Warning: SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
The world has finally met Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman, thanks to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But fans probably missed the movie's inside joke, courtesy of the one person most shocked to see Spider-Man's late girlfriend - Peter Parker.
As Marvel fans know, the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of Green Goblin remains one of the most unforgettably tragic moments in comics (recreated in Amazing Spider-Man 2). So it makes sense to expect the old Peter, Marvel's original Spider-Man would have some kind of reaction upon coming face to face with Spider-Gwen in the movie. He does, too, even if almost everyone will miss it on their first viewing. It's a fantastically 'meta' moment, so we're here to make sure every Spider-fan can appreciate it the next time around.
Peter Parker Meets Gwen Stacy (Again)
In case anyone is unclear on the setup, the version of Spider-Woman - called Spider-Gwen in the comics - is the very same Gwen Stacy who dated (and died for) Peter Parker. Well, in the original Marvel Universe, anyway. The film's version hails from a reality in which she was bitten by the radioactive spider instead of her friend Peter. And judging by her age, those events all happened fairly recently from her own perspective. As a student in Miles' high school, Gwen removing her mask and hood after aiding in the recovery of precious intel reveals that she actually is named "Gwen," and not "Gw--wanda" as she claimed before. But for Peter Parker, he's taking in Gwen's mask removal on a completely different level - for reasons that can only really be known to fans of the comics books.
Think about it: Peter just saw yet another teenage Spider-person get the drop on him and suspend him in webs, only to remove her mask and reveal herself to be Gwen Stacy, the high school girlfriend who died in his arms, looking not a day older than she was when she died. From the first glance, it's incredibly strange that Peter doesn't comment on it - enough evidence for some to claim this is a plot hole, a logic gap, or clumsy writing at the very least. But make no mistake: Peter does react. Just... not in a way most casual fans will notice in between the laughs.
As we mentioned above, it's likely that the last thing viewers are looking at is Peter Parker's face, for a number of reasons. Most of all, it's the first confirmation that Miles' fellow student is a superhuman, with the first look at Gwen's new hairstyle (courtesy of Miles' powers of adhesion) thrown in for added impact. And it's Miles who's speaking, meaning viewers don't have any reason to notice Peter completely motionless, eyes contorted, staring straight at the face of his deceased high school sweetheart. But when he actually speaks, some brief, feel-good fan service is delivered by the filmmakers (and actor Jake Johnson).
This older Peter has admitted he's seen incredibly weird things in his career, which explained why he takes the sudden appearance of teenage Gwen in stride, dumbfounded at what fate has spun. Before he can even wonder what Gwen's arrival means for his training of young Miles to retrace his own younger steps, Miles reveals that the two have already crossed paths, Peter's expression returns to normal. And he says with a slight chuckle of understanding (and the smile on his face audible even beneath his mask): "Oh-ho-ho, you know her... Very cool..."
The line has to be heard to grasp the real meaning, spoken by Peter as if the pieces have fallen into place, recognizing that in this version of the story, Gwen is a part of Miles' life, just as she was a part of his own. The good news is that Peter isn't entirely correct, and Gwen is the star of her very own story, too. But considering that the Spider-Verse sequel will focus on Miles and Gwen, this moment of Peter chuckling at this teenage drama repeating itself with new players is as good a passing of the baton as fans could hope for. Here's hoping Gwen's face didn't dig up too many old memories.