Thursday, June 2, 2016

'Death of Gwen Stacy' storyline remains brilliant, bone-chilling

Since it appears Marvel Comics is bringing back Gwen Stacy from the dead in writer Dan Slott's upcoming "Dead No More" storyline (look for a short preview here) and THE DEATH OF THE STACYS is at the top of a large pile of still un-read trade paperbacks, it seems more than appropriate to repost this retro-review I did of Stacy's death, a heartbreaking story to this day. 

And come back to CCC for a couple of interviews I did in 2009 and 2010 with the amazing writer who killed off Peter Parker's first love, Gerry Conway. He talks about a number of interesting topics, including the creation of the Punisher, the difference between working for DC and Marvel, his artistic partners and possible age discrimination in the comic book industry. And more!

May 18, 2011 -- “The Death of Gwen Stacy” storyline is about so much more than the very tragic death of Peter Parker’s first love.

Writers Stan Lee (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Nos. 96-98) and Gerry Conway (Nos. 121-122) also tackle drug addiction head-on, specifically with Harry Osborn, Parker’s apartment mate and the son of Spider-Man’s archenemy, the Green Goblin.

In fact, in issue 96, artist Gil Kane draws a drug dealer handing a bottle of unspecified pills to Osborn. Then two pages later, after Osborn (about whom Parker says: “You look sick to me”) accuses Parker of being the cause of Mary Jane Watson breaking up with him — and then rescinds his rash order for Parker to move out.

Next, he’s seen popping a couple pills to “make (him) “feel on top of the world.”

And another two pages later — just as Parker discovers Osborn overdosed — the Green Goblin shows up.

Parker then runs into “the creep” (his words) who sold Osborn “those pills” — and he lets the sleazy drug dealer and his two lackies have it but good. In the first of Conway’s issues in this storyline we see Parker, MJ and Gwen Stacy struggle with coming to terms on why Osborn has become “so desparate” he’d overdose and how they could help him.

Hard-hitting stuff — but don’t forget, so is Gwen’s death.

Not only is it because Gwen is such an easily likable character, but her death is made even more tragic by the fact that she’s in the right place at the wrong time. She comes to Parker and Osborn’s apartment after seeing the latter recuperate at his father’s home, giving the Goblin (who knows Spidey is Parker and is Osborn’s father, Norman) the perfect opportunity to kidnap her.

If Gwen’s death could be even worse, it’s because her neck snaps as Spider-Man grabs her right calf with his webbing as she falls from the Brooklyn Bridge. The Goblin claims she was dead before the fall and Spidey’s gut-reaction response shows how much raw pain he's in, but still …!

Letterer Artie Simek — or his editors — deserves a lot of credit. His small lettering of the “snap!” of Gwen’s neck is so understated, it’s actually overwhelmed by the sound effect higher up in the same panel of Spidey’s webbing hitting home with a loud “SWIK!” on Gwen’s boot.

The combination is as equally brilliant as it is bone-chilling.

Kane, in an equally unforgettable image inked by John Romita Sr. and T. Mortelland, makes you feel every bit of Spider-Man’s righteous indignation as he yells up at the Goblin: “You killed the woman I love and for that, you’re going to die!”

This is one time I actually believe it when a hero makes such a threat. Great work, gentlemen!

Spidey’s (mostly verbal) subsequent attack on the Goblin is just vicious. Not only does Spidey call him “arrogant, elitist (and) merciless with the ethics of a weasel,” he unleashes a barrage of angry and rhetorical questions about his actions and decisions; this rage is still unparalleled in comics.

I’ve never seen Parker look so mad as he struggles with the fact that this “maniac” is the father of his best friend (Harry Osborn), who truly needs a friendly face as he undergoes drastic detox. And Parker can’t provide that.

It’s Spider-Man’s physical attack of the Goblin that is just as brutal and unrelenting as his earlier verbal onslaught. Maybe more so.

Needless to say, it’s disconcerting to see the usually in-control and easygoing wall-crawler so unabashedly go-the-heck-off on the Green Goblin, pummeling him with fist after fist.

And it ends with the Goblin being impaled accidentally by his own glider. (That same concept is used in the first "Spider-Man" film.)

Nobody could give Spidey’s reaction the same justice the way Conway scripted it: “He’s dead. Somehow … I thought it would mean more. “When a man dies — even a man like the Goblin — it should mean something. It shouldn’t just be an accident … a stupid, senseless accident.

“It’s got to have a point so it just doesn’t mean … we live in vain," Spider-Man says.

“Funny. I thought seeing the Goblin die would make me feel better about Gwen. Instead, it just makes me feel empty … washed out … and maybe just a little more alone.”

The creative team’s final page of issue 122 is a slam dunk.

Parker forces MJ to leave the room when he doesn’t believe she’s “torn up” about Gwen’s death. As the text says: “for a moment, she hesitates by the door — and then,”

MJ, with tears falling down her face, stands — pauses — sees Peter still covering his eyes — and closes the door to remain in the room to support her friend.

Beautiful. Heart-wrenching. Just as Gwen’s death is. Grade: A

No comments:

Post a Comment