The series where Gwen Stacy is the superhero swinging around Manhattan beating up bad guys is a fan-favourite twist on the Spider-Man mythos. Last week, a great version of Captain America showed up in Spider-Gwen #2. She eats nachos off her shield. I want to see more of her immediately.
The secret ingredient to Spider-Gwen's appeal has been its remixing of familiar heroes. In this alternate reality, the Matt Murdock of Earth-65 is an evil ninja lawyer who works for the Kingpin and Frank Castle is a cop who enjoys busting heads a little too much. Last week, a very different Captain America waded into the middle of Gwen's life to complicate it even further.
The black female Sentinel of Liberty first shows up at the end of Spider-Gwen #1, interrupting Gwen's investigation of underground lizard-men. She punches Gwen in classic hero-meets-hero-for-first-time fashion, triggering a flashback to an origin story that's apparently the stuff of legend on Earth-65.
Like Peter Parker, Steve Rogers is sidelined in this reality, taken out during a Nazi raid that tried to scuttle the secret program to create a metahuman military. Samantha Wilson was the only candidate to survive Project Rebirth and wound up the one fighting fascist super-threats during World War II.
The Spider-Gwen creative team of Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi have made these hero variations seem familiar and fresh at the same time. The same goes for their version of Cap. She's still a woman out of time, but here it's because she got shunted off to an interdimensional limbo and journeyed to strange new realities trying to find her way home. That story beat links this Captain America to a pulpy, radio-serial sci-fi aesthetic that gets teased in a few panels.
It's neat that they made the Earth-65 cap a nod to Sam Wilson, the guy who's wielding the red-white-and-blue shield on mainline Earth-616. But I think it would have been cooler to dig back further into the past of Project Rebirth and make her an analogue of Isaiah Bradley from the 2013 Truth: Red, White and Black series. Bradley was a forgotten hero who gained enhanced abilities as a result of secret, morally reprehensible tests of early versions of the Super-Soldier serum. He does get name-checked, though, so it's not like Latour and company don't know about him.
However, the biggest divergence with this Cap is her quasi-maternal relationship with the Falcon. On Earth-65, the Falcon is a codename for Sam-13, a male teenage clone of Samantha who's just itching to kill someone, anyone.
And, yes, Peggy Carter is the eyepatch-wearing director of S.H.I.E.L.D. on this planet. It's yet another change that makes both longtime readers and new fans coming in from ABC's Agent Carter TV show curious to learn more about the heroes of this reality.
It's not terribly likely that we'll see this Cap in her own series soon, though the lost-in-spacetime element is a set-up for lots of potential stories. But her existence is more evidence that Spider-Gwen is a sharp title that's smartly reconfiguring the best elements of Marvel's superheroes for a new era.