Warning: SPOILERS for Valkyrie: Jane Foster #2
Spider-Man could save the universe a hundred times over, but it won't change the fact that he failed to save Gwen Stacy's life. Even worse, it appears some of Marvel's heroes know that he was actually the one who (unintentionally) killed her.
In case that sounds outlandish, offensive, or even cruel, its also the truth. While Green Goblin pushed Gwen Stacy off a bridge before Spider-Man's eyes, it wasn't the fall that killed her. It may be hard for Mary Jane to hear, but if Peter Parker had known better than to latch onto Gwen's ankle with his web--snapping her to a stop in a split second--she would still be alive, and Peter would still be with his first love. It's sad enough that Spider-Man and his fans know he accidentally killed her... but Marvel just confirmed that at least some of his fellow heroes share the opinion.
The second issue of Jane Foster's new series as Valkyrie will be remembered for several reasons, the most notable being the heartbreaking (but perfect) death of Heimdall. But before the watchman of Asgard shuffles off this immortal coil, he ends up repeating a bit of Marvel Comics history, taking the spot of Gwen Stacy as he is pushed from a rooftop and sent hurtling to his death.
For your standard Asgardian, falling from a building isn't necessarily as deadly as it would be for one of Spider-Man's girlfriends. But since Heimdall has been impaled twice already, Jane Foster knows that this fall will prove fatal. And so without losing a second of her Thor-era courage, Jane dives from the rooftop after Heimdall in much the same way as Peter Parker on that same fateful night. But where Peter had only his web to rely on, Jane has a tool even better than Mjolnir: Undrjarn the All-Weapon.
As the name suggests, the mystical weapon can become anything the Valkyrie needs it to be. In this case the weapon fires after Heimdall, as Jane hopes to reach and grab his ankle in time to save him from the pavement below. The echo between this scene and Gwen Stacy's suddenly occurs even to Jane. But instead of noting that she is now as helpless as Peter Parker was, she realizes her plan may be just as flawed--since this the exact same way Spider-Man killed his girlfriend.
Its important for fans to remember that not even every reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #121 can agree on Peter's role in Gwen's death. Some retain the 'SNAP!' sound effect placed next to Gwen Stacy's head as Peter's web halts her fall, while others remove it. Presumably, removed to either erase the whiplash being communicated, or because later writers only have the issue itself to inform them. That's a problem in itself since Green Goblin gives yet another cause of death while shouted at a grieving Spider-Man: "Romantic idiot! She was dead before your webbing reached her! A fall from that height would kill anyone — before they struck the ground!"
While demonstrating how much of a jerk Green Goblin was from the beginning, his wording also carries two different interpretations. Is he claiming that falling is fatal? Or acknowledging her speed meant she couldn't be stopped safely, even by Spider-Man? It's strange to think that in an era long before the Internet, the confusion over exactly who or what was to blame for Gwen's death was apparent enough for Marvel to officially explain it to their readers. Months later in The Amazing Spider-Man #125 (Oct. 1973), editor Roy Thomas set the cause of death in stone:
It saddens us to have to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her. In short, it was impossible for Peter to save her. He couldn't have swung down in time; the action he did take resulted in her death; if he had done nothing, she still would certainly have perished. There was no way out.
Many fans were still unwilling to let Peter entirely off the hook, regarding the question of whether or not Peter could have saved her safely. Evidence is offered in Spidey saving falling people before and after Gwen's death by webbing multiple limbs, and Peter has later admitted that Gwen's death is a mistake he never wants to repeat. And who would know if Peter had miscalculated better than the hero himself? Jane Foster may not attach any guilt to Spider-Man, but simply be stating the facts without any reason to sugarcoat them.
But Spider-Man or the readers knowing what really happened, and other heroes knowing is a completely different matter. Jane Foster isn't exactly Spider-Man's confidant, so is it common knowledge that Peter accidentally killed Gwen? Is it Jane's medical background that made her deduce the truth? And most importantly, if the heroes do know he accidentally killed Gwen Stacy (but killed her all the same), have they all just agreed to never mention it in front of him? Perhaps the comic fans may never know... In the meantime, readers can pick up their own issue of Valkyrie, with the official credits and plot synopsis available below:
- Valkyrie: Jane Foster #2
- Written by: Jason Aaron, Al Ewing
- Art by: Cafu
- Cover by: Mahmud A. Asrar
- INTRODUCING THE GOD OF THE KILL – BULLSEYE! The deadliest shot in the Marvel Universe just got his hands on the sword of a god! With the Asgardian weapon Dragonfang, Bullseye has the power to kill a god in a single stroke — and he’s about to prove it. Jane Foster, the newly christened Valkyrie, must learn a hard lesson: Not every death can be prevented. Who is next on Bullseye’s list — and what is the assassin really after?
Valkyrie: Jane Foster #2 is available now from your local comic book shop, or direct from Marvel Comics.