(w) Leah Williams (a) Carlos Gomez (c) Carlos Lopez
Mary Jane Watson, known primarily as the love of Spider-Man’s life, finally has landed her first ever solo title (if you don’t count the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series, and don’t forget the two Mary Jane miniseries from 2004 and 2005). However, looking beyond semi-deceptive marketing, it’s incredible that it has taken this long for a strong, unique character like Mary Jane Watson to land her own title. Keep in mind, this is the same publisher that tried to make Trouble a thing. But given Mary Jane’s strong-willed persona and the creative team’s ear for current events, it should come as no surprise that Amazing Mary Jane #1 is a well-constructed debut issue.
Spinning out of the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, Amazing Mary Jane sees its title character looking to resurrect her acting career under esteemed director Cage McKnight. However, very quickly she notices things are just a bit… off. She’s suspicious and uneasy about the number of former criminals working on the movie set, the sympathetic nature of the movie towards one of her boyfriend’s biggest enemies, and that her scripted dialogue is awful. Right there are three major things that the issue could explore, but it barely touches on one of them.
Of course, Marvel is now owned by a big media conglomerate known for crowd-pleasing entertainment and not rocking the boat – and Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is friends with the current occupant of the White House – so biting political commentary hasn’t been the publisher’s strength of late. It’s a shame that the opportunity to comment on the for-profit prison system and the difficulty convicts have in readjusting to society was simply passed up. It’s also disappointing to see the squandered opportunity to discuss the continued obsession with – and in some cases, romanticism of – criminals in modern society.
Instead, Amazing Mary Jane’s creative team focuses on the terrible dialogue found in the movie script, as well her character’s lack of agency. Mary Jane and the director – who isn’t really Cage McKnight – spend the majority of the issue devising ways to make her character more than cinematic eye-candy. While certain valid issue to explore, it is easily the safest option that writer Leah Williams could have chosen given the topic has been a black mark for the entertainment industry over the last decade or two. But the way it’s handled here is just a high-level touch without digging any deeper into the matter.
Despite these complaints, Amazing Mary Jane #1 is very enjoyable on the strength of its own characters. Williams perfectly captures Mary Jane’s voice, from her confidence and take-no-crap attitude to her tenderness while on the phone with Peter. Williams proves equally adept at writing Peter, which gives the couple electric on-page chemistry, even if they are (in-story) thousands of miles apart. While a different kind of chemistry, the rapport Mary Jane has with McKnight and other members of the film crew is immersive and engaging.
Because of the stellar character work, it makes it easy to buy into the frankly ludicrous premise of the book, especially when it is revealed who has been pretending to be the eccentric film director and how they somehow secured above-the-board funding for the project. It all makes for good fun, accentuated by the detailed and expressive art from Carlos Gomez (lines) and Carlos Lopez (colors).
Amazing Mary Jane #1 may not be as, well, amazing as its title would imply, but it is a very entertaining reading experience. Yes, there are opportunities for meaningful discussion that it avoids in favor of a broader appeal, but the safe approach by Leah Williams and the Carloses might pay off in the long run. After all, a broader appeal means a wider reach, which can in turn lead to more opportunities.