As Heroes Reborn follows the superhero activities of Gwen Stacy, one of Spider-Man’s oldest friends has been turned into a villainous figure.
The following contains spoilers for Heroes Reborn: Night-Gwen #1, by Vita Ayala, Farid Karami, Erick Arciniega, and VC’s Cory Petit, on sale now.
Even in the rewritten reality of Heroes Reborn, Gwen Stacy has not let the wholesale changes to the Marvel Universe keep her from being a hero, operating as the vigilante Nightbird and keeping the world safe from nefarious supervillains. While Gwen’s life features a whole host of familiar faces in this revised vision of the universe, one of her oldest friends has become her arch-nemesis in the Heroes Reborn world, taking on the nefarious mantle of the Jackal: Flash Thompson.
As Gwen defends the country under her superhero alter ego, she recalls her past as a college student, alongside the popular jock Flash. The two were constantly together throughout their undergraduate education, although Flash grew dangerously angry towards anyone that he perceived as a threat to Gwen, coming off as violent and overbearing to anyone – especially male figures – that approached her. The most egregious of those that harassed Gwen in college, and a decidedly genuine threat, was her professor Miles Warren, echoing his villainous role in the main Marvel Universe as he becomes infatuated with her, making unwelcome and repeated romantic overtures to her that are soundly rejected.
While Gwen was preoccupied with Miles Warren and his unwanted advances as both a professor and supervillain, Flash’s own obsession and violent nature driving people away from Gwen had only continued to grow. Following Warren’s initial defeat, Flash secretly tracked down the villain by himself and killed him to claim the mantle of Jackal for himself, taking Warren’s serum to gain superpowers while continuing to target and stalk Gwen under this new guise. Confronting her old friend and classmate turned obsessive mortal enemy, Gwen was forced to fight against the clearly unhinged Flash before administering a serum that incapacitated him and seemingly nullified his superpowers before turning him over to police custody and finally bringing the Jackal’s rampage to a definitive end.
In various versions of the Marvel Universe, Gwen Stacy and the Jackal have been linked, no matter which character is hiding under the supervillain mask. Heroes Reborn brings back the uncomfortable Miles Warren dynamic with Flash’s addition heightening the tragedy of the rewritten reality. Here, Flash is no longer the noble war hero, combat veteran and occasional superhero as he had been in the main Marvel Universe, inspired by Spider-Man’s own selfless example.
In this new universe, Flash has given into the worst impulses of his bullying past to become a bonafide supervillain, requiring Nightbird to step in and face a ghost from her past in a hard fought battle. While this world has effectively brought out the very worst in Flash Thomson, it simultaneously cements Gwen’s place as a hero in every universe, whether inspired by a spider or a Nighthawk.
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