

On a whole, I did enjoy this issue, but like I said about Silk last week, I keep having to ask myself “Does this book need to exist?”  When I started reading comics, I would have cringed if you told me that “not only will Gwen Stacy be back, but Marvel will be putting out a book where she’s “Spider-Man.”

Weaver: It used to be that Gwen, Ben, and Bucky were the three people you Just Didn’t Resurrect, so I’d agree times a billion.  I’m totally fine with a glimpse into a world where it’s Peter who died and Gwen who’s the hero, but I think that’s best left to a What If or similar title.  I’m going to imagine this is all backstory leading into Gwen making the jump to the original universe, and I’m less than thrilled about that idea too.  I can’t think of a character from another reality that I truly enjoyed being thrown into the main universe, sorry Nate Grey.

Maillaro: With Secret Wars looming supposedly it’s all going to be one universe anyway.  There is a Spider-Verse series that will be part of Secret Wars, so I suspect she’ll be showing up there anyway.   And I agree that it would be better to keep this character isolated in her own universe.  Sort of a real Ultimate Universe arrangement.  It would go a long way towards keeping this book unique and giving it purpose.

Weaver: Sadly, that’s where I am.  I like Spider Gwen as a character.  I think this issue is above average even though it has some serious flaws.  But I think that this was a kind of wasted effort.  You know, it breaks me up a bit that every one of the new #1’s we review has a letters page with “How did this comic come to be?”  Which is almost, to me, admitting that making something like this was a stretch.

Maillaro: And sadly, pretty much without fail, those books don’t have any chance of reaching 15 issues.  At this point, the industry seems to be held up entirely by pillars like Batman and Spider-Man, licenses from other works (Star Wars and Dark Towers have both been huge sellers for Marvel) and big events.  I know people complain a lot about events, but they consistently sell, and they help support books that might not exist otherwise.  

And whatever happened to the mini-series to test the waters out for a full launch?  That seems like it would have been a much better approach for Spider-Gwen.  I would have felt far more comfortable committed to a four issue limited series that has a definite end that buying another series that who knows how long it will take to get anywhere, and if the series will even be around long enough to give it a real shot.

Weaver: And as a sidepoint to that, I can’t help but read things like this and Squirrel Girl and Silk and think...they canceled Morbius and Fearless Defenders and put out...this? Honestly?

I think Marvel should go back to having an anthology title.  Marvel Comics Presents usually sold pretty well, and gave a lot of characters a bit of a story try-out.  I would buy something like that.  Now, with you mentioning Batman and Spider-Man holding up the entire industry, I can’t help but think that’s why there’s so many attempts to build a new comic that can be easily back door piloted in Spider-Man and fills the same niche, or a similar one.

Maillaro: Oh definitely.  In the past few years alone, we’ve gotten Scarlet Spider, New Mutants, Venom, Morbius, and now Silk, Spider-Woman, and Spider-Gwen all spinning off from the main Spider-Man title with mixed results.  It’s kind of odd, since back in the day, you would have just had four Spider-Man series.  Instead, you get a bunch of different spin-off titles.  I don’t know which approach is better.

An anthology book would really make a lot more sense right now.  They can even consider doing it digitally to keep the cost down.

Scores...I really thought the design for most of the characters was real basic.  Not a lot that inspired me.  I love Spider-Gwen, but that’s it.  The art isn’t bad, just nothing that really excited me.  3 for the art.  And I can’t bring myself to go higher than 3.5 for the writing, and even that is just because it was so different.  

Weaver: I fully agree with those scores.  Every character but Spider Gwen was not very interesting, and while I liked the graffiti and such, I just...there wasn’t enough good here to pop it above a 3.  As for the writing, the different nature of the comic was a mixed bag for me, but I want to give it some props for coming out of the gate without falling flat on its face, which I suspected one or more of these titles would.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #131

Written by: Gerry Conway
Art by: Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia, and D. Hunt
Colored by: P. Goldberg
Lettered by: Artie Simek

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: 20 cents ($1.99 on Comixology)

Weaver: Last week, we talked about how the Death of Gwen Stacy is seen as the end of the Silver Age.  If so, this story less than a year later is the Silver Age’s last desperate attempt to claw back in.

Where to start.  As the story opens, Doc Ock is trying to marry Aunt May, and both Spider-Man and Hammerhead are trying to break it up.  Ock ushers her out to a waiting helicopter with Hammerhead in hot pursuit in his own wacky futuristic helicopter conveniently parked nearby which he uses to follow Ock to his destination.  Spider-Man hitches a ride on Hammerhead’s helicopter to follow along.  The only person who knows where Octavius  is going is the doctor himself, who clearly must see this wacky giant helicopter following, but makes no effort to lose it.  They travel to a remote Canadian island.  A remote Canadian island...with a privately owned nuclear reactor AND an abundance of uranium.  I love you, Silver Age.  Never change.

Maillaro: One thing that really amazed me about this campy little story is HOW LONG it’s been going.  The issue makes references as far back as Amazing Spider-Man 113 (apparently Aunt May was working as a housekeeper for Ock at the time...which somehow gave him access to her mail).

I have a lot of questions about this issue...but there is one real major one….who exactly left Aunt May this incredible inheritance?  Clearly she’s got some rich family members, and yet the Parkers always seemed to be struggling.  You’d think they could just some help from rich Uncle Nukepants.  Someone clearly thought enough of May to leave her a nuclear factory.   

Weaver: I wondered that too, and as an ancillary question, how often does someone of May’s age actually inherit things except from their spouse?  Not real often.  May doesn’t seem to know what she has either, so maybe the letter went to the wrong person.

As a side point here, how does Hammerhead not recognize a nuclear reactor?  He sees the island and everything on it and thinks that he went all this way and bought this spiffy helicopter for nothing.  At the very least, it would seem like any structure on the island would make it more than the total waste of time he bitches about it being.  And if you could make a plane specially modified so anyone could fly it...why not make ALL planes like that?

Maillaro: Yeah, Hammerhead’s entire presence in this book is odd.  He’s damn entertaining, in his ridiculous plane, but it seems he’s basically just there to help blow up Doctor Octopus in the end.  That was one hell of an explosion...I imagine the nuclear fallout will have devastated the Marvel Universe for years to come.   Or it will never be mentioned or the other.

Weaver: It actually was mentioned again when they were in the process of bringing Hammerhead back from the dead.  I barely remember those issues, but I recall him being like a ghostly presence due to being irradiated so badly (Radiation is good for you, kids!).  Which also...count the corpses here, there’s zero.  Also, there didn’t seem to be anyone, you know, working at the deadly nuclear reactor.  Otto was back within a year, Hammerhead not much later.

Maillaro: The workers all went on strike when they found out their new owner was a senile old biddy with a heart condition.  By the way, I like that Aunt May seems to have gotten younger and healthier over the years.  These days, she’s married to JJJ’s father, and seems to be having the time of her life.  Whatever medical advice she’s been getting, I need to follow it.  Maybe it was all the radiation…

Weaver: Maybe it was medical mary jane or something, because she really doesn’t seem all that bothered by anything in this issue.  She’s smiling far after it makes sense to smile.

We could poke holes in this comic all day long.  Why doesn’t Ock use his tentacles to grab Hammerhead and stop the explosion from happening?  Does Hammerhead really think that if Octavious wants something, it’s something he has to have too, like a bratty child?  And I’ll go ahead and give the Bat Shark Repellent Memorial Isn’t That Convenient Award to the plane that is specially modified so anyone can fly it.  But honestly, all this camp and idiocy...made for a very entertaining comic.  And the cover.  Oh, that cover.  Horrible pun with “I thee web”, but just glorious all in all.

Maillaro: You might be onto something with the drugged out Aunt May...someone was definitely smoking something when this idea was being tossed around and ended up actually happening.  

You really have to shut your brain off and say, “I am going to enjoy this issue, despite problems so big you can drive a stylish plane through…”  But I still really had a lot of fun reading it.  Although, I do wonder how I would have felt as a reader at the time, who had been following this story for around 20 issues, and that was the resolution they gave you…

Weaver: Here’s how I feel about this issue.  It was fun and I liked it, but I really don’t want to encourage anyone to make more comics like this, ever.  And the story, sadly enough, doesn’t even end here.  It’s been about 25 years since I’ve read it, but the comic where Ock comes back to life keeps tying in to this same plot.

Maillaro: Well, you can’t just leave all that uranium sitting around.  Something has to be done with it…

Now I want to see a comic where May sells off the uranium and hires Morgan Freeman to drive her everywhere.  Make this happen Marvel!!

Weaver: I almost want to give the story a giant asterisk because there’s no way to accurately reflect it in a five point scale.  Pure fun factor, it’s a high mark.  Tightly plotted story it’ we do negative numbers?  But the art, I’m giving it a 4.5 because of Hammerhead’s ride, if nothing else.  And the cover.  Oh, that cover.

Maillaro: Last week, I gave 121-122 a 4.5 for the art, and I’m sticking to that here.  The comic looked real good, and the quirks just fit with the story.  

The story...your asterisk is probably the right answer, but I think I feel that I have to give it a score just for the permanent record (one day, I really do plan on putting all our scores into one big running list).  A 3 is fair...but I really could range from a 2-4 on this one.  Maybe even a 4.5 depending on how silly my mood is...

Weaver: I was trying to think how I would have felt about reading this comic new (I first read it in a reprint), and I think...especially after the Gwen Stacy stuff, we needed a few light throwaway WTF issues, except...this wasn’t a throwaway, this was The Plot.

Maillaro: And a long running Plot no less.  I don’t think I can say that enough!

Weaver: I love the Silver Age, and their silly and campy things like Aunt May being Otto’s housekeeper and inheriting nuclear reactors, so I’ll be a bit more charitable and sneak it up to a 3.5 since I feel guilty about the asterisk.

Maillaro: Next time. We’ve really been hitting Marvel heavy lately.  But I don’t see anything on my list DC-wise that is just jump right in.  They still don’t have “Previously in...” pages, and a lot of stuff is winding down towards Convergence.  

But Image has a new series called Descender that kind of looks like my speed…

Weaver: Sold.  So, if we’re going Indy, I have here on my desk a comic I haven’t fully read that you may have heard of somewhere or other before.  Walking Dead?

Maillaro: Wow, we’re going mainstream!  Yeah, I’m in.  First volume?  I actually have it through Humble Bundle.

Weaver: Yeah, I have Days Gone Bye here, and wanted an excuse to read it.

Maillaro: Perfect!  Programming note.  I am away until Thursday next week, so there will probably not be a Crisis on Infinite Mikes.  But Open Mike Night should be out normal time.

Weaver: Enjoy your trip!  Sad that we don’t get to review any real old goofy things next week, but that’s sometimes how it goes.  See you then.

Final Scores


Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Spider-Gwen #1





Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #131