Comic books have a penchant for killing off love interests for the sake of torturing their heroes and causing ever-escalating levels of dramatic tension within their stories. And of these countless deaths, the murder of Gwen Stacy and the subsequent grief and rage experienced by her boyfriend Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, is one of the defining deaths in comic books.
But for many, the death of Gwen Stacy is a more momentous and famous event in Marvel Comics history than it is a tragic loss of a beloved character. However, all that was redefined in writer Jeph Loeb’s Spider-Man: Blue, a six-issue limited series that ran from July 2002 through April 2003. The series sees Peter recording his spoken memories of the early days of his romance with Gwen, simultaneously processing the grief and happiness of falling in love through the prism of losing her years later.
Spider-Man: Blue was one of four collaborations between writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale for Marvel Comics that focused on a past loss for one of the comic publisher’s iconic heroes. Included in the series are Daredevil: Yellow, which saw hero Matt Murdock reflecting on when he began to fall for Karen Page during his very first days as a hero, Hulk: Gray, which involved Bruce Banner processing his beginnings as The Hulk and tumultuous relationship with Betty Ross, and the long-delayed Captain America: White, which saw Steve Rogers reflect on his time in World War II with friend Bucky Barnes.
In each of these tales, the central protagonists process their long-simmering grief in different ways as they seek to understand their losses and how they can still cherish their time with someone who died in part because of them. Some grow stronger, some wallow in their misery, but each are defined in some way by the departed loved one and the hole left in their lives in the aftermath.
In Spider-Man: Blue, Loeb and Sale strike a balance between very real grief and the joy of falling in love.
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