It was the same tingling pain she had been feeling everyday for the last two weeks when she first woke up in the morning, a sensation that began like clockwork when she first woke up and then went away after a few minutes, only to return the next morning. Tossing her duvet aside, and shaking her long, waist-length hair as she got out of bed, Gwen Stacy was briefly struck by the sight of her mane being a long jet-black colour.
Long, sure...but black?
Shaking her head, Gwen stepped up to the mirror, finding to her relief that her hair was the same blonde colour it had always been. Deciding that she must have just been imagining things, Gwen proceeded to get washed and dressed for the day's classes.
Looking at the young woman and her surroundings, it was not difficult to see why she was so popular among many of the guys at Empire State University: a gorgeous nineteen year-old blonde with a model's figure, living in a comfortably furnished apartment in one of New York's better neighbourhoods, Gwen was the daughter and only child of George Stacy, one of New York's sharpest lawyers and investors, close friend of Norman Osborn, one of the city's most famous industrialists and business tycoons. Her attire, even on this cold morning in early December 2006, was impeccably tasteful and well-fitting.
As she took the elevator to the ground floor on her way to school, Gwen twitched as she felt the same uncomfortable tingling begin again, just for a moment. An annoyed scowl crossed her face before she forced herself to remain calm. Fortunately, the feeling soon passed and she banished all the thoughts from her mind, keeping herself focused on her lines for her upcoming solo performance.
That was one thing Gwen had always found fascinating-the actor's ability to change roles and costumes, masks and personae, to keep some things hidden while bringing others into the open.
"WEB OF FATE
"Hey, sweetie!" Gwen heard a voice behind her as she turned into the main campus quad. Turning around, she greeted her friend Liz Allan with a thin smile as the latter came running up. The twenty-year old Nursing student gave Gwen a hug, embracing her briefly before joining her on her walk to class.
"You have fun last night, Liz?" Gwen asked.
"Oh, you know Harry," Liz rolled her eyes. "Dinner at a high-end restaurant, movie screening at his dad's private theatre, clubbing until midnight. It's like clockwork with that guy-just like his dad. Too bad you couldn't make it-Harry was asking about you. Why are you so crazy for those martial arts classes, anyway?"
"It's like I keep telling you, Liz," Gwen answered sharply. "You know how many of those criminal lunatics the police and the superheroes catch on any given week? And those are the ones they don't miss! You can't always expect those guys to-"
"Okay, okay!" Liz said, surprised at Gwen's tone of voice. "Well today's Friday. You up for going out tonight? Harry'll be there, Flash, Hobie, Kitty, Kenny, maybe Peter and Mary Jane..."
"What time?" Gwen asked. "I"ll be at be at the dojo working out until about half after six or so, but I'm good for afterward, If you like Where are you thinking of going?"
"I was going to get some dinner around seven, then maybe I can come by?" Liz asked.
"Sounds good," Gwen nodded.
"Are you kidding?" Gwen had the distinct displeasure of hearing as she walked into Drama class later that day. "I can't believe you're wearing white-I mean, it's winter!"
Felicia Hardy, Gwen groaned inwardly as she stepped into class. Probably picking on-
"What does it matter to you, anyway?" another girl's voice cut in, this one with a French accent. Two girls stood facing one another, one tall and slim with platinum blonde hair, and the other rather shorter, dresses in an odd combination of dark blue and white and wearing a large orchid in her hair. Felicia Hardy and Marie-Ange Colbert had known-and hated-each other ever since their days at Midtown High.
"You never get tired of that, do you," Gwen asked, a harsh tone in her voice as she addressed Felicia.
"Of what, telling the truth?" Felicia said airily.
"No, of being a total..." Gwen caught herself. "Forget it, you're just not worth it," she muttered. "Are you alright?" she continued turning to Marie-Ange.
"Stay out of this, Stacy," Marie-Ange stormed."Like I need any pity from you."
"Well, excuse me for trying to help, you stupid- Gwen stormed back, before walking away with a scowl as their professor came in.
Gwen didn't know which infuriated her more-Felicia's attitude, or the tone Marie-Ange adopted when she retorted to Felicia's insults.
A two-punch was followed with a devastating spin kick as Gwen repeatedly struck the punching bag, falling into a steady rhythm. So focused was she on her attacks that she barely heard the compliments of her teacher on the speed and precision of her routine, or the sensation of the bag shivering and the chain beginning to vibrate and rattle. Finally fully into the routine, Gwen lept into the air and spun, delivering a hard flying roundhouse kick that smashed square into the centre of the bag.
Making a three-point landing on her feet, Gwen was as stunned as anyone else to see the chain snap in two as the bag flew the air like a missile, slamming into the far wall of the dojo with a loud crashing sound. Staring at the broken bag and the large dent in the wall, Gwen was suddenly aware at everyone else at the gym staring at her... especially the owner, who was walking up to her with a look of disbelief on his face.
"Gwen...I...how did you do that?" Mr. Tajiri asked, a look of amazement on his face.
"Look, I...how should I know? I guess I just hit the bag too hard! Come on, it's not like I meant to do it!" she answered half-shaken and half-angry.
"Well I guess the bags and chains are getting a bit old, Mr. Tajiri answered slowly. "But there's a reason I haven't replaced them! I can't afford to have the wall...I mean...with the cost of repairs these days..."
"Look, just send me the bill, okay? I"ll pay for it and send it to my dad later," Gwen said quickly.
"Alright then, Mr. Tajiri smiled. "You're one of my best students, after all. Your dad must really be proud of far you've come."
"Somehow I think he has more important things to worry about," Gwen said witheringly.
Then, briefly, she cheered up on considering how her father would react on receiving the bill.
Like Mary Jane Watson and Alyssa Conover, Gwen Stacy was considered to be one of the most talanted dancers at Empire State University. Unlike those other two women, however, Gwen was well-known on the New York club scene, and could be found dancing the night away until well after midnight. With her eyes closed and mouth firmly set, she was poetry in motion that set the dance floor on fire even more than she did the hearts of the male clubgoers.
Tonight, however, she had turned the dance floor into an inferno, moving with a grace and speed that almost no one could keep up with. Dancing first with one guy, then another, Gwen was impossible to keep up with, her moves belying a stamina and agility beyond anyone else in the club that night.
Damn, Kenny Anderson thought as he tried vainly to keep pace. Not even Alyssa can move that fast...just how does she do it?
In truth, Gwen was asking herself the same question. She knew no human should be able to move as fast as she was, much less to be as flexible and agile But at the same time, it just felt right to be able to move like this, and she instinctively knew that she could do even better than that. Even more strangely, she didn't feel the least bit tired.
You've got the moves tonight," Kenny complimented her later as she went to get a drink of water. "Can I buy you a drink?"
"I don't drink," Gwen said calmly, not even looking at him.
"How about dinner and a movie, then? You pick the places, I'll pay the prices," he smiled winningly.
I don't think so," Gwen, her eyes finally turning to look at him.
"Maybe my number, if you change your mind?" Kenny offered.
"For the last time, no!" Gwen shouted, finally turning to Kenny. "God, how many times do I have to say it to get it through that half-baked skull of yours? Or do you not even have any brain cells left?"
...Man, talk about your ice queens, Kenny thought as he watched Gwen finish her water and return to the rest of the group. Now I know why so many people call her stuck-up.
Late that night, Gwen woke up from sleep, groggily turning over to look at the clock. 2:45 AM, and she had to go to the bathroom. Not exactly the best time to be doing it, given how loud the floorboards could be in her apartment, and how thin the walls were...and, of course, the unpleasant tingling sensation was back.
Muttering to herself, Gwen threw back the covers and, as if by instinct, spread out her fingers and connected them to the wall, before hopping out of bed and lightly tapping her bare feet as well. Firmly anchored to the wall, she proceeded to crawl up to the ceiling and across it, before coming down again in front of the bathroom. Flicking on the light, Gwen brushed a lock of her raven-black hair that was dangling in front of her eyes, before completing her business and turning the light off, leaping back onto the wall, crawling across the ceiling and back to bed, falling asleep without a second thought.
I've got to stop staying up so late
Gwen thought to herself as she stretched. First this damn tingling, and now I'm dreaming about my hair turning black and being able to walk on the ceiling...
She was planning to stay home today and catch up on some Biology homework, due for a presentation on Monday. Flicking on the radio, she was just in time to catch one of those debate and talk shows that her friend Julia seemed to like so much. Gwen was about to come over and change the station when a familiar voice suddenly came through loud and clear...
"You forget, Mr. Jameson," George Stacy began, "that the situation with these mutants is not analogous to the discrimination perpetrated against our African-American citizens in the 1960s and beforehand. Their abilities are by themselves very dangerous, and they have shown an increasing propensity to use their so-called 'powers' in acts of terrorism and crime. Surely you, Mr. Jameson, with your stand against the reckless actions of unaccountable masked superheroes-a view, I might add, that we share-can understand this point of view?"
J. Jonah Jameson's angry tirade was lost as an enraged glare suddenly crossed Gwen's face and she made an obscene gesture at the radio. She felt her hand tingle before she saw a brief flash of light, and her radio was suddenly blown to pieces.
Stunned by her radio's spontaneous combustion, Gwen moved over to inspect the thing, and was shocked to see that the thing was still sparking, and that some parts of it had, well...melted.
I just bought this thing, she thought to herself in annoyance as she cleaned up the mess. How could it just blow up like that?
She then vaguely recalled the flash of light and her own hand tingling.
One of the parts must have gotten me, she realized.
It was only some hours later that Gwen realized that she had forgotten a book she needed in her bag. Turning away from her desk, Gwen raised her hand to push herself out of her chair when, almost as if by reflex, a long, thin filament was suddenly released from her wrist. The threadlike substance shot out and clung to her schoolbag, before her arm reflexively pulled back and she instinctively caught the bag flying at her.
Sitting down in a daze, Gwen intently studied the silken thread that was still protruding from her wrist. It was soft as silk, but incredibly strong and sticky-she couldn't get it off her schoolbag-although for some reason it didn't stick to her fingers. Examining her wrist, to her horror she saw a small cavity-like hole in her wrist, just below the base of her palm. Looking at her other hand, she saw another small opening just underneath the bottom of her other palm.
Scarcely believing what she was doing, Gwen held out her arms, palms out, and flicked her wrists.
Gwen repeated her action, this time mentally commanding a line of...well, whatever it was to come out.
Right on cue, twin lines of that same fine, sticky thread issued from her wrists, and detached when Gwen willed it. Looking at her wrists, she saw that the holes had receded, being reduced to just barely-visible scars.
Remembering the strange things that had been happening to her over the last few days, Gwen began trying a few other tests. She found herself able to lift her bed in one hand and her desk in another, both at the same time, and discovered that using her hands and feet to crawl on walls and the ceiling came just as naturally as walking on her own two feet. Her agility and coordination made walking on her hands to be childishly simple, as if she'd done it all her life. With a thought, she found herself able to alter the shade and hue of her hair, from raven black through to blonde to strawberry blonde. Her webbing (what else could she call it?) dissolved after about half an hour, but until then she found it incredibly strong and flexible, and along with her webbing she found herself able to generate little bolts of electricity at will, almost like a spider's sting.
Gwen Stacy, offspring of George Stacy, of all people, was a mutant.
Her head whirled with a million thoughts, most prominently the one that made her wonder what her parents would think when they heard the news.
All of a sudden, she got the strangest idea...
"How did all this happen, anyway?" Carrie Gill was asking her brother Donnie as he tried the suit on, ignoring the fact that Donnie's skin and hair had become white as snow, and his eyes a cold ice blue. The short well-muscled man had a winning, ivory-white smile as he looked at himself in the mirror.
"I just got out of the joint a few months ago," Donnie replied. "It was what...my fourth time? Anyway, while I was in there I had a long talk with Uncle Edgar, Cousin Fred, and the rest of the family. Grandpa Mikey told me I had to think big if I wanted the big score. That's the reason we keep getting our asses hauled off to the slammer-we never thought big enough."
"So..." Carrie began.
"So I got in touch with some of my buddies, got into meth-dealing. Made a pretty good score, too...but then we broke into that Oscorp warehouse to get some chemicals, and we ran into some of our...'competitors'. Got into a gunfight, I was sprayed with some waste chemicals Osborn had set aside to be disposed of, then I got exposed to a bunch of this gas marked 'Freon', and some sort of new experimental liquid nitrogen, and there you go."
"So now you want to get into the supervillain business?" Carrie asked, as she handled Donnie the mask.
"Hell yeah!" Donnie grinned as he put it on. "I'm the coolest supervillain in town, now! What would you do if you found out you could make ice with your butt? Mom's gonna be so proud of me!"
"She'll be paroled in a few weeks," Carrie noted. "I'm just glad she didn't finger me for the costumes I made for her and Auntie Rae when they did that grocery store job. So, what do you think of your suit?"
"I love it," Donnie grinned, checking himself out in the mirror. "I think I'll call myself...Blizzard."
With that, Donnie concentrated, conjuring a vicious spiked icicle, before striking a pose for the mirror.
I know this is crazy,
Gwen thought as she swung through the city with an almost practiced ease, but it just feels right...
She was clad in a costume of crimson red, with golden boots, gloves and midriff, and a mask that covered most of her face but left her mouth open, while allowing her hair to flow freely. Gwen had made her hair turn black, to heighten her disguise. Easy to make with her sewing skills, gained through years of work in the theater, the costume was form-fitting, comfortable and easy on her skin. Small slits had been cut into the wrists to allow her webbing to be released, and to her own amazement Gwen found that willing her webbing to be released, and then swinging from one webline to the next, came to her as easily as did simply walking on the ground.
Gwen was snapped out of her reverie by the screams and shouts down below. Leaping off her webline and jumping down to the ground, Gwen saw a gang of punks, one wielding a chain, another a switchblade and the third a baseball bat, swarming around a car and the thin man trying to get into it.
"Let him go!" she shouted as she came down in front of them. Turning around, the three carjackers whistled and leered.
"Hot damn!" one of them grinned.
"Who are you supposed to be, sweet thing?" another asked.
"Who cares, let's just take her down and have some...fun," the last thug grinned.
Gwen's eyes flared in a rage, and she sprang into the air as the three men charged her. Flipping overhead, she concentrated and released another electric "sting" that struck the central punk in the head, shocking him and knocking him senseless. As the man with the switchblade charged, she spun a webline and snagged him by the hand, yanking him towards her so he collided with her outstretched fist.
"Foreplay's over, bitch!" the last man yelled, swinging his bat at Gwen, whose eyes flared again. Her face a mask of fury, she quickly and easily dodged all his blows, before dealing him a hard right hook to the jaw that broke several of his yellowed teeth and left him lying unconscious on the ground. Throwing him into a pile with his buddies and tying them up with her webs, Gwen turned to look at the quivering man, who had stood watching the fight.
"Are you alright?" she asked him, the light fading from her eyes.
"Yes...I, I...thank you," the man said somewhat awkwardly, adjusting his glasses. "May I ask...who-who are you? Spider-Woman? I know th-that there's a Spider-Man already, so I assumed-"
Spider-Woman, I like the sound of that, Gwen thought, as she nodded to the man.
"Spider-Woman it is," she nodded solemnly. "Would you mind calling the police for me? I have places to be," she said, before climbing the walls and swinging away after the man nodded.
Spider-Woman did her best to ignore the cheers and wolf whistles from the bystanders as she webbed up the five men who had broken into the electronics store. Some of them were taping her with their camera phones, and she realized that she'd probably be all over YouTube by tomorrow morning.
He'll have a coronary when he sees it, she thought with a smile as she took to the air again.
An uneventful hour of webswinging later, the screams and crashes two blocks over caught her attention. Swinging down, she was amazed by what she saw. The entire street was covered in ice, marked with patches of icicles, with several cars buried under a sheet of ice and snow, except for an armored car that lay on its side, a massive hole blown in its side by what appeared to be a battering ram of ice, now shattered into several large blocks of ice. Poking around in the armored car was a short, muscled man in an ice-blue body suit with white highlights of icicles on his gloves, belt and boots, and large stylized snowflakes on his upper arms. As he emerged with another sack of money, to throw onto the pile he had already accumulated, he caught sight of Spider-Woman as she advanced on him, her spider-grip allowing her to keep her balance on the ice.
"Whoa, hello!" the man grinned. "I figured I'd be battling a costumed hero, but a skirt? Or are you trying to take my score?"
"Put the money back," Spider-Woman warned him.
"Aw, come on, baby," the man continued. "I'm usually so cold-that's why I call myself Blizzard, FYI-that I'd love for a hottie like you to warm me up. Wanna light my fire?"
Her face marked with an intense stare, Spider-Woman's response was to quickly hold out her hands and fire a double sting-blast at Blizzard. Startled, the villain could only erect a wall of ice to shield himself before it was blown to pieces, knocking him off balance. Tossing the sack of money aside, he rolled out of the way of the swinging kick Spider-Woman attacked him wit, before holding out his own hands and releasing a blizzard of hailstones that began pounding Spider-Woman, knocking her off her webline and sending her crashing to the icy ground. As she struggled to regain her footing, Blizzard formed a solid battering ram of ice, striking her hard in the chest and sending her flying to crash hard into a car.
Leaping to her feet, Spider-Woman stuck the car with her webbing, tearing it off the ground and swinging it down at Blizzard, who again conjured a wall of ice to protect himself. The car and the ice smashed into each other with a loud crunching sound, sending debris flying everywhere as bystanders screamed and dodged to get out of the way, some shouting at Spider-Woman, who ignored them as she dodged the sharp icicles that Blizzard flung at her. As she landed, she was suddenly blinded by the blizzard of snow that her opponent whipped up, and was struck by several flying icicles and blocks of ice that pounded into her leaving her prone and beaten on the ground
Gritting her teeth against the pain and the cold, Spider-Woman struggled to her feet, catching Blizzard's next assault with her webbing spinning the ice blocks around like a flail and slamming them into Blizzard, staggering him and leaving him vulnerable to a sting blast, knocking him flat on his back, stunned. As he got to his feet with a groan, he saw Spider-Woman swinging another large block of ice at him, which he quickly shattered with another battering ram, sending ice shards flying everywhere.
Briefly blinded by the storm of icicles, Blizzard saw that Spider-Woman had disappeared. Whirling around, he caught a sting blast full in the chest, knocking him off balance before he was caught in the chest with a web that pulled him towards his enemy, colliding with her fist. Doubled over in pain, he was knocked unconscious by another low-intensity sting blast, and was webbed up by Spider-Woman as she heard the police sirens coming up.
Around her, some people were applauding, others were hooting and hollering, and some others were shouting at her for nearly hitting them with flying debris and machine parts. All their calls fell on deaf ears as she spun a web and sprung off into the setting sun, the throbbing of her wounds already beginning to subside as she swung away. Her jaw set firmly, she set off for home, knowing she had to get to sleep early enough for her meeting with her mother, Aunt Nancy and her cousin Jill.
The thought of it was even more painful than anything Blizzard could have done to her.
(Next Issue: Gwen Stacy is consumed with memories of the past as she commiserates with her family, while her father George Stacy is conspicuously absent from the meeting. Meanwhile, Spider-Woman finds herself confronted with the mysterious criminal known as the Will O'the Wisp! All this and more in Spider-Woman #2: Change With the Light!)