Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artists: Ron Frenz and Pat Olliffe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It's not really possible to discuss this issue as any kind of finale, seeing as how Amazing Spider-Girl launches in October with the same cast and largely the same storylines. At the same time, this issue was clearly written with the intent of providing some kind of proper ending for the long-running series, so that's how I'm going to review it.
Unfortunately, while this issue is about a hundred pages in length (a double-sized story accompanied by a rogues' gallery, a cover collage and two reprints from the series' finer days), it does little to address the biggest problem "Spider-Girl" faces today: complete lack of focus.
Let's assume, for a moment, that young readers unfamiliar with Spider-Girl pick up one of the digests. Liking what they see, they pick up an issue published in the last year or so. Dismay follows, because the objective of this series has shifted a lot since its inception: there was a time not too long ago when the idea was to give May Parker an identity of her own, villains of her own, a life of her own that was better, in many respects, than that of her father. The series placed equal emphasis on fighting her adversaries and dealing with her close circle of friends and family. But over the last two years, the series has been gradually sinking deeper and deeper into the backwaters of Spider-continuity, and not a particularly good part of it: this issue concludes a long running storyline featuring the Hobgoblin, Venom and the Scriers. And before was the whole saga featuring the female Doctor Octopus, Carolyn Trainer.
This, I believe, is the cause of the diminishing sales which led to the most recent (revoked) cancellation: the series had effectively gone from being about Spider-Girl, heroine for the new generation, to being a mass dumping ground for loose threads dating back to the Clone Saga. The "civilian" subplots either disappeared entirely (does anyone even remember Felicity, Jack or Jimmy anymore?) or get squeezed into a page or two in-between fight scenes. There's just too much going on, too many supporting characters in the margins, too many subplots being juggled, and there was no way in hell DeFalco was ever going to balance them all out. As a result, he lost readers that had stuck with him for years - readers who weren't interested in the history of Spider-Man, but who found themselves stuck with nothing but that.
Consequently, it's become a bit of a mess, and nowhere is that more evident than this issue: forty-odd pages of total chaos. In fairness, Marvel had screwed around with this book one last time by apparently green-lighting it until #106, then dropping the axe with this issue, so DeFalco probably had to do a bit of compressed rewriting so everything got wrapped up. But the downside of compression is a total lack of emotional content, and that's exactly what happens here: most of the ongoing story arcs reach some kind of end point, but there's no feeling to it, none of the endearing traits that had made Spider-Girl such an enjoyable retro-style read in the past. Someone gets married, someone dies, someone leaves town, someone escapes capture, click click click. As the last chapter in a story arc, it's frustrating enough - as the grand ending of the series, it's unbearable.
It's not that I'm even holding this book up to the standards of its peers; the whole point of Spider-Girl is that it's a simpler kind of book, a Silver Age-esque alternative to the heavy-handed serious tone of the mainstream. But what the book does now, it used to do much better a while ago, and it doesn't look like it'll get back on track anytime soon.
One would hope that DeFalco and company might take advantage of the relaunch to clean up the mess, scale things down and reconnect with the actual character of Spider-Girl... but based on solicitation texts and the like, the forecast appears to be "more of the same." More's the pity.
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