Open Mike Night - Silk #1 & Death of Gwen Stacy

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Silk #1

Written by: Robbie Thompson
Art by: Stacey Lee
Colored by: Ian Herring
Lettered by: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by: Dave Johnson

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro: I think I might have said this in passing last week, but even after reading the first issue of this series, I’m still not sure if:

  1. Silk should exist.

  2. She should have her own book.

The idea that there was a second person who was bitten by the same radioactive spider that got Peter Parker, that was living in a secluded bunker for the last ten years screams “we’ve run out of plots ideas.”  But at the same time (like DC has done with Super-Robin), Marvel has done a pretty good job making me like this character.

Actually, she was a LOT more likeable here than her appearances in Amazing Spider-Man.  She often felt like she was only a plot point there, but she’s finally starting to get her own personality here.  Now that Spider-Verse is over and she's seperated from Peter Parker, she's trying to build a life of her own.  She's got a job at the Daily Bugle, a roommate, and she's searching for her missing family.  All strong elements for a first issue.

And it’s a good thing to have more female characters, and this one is Asian too, so bonus points for diversity!

Weaver: Not just Asian, but a mix of stereotypical and not stereotypical.  She likes hockey, for instance, and while she sort of has a tiger mom, well, I mean...not anymore.  She sort of reminds me of Kevin Tran in Supernatural.

You know, playing with the nature of that spider-bite has been something that has traditionally caused more bad plots than good.  I know some people disagree, but the whole Spider-Totem thing always bothered me.  Right now, I think Silk is not yet a bad plot, but is in danger of being.  This first issue made me think that there’s definitely hope.

Maillaro: The problem with Spider-Totem is that it creates unnecessary complications.  Especially in a shared universe like the Marvel universe.  Now we have mutants, Inhumans, Totems, and then all other super-powered origins.  I did think JMS had some cool idea with that, but I do think it’s something that just can’t really work in the mainstream Marvel universe.

My biggest problem with this book (and we will probably talk about this more next week) is that right after Silk was created, Marvel created Spider-Gwen. Who fills a lot of the same niches, but is also a much more stand-alone character.  Spider-Gwen is also getting her own series, and you already have Spider-Woman.  I just don’t see the market here for three female Spider-titles.

Weaver: The female counterpart of male hero titles have never been strong sellers, and Silk is much more of a female Spider-Man than traditional Spider-Women have ever been. Spider-Girl only stayed on the market so long because of a VERY dedicated fanbase.  Araña faded into obscurity quick.  Jessica Drew never sold well.  I’m not seeing the market either, and maybe even less so when I read Spider-Gwen’s book.  Obviously, Spider-Gwen already has the oneliner market much more covered (although it’s fun in this issue to see Silk trying and failing at it).

That said...unlike Squirrel Girl which we read a while ago, I see this as a book that is a pretty good example of its genre.  Maybe this title will succeed on the strengths of its writing and plot.  It doesn’t have a built in market, but it’s a promising book if people give it a chance and it maintains this quality level.

Maillaro: Yeah, on it’s own, I do think this was a fun first issue, but it’s real hard to look at this comic purely “on it’s own.”  And I keep dwelling on this, we still have the impending cloud of Secret Wars hanging overhead which makes all these new titles seem strange as they might not be around in a few months.  Marvel seems to be making some real messes for themselves here…

Weaver: Or they want to try a bunch of characters out in the court of public opinion before deciding what the post-Secret Wars universe would look like.  I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt there.

Although...the fact that this seems to lead in to a multi-part mystery thriller type thing...seems...if it’s going to be canceled soon, even temporarily, I don’t think this story has enough time to build properly.

Maillaro: Yeah, that is exactly what I am talking about.  It just seems like they are making their lives so complicated.   But, I’m not a professional in the industry so maybe it’s because I can’t see the grand scheme...though I can’t help but think there are some problems with it.  It seems like they are fighting between two models: a huge sweeping change...but still keeping business as usual going.

But that is a huge digression.

Putting all of that aside, I did think Silk was off to a nice start here.  It’s not my favorite Marvel book, but it definitely seems like it has some solid potential.  I will likely keep checking the series out.  It’s definitely above average in art and writing.  I’d give it a solid pair of 3.5’s.

Weaver: I’m going to stop being the Romanian judge for one week and give it a pair of 4’s.  I don’t know if this issue should exist, but the creative team sold me on it as best they could. There’s some problems, the biggest one being the entire set-up of the character, but for what they had to work with, they did really good.

Maillaro: I honestly think those are fair scores either way.  Any problem I had with this book was purely external and really nothing I could directly blame on the creative team.  They did a nice job giving her a distinctive voice, got rid of the horrible costume, and helped give her a little more depth and purpose.  It’s an impressive feat.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #121-122

Written by: Gerry Conway
Pencilled  by: Gil Kane
Inked by: John Romita & Tony Mortellaro
Colored by: David Hunt
Lettered by: Artie Sime

Published by: Marvel

Cover Price: 20 cents/$1.99 on Comixology

Maillaro: So, during the fight with the Green Goblin in the first issue, Spider-Man seems to be suffering from a bad cold.  Gwen dies, and in the rematch, Spider-Man seems to be much better.  The moral of this story is: the fastest way to cure a cold is to have your girlfriend killed…

Weaver: I thought the same thing.  They continued to do the little popping circles around Spider-Man that indicated his illness in the second issue, but he no longer monologued about it or seemed to have it affect him in any way.

I guess the other big question that always gets debated when this issue is discussed is the “SNAP” sound effect.  Does Spider-Man personally kill Gwen?  And if he does, was it honestly any worse than what would have happened if he doesn’t send the webline out?  This has been Monday Morning Quarterback fodder for forty years.  Personally, I think yeah, she died from the webline stopping her fall suddenly, but she’s unconscious and plummeting into the river.  Spider-Man very much is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Maillaro: I have a lot I want to talk about in regards to this issue, but we can definitely start there.   Goblin seems to be saying that he really had no way to save her, the fall from that height was going to kill her no matter what.  But I’ve always thought that SNAP sound effect suggested otherwise.  To me, she was a goner either way.  

Weaver: In the foreward of my trade version, Ralph Macchio (who, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do with this issue) says that none of the creative team seemed to know who put the SNAP in.  As for Goblin...yeah, Norman is raving insane here, and I’m not sure his science is true...after all, people have survived going over Niagara Falls...but...yeah, by the time Parker can react, she’s going to be dead regardless.

Is it weird that as much of the guilt Peter feels is about Gwen’s death, I think the thing he should actually feel guilty about is just totally walking away from bed-ridden mentally ill Harry Osborn while Harry is begging him to stay?  Yeah, Harry is the victim of his own choices and such a poor little rich boy, but he’s also been Peter’s friend forever and one of the few people who, to this point, was consistently in the friend column.  When he’s begging Peter to stay, I get that Pete’s full of rage about Gwen and saw visiting Harry as a means to an end of getting vengeance, but no matter the timeline of when he hunted Norman down, Gwen was still going to be dead.

Maillaro: The cover for issue 121 teases us with “SOMEONE IS GOING TO DIE” and if you read the comic without any knowledge of what’s coming next, it definitely seemed setup to suggest Harry was a goner.  Dude was dropping acid and tripping balls the entire issue.  He seemed pretty much toast.  

I was also amused by the cover which suggested that his Spider-Sense was telling him someone was about to die.  I didn’t know his Spider-Sense worked that way.  Then again, his spider-sense seems pretty inconsistent on how it works over the years.  

Weaver: I dunno...I was thinking about “if I didn’t know, who would I have thought?” and it wasn’t Harry.  I actually was thinking Aunt May, since she doesn’t appear at all in the issue, Spidey’s not living with her, it would be an easy snatch and grab for Norman.  But Harry’s in bad shape.  I can give Pete a bit of a “Gwen died” excuse, but I still think that especially knowing how it all works out, he should really regret that cold shoulder.

Going back to the death, something I really like about this story.  I really believe that no matter what Spider-Man did in either instance, Gwen and Norman were both going to die, and Spidey has a pretty interesting monologue to himself about Norman’s death.  It’s so anticlimactic.  And not because it was executed poorly, it’s because it was intended to be anticlimactic (since Spider-Man points that out).

Maillaro: Yeah, I thought the confrontations that lead to Gwen and later the Goblin’s deaths were both very well done.  There were some cool parallels to the end of Spider-Verse where Spider-Girl is tempted to kill the man who killed her family, but decides against it because it’s just not her nature.  Though Norman still gets his in the end here.  Until they decide to bring him back decades later.  

One thing that bugs me about this (and a lot of old Spider-Man stories) is that Peter Parker can be a real a-hole at times.   I started reading Spider-Man in the 90’s, where he was a settled down, married, mostly well adjusted dude.  Peter tends to treat people like crap in a lot of these stories.  He’s a jerk towards Robbie and in the end, he kind of treats MJ like crap too, “Hey, I’m mourning here. Get your own comic series if you want to be sad about Gwen’s death.”

Weaver: A lot of Goblin retcons made this issue make a lot less sense, because we don’t get Norman taunting Peter with, “And I totally banged her the whole time she was quote unquote in London.”  But I can’t hold bad retcons against a comic.

Maillaro: I actually was thinking some about that when reading this book.  The timeline for “Sins Past” makes even less sense that I thought it did.  Norman was still amnesia-stricken here and didn’t even remember being evil or the Green Goblin.  So, how the hell did he come up with the evil plan to knock up Gwen?  That story was always off, but when you really think about it, it gets even worse.

Weaver: Side point...Parker says that MJ wouldn’t be sad if her own mother died.  Wasn’t her own mother already dead?  I know MJ lived with her aunt as a parallel to Peter, but I can’t remember exactly why and google isn’t helping me.  If so...then that is cold as hell.

Maillaro: I am almost positive you are right about that.  I don’t remember any specific comics about MJ’s parents, but they have always been out of the scene as far as I know.  So they are either dead or their relationship with their daughter is just that bad where the line ends up being in bad taste either way.

Weaver: What’s funny to me about Pete being a jerk is how Jonah has to be a King Kong megajerk in order to set the contrast of Pete being the “nice” guy.  It’s also funny how later we discover that Flash Thompson never saw himself as a “bad” guy either, but Flash isn’t in this issue, so that’s beside the point.

You know what really stands out to me in this issue, and I love?  How Gil Kane captures Peter’s face after Gwen’s death.  That emotion is really on.  I thought Romita did the penciling since I saw a lot of romance comics notes, and he got his start in romance, but it turns out it was Romita inking over Gil Kane.  And possibly helping out with the pencils too, because in my trade, he seems to indicate that he had some control over the creation of the issue.

Maillaro: I definitely think it looked very Romitaish, but what do I know.  

All in all, I think these two issues definitely deserve legendary status.  They truly deliver on what they promised.  

OH!  One quick thing...I actually had no idea that the two “deaths” were in two separate issues.  I really thought it was “Gwen died” and right after “Goblin kills himself.”  That surprised me that there was so much time for Peter to dwell on what happened to Gwen before he and Osborn had their final confrontation.

Weaver: I initially thought it happened in the same encounter too, before reading it.  But it gave us Peter trying to talk himself into vengeance, which was pretty great.  A lot of people mark this as the end of the Silver Age, and it’s easy to see why.  Gwen Stacy got fridged off a bridge when fridging wasn’t cool.  So that’s kind of a blurry accomplishment, since it made the female paramours of our heroes very much fair game.  Still, they can’t help it if people tried to copy it.  I know Stan Lee was allegedly furious about it and claims they published these while he was on vacation.

Anyway, legendary comics.  And they hold up.  Alright, Parker, take your pair of 5’s, but I still think that was a dick move to say the whole mother thing to MJ.  Especially coupled with the whole “go have fun, you hate sick beds.”  Where was MJ at issue’s start?  Harry’s sick bed.  What’s Pete’s solution when he gets them kicked out?  “Let’s go have Cokes!”

Maillaro:  LOL!  Yeah, it’s a good think we rate comics and not characters, because Peter would really  would have forced me to lower my marks.  But instead, I go 5 for the story, but 4.5 for the art.  There was one panel where Peter looked real freaky that actually made me stop and stare at the page for a while.  I hate when art interrupts my reading flow. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small issue, but it really stuck with me.

Maillaro: It may seem a little redundant, but as I hinted earlier, I really want to do Spider-Gwen next week.  

Weaver: I’m all for Spider-Gwen.  As of now, I’m not sure what mystery comic I want to pull out of the longbox.  I’ll let you know this week.

Maillaro: Sounds good to me!  That’s about it for this week!  Thanks for reading!

Final Scores


Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Silk #1





Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #121-122