Editor's Note: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Season Two #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 6.
Is it unfair to compare the new version of Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane to the original series by Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa (and later David Hahn)? Perhaps, since it's not like that creative team originated these characters or setting, but they did such a great job of hitting that sweet spot of comedy, drama, fun plots, and appealing characters, that it set a gold standard for teenage comics, superhero-based or otherwise. Unfortunately, Terry Moore and Craig Rousseau's new version of the series just can't quite live up to their precedent.
Moore definitely gives it a solid try though, opening with a silly sequence in which Mary Jane dreams about being carried to the top of the Empire State Building by a gigantic version of Spidey called Spider-Kong. Then she wakes up and heads off to school for the first day of her sophomore year, giving her the chance to meet up with friends (and introduce them to the readers). She pals with her best friend Liz Allen, recalls her rivalry with Gwen Stacy, worries about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Harry Osborne, thinks about friend (boyfriend? I don't recall where they left off at the end of the last "season," and no concrete indication is given here) Peter Parker, and argues with Liz's boyfriend Flash Thompson. There's also an attempt to establish some other supporting cast and/or subplots, including a gruff vice-principal, a girl in the drama club who might be having problems, and MJ's rocky relationship with her recently-divorced mother. It's pretty much all setup in this first issue, which is probably necessary, but it leaves a kind of hollow 22 pages, with not enough of an actual plot to make it feel worthwhile.
Moore also has the habit of filling caption after caption with Mary Jane's expository inner monologue, which is kind of a standard stylistic device, but I often find it bothersome. She's busy explaining details of her life, but why? Is she trying to write an autobiography? And when she speaks (thinks?) directly to the reader, telling them to disregard the dream they just saw, it makes one wonder how self-aware she is of her status as a fictional character. Of course, this surely isn't what Moore intended, but a good writer should be aware of this sort of thing and figure out a way to not make it so obvious (something Sean McKeever never seemed to have a problem with, by the way). He also seems to be going in the direction of "after school special"-style drama (will Mary Jane ever learn to appreciate how hard her mom works for her?), rather than just focusing on the simple (and effective) angst that comes with teenage romance (with a little bit of the superheroic spice that being pals with Spider-Man brings).
Craig Rousseau does as good a job as he can at fleshing out the world of Midtown High, but like Moore, he pales in comparison to his predecessor, Takeshi Miyazawa, who brought such flair to the series that you couldn't help but be sucked right into the lives of the characters. Rousseau has a cute, cartoony style, but it's just not as appealing as Miyazawa's (or that of his eventual replacement, David Hahn). I hate to say it, but Mary Jane doesn't seem, well, pretty enough. And Rousseau doesn't have the great sense of fashion that Miyazawa does either; the character's outfits are pretty drab and generic, rather than something readers would want to wear. Also, Miyazawa's colorist, Christina Strain, brought a great poppy, candy-colored palette to the original series, using some great effects that really livened up scenes and served to highlight important moments; here, Guillem Mari provides a good pastel scheme, but doesn't come close to Strain's excellence. Rousseau does try his best though, and there are some nice-looking scenes, like the opening dream sequence. But even though it's not really his fault, he just doesn't live up to expectations.
Who knows, Moore and Rousseau might manage to build the series into something special, turning it into their own unique work. But if this first issue is any indication, they've retained just enough of their predecessors' work to remind us what was so great about it, but not enough to recapture the magic. Maybe, since I'm a fan of the original series, I'm being too hard on the book, but unless they either improve greatly or go in a different direction, they're not going to be able to keep the existing audience for the series, much less expand on it.
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