The Marvel Rundown: It’s Medieval Mayhem in SPIDER-GWEN ANNUAL #1

This week’s Marvel Rundown jumps into the ongoing Contest of Chaos, joining Spider-Gwen and White Fox as they duke it out in the latest summer annual. This review is SPOILER-LITE, so jump on down to the Rapid Rundown for some Spoiler-Free reviews of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men!

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Spider-Gwen Annual #1

Writer: Karla Pacheco
Artists: Rosi Kämpe & Marika Cresta
Color Artist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Cover Artist: R1c0

Contest of Chaos – Part 5
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Alberto Foche
Colorist: Raúl Angulo

This week’s installment in the Contest of Chaos summer smackdown takes us back to medieval times (and I don’t mean dinner theatre), as Spider-Gwen and White Fox square off to defend their respective kingdoms. 

I’m not completely familiar with the premise of this event, but I’m thankful that Spider-Gwen is just as out of place as I am. The issue begins in medias res, as Gwen recounts how she found herself in this medieval world, something White Fox also later does. Stories like these stay fun when it’s possible to jump into an issue without too much context, and Karla Pacheco manages that balance throughout the opening sequence. 

However, the issue feels a bit too disorienting, jumping from scene to scene without any great explanation. We follow Gwen and Ami as they try to retrieve a mysterious orb and escape the strange trap they’ve found themselves in, slowly realizing they’re in Questworld, an abandoned Japanese amusement park. I know this is meant to confuse us, but the switch from setting to setting leaves me lost as opposed to invested as to where we’ll wind up next.

Rosi Kämpe and Marika Cresta, along with colorist Irma Kniivila, do a great job of keeping this story engaging, with well choreographed action and exciting locales. The opening page is drawn to look like a tapestry, and it’s a real standout from the issue. Their styles don’t completely line up, but Kniivila’s colors maintain consistency between both at the point where they swap duties. Ariana Maher is on letters for both stories, and does a great job of differentiating the tones from one to the other.

The stakes don’t ramp up until the very end of the issue, which somewhat hurts the piece. This is, by and large, a standard ‘beat up then team up’ story that doesn’t twist or play with that setup in the slightest. The ending is interesting (I won’t spoil it here), but it’s a conclusion that could be expected from the kind of issue this is supposed to be. 

The backup is from Stephanie Phillips, Alberto Foche, and Raúl Angulo; this does a good job of staying compelling even if it’s only three pages. The ongoing mystery of chaos magic and what it’s doing to the Marvel Universe is very interesting, and having a POV character like Spider-Man allows us to learn alongside him at every revelation. I think reading all of the annuals in this story back-to-back might make parts of this repetitive, but on its own, this caught me up to the story in a way that felt additive, rather than distracting.

Verdict: STRONG BROWSE. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, but there’s not a ton of variation from any of the other versus stories that are already out there.

Rapid Rundown!

Next Week: Matt Murdock returns in Daredevil #1!

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