Move over Spider-Gwen. Gwen Stacy is taking on a whole new superhero identity in Marvel's summer 2021 Heroes Reborn event, this time inspired by a different hero since Spider-Man doesn't exist in the story's reality.
Instead of taking after Peter Parker (who is a kind of Jimmy Olsen-esque 'pal' for Hyperion, the Squadron Supreme/Heroes Reborn equivalent of Superman), she'll go all the way to the other end of the DC-pastiche spectrum as Night-Gwen, a sidekick for the Squadron's Batman equivalent Nighthawk, effectively making Gwen Stacy the Heroes Reborn 2021 universe’s equivalent of Batgirl, with a little bit bit of Harley Quinn thrown in for good measure.(opens in new tab)
SyfyWire (opens in new tab), who announced the one-shot by writer Vita Ayala and artist Farid Karami, describes the Heroes Reborn version of Gwen Stacy (Dr. Gwendolyn Stacy to you) as "Ravencroft Asylum's most prominent psychiatrist," who is hunting down a new arch-enemy named the Jackal as Nightbird (her actual codename). The Jackal is, in mainstream Marvel terms, a villain who is secretly Miles Warren, a geneticist who is obsessed with cloning Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy.
What's interesting is, the solicitation for May 19's Heroes Reborn #3 states that the Phoenix is an inmate at Ravencroft – a detail that may have actually revealed who the new Pheonix host will be in the core Marvel Universe.
"I've always loved these types of stories, and being asked to write a re-imagined Gwen Stacy is such a thrill! It was a really fun chance to get to explore and play with boundaries with a new version of an incredibly iconic character," Ayala tells SyfyWire. "Plus, the team had a lot of fun putting in little Easter Eggs for everyone to find!"
Nightbird's costume was designed by none other than Avengers main series artist Javier Garrón, who has drawn the bulk of the current 'Enter the Phoenix' arc, which leads into Heroes Reborn 2021.
"I like to think every costume must tell its own story. So here we had Gwen modeled after her mentor, Nighthawk, but very much a superhero in her own right," Garrón tells SyfyWire of his design process. "I wanted her to keep the color codes and main outline in the shoulders (so the silhouette would be reminiscent of Nighthawk's) and mask. Give it a modern but slightly classical favored touch."(opens in new tab)
"She has some armored parts and a more contemporary construction and tailoring of elements (like the neck, or how the cape and chest symbol assemble)," he continues. "But the main section of the costume is spandex. She has a full face mask but the lower part can be dismantled and keep only the more classic top part (which is also a nod, in its shape, to Nighthawk).
"She has her hair loose, not covered by the mask, but the hairstyling is more complex as we do these days."
Night-Gwen isn't Nighthawk's only sidekick either – he's also got the Falcon. In the timeline of Heroes Reborn 2021, the current Falcon is Miles Morales (again, no longer inspired by Spider-Man since he doesn't exist in that reality). But he's also a legacy hero in his own right, much like Batman's sidekick Robin, having taken the place of the original Falcon, Sam Wilson.
In a weird twist, one of the other Heroes Reborn 2021 one-shots Marvel announced this week reveals that the original Falcon, Sam Wilson, was killed in the '70s (in the Heroes Reborn 2021 timeline) by the Green Goblin – taking the place of none other than Gwen Stacy in a version of the story Amazing Spider-Man: The Night Gwen Stacy Died (opens in new tab).
(Night Gwen Stacy Died... Night Gwen... Coincidence?)
What's clear from this is that just as Heroes Reborn 2021 has expanded Hyperion's comparisons to Superman by giving him his own past as a Superboy-esque young hero and a Jimmy Olsen-like sidekick, Nighthawk's Batman pastiche is getting deeper with a revolving set of dead sidekicks culled from Spider-Man's supporting cast, and even his own Batgirl in Night Gwen.
The DC pastiche is all 100% intentional, by the way – it's baked into the origins of the Squadron Supreme as sort of parodies of the Justice League created to let the Avengers fight DC's top heroes when a real crossover wasn't possible.
In fact, we've got good reason to believe there's a strong reason Marvel is leaning heavier and heavier into its DC homage for the story, under the guise of celebrating the 25th anniversary of its 1996 Heroes Reborn event.
Night-Gwen #1 is due out in June. Keep an eye out for Marvel's full June 2021 solicitations later this month right here on Newsarama.
Gwen Stacy's death and her return as Spider-Gwen in Spider-Verse are both part of the best Spider-Man stories of all time.