18 November 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Part IV: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Vol. 2

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, Vol. 2

Writer: Sean McKeever
Art: Valentine De Landro, Takeshi Miyazawa, David Hahn, with Rick Mays
Colors: Christina Strain
Letters: Dave Sharpe

This picks up right where Super Crush left off, with the arrival of new girl Gwen Stacey at the exact moment that Mary Jane Watson decides to tell Peter Parker that she has feelings for him. But first, events are interrupted by a two-part story called "The Origin Thing," where MJ discusses the events of a year ago with Liz Allan, the events that led to her losing her carefree attitude. The flashback format lets regular artist Takeshi Miyazawa take a break while Valentine De Landro fills in. The story of the flashback is kinda weird-- MJ is dumped, so she turns goth, but then she decides that she's not a goth, so she just goes back to normal-- but De Landro's presence makes the whole thing terrible. Putting characters in the hands of a different artist is like recasting characters on a television show: even though the dialogue is the same, the delivery is completely different. Things just don't sound right coming out of these characters' mouths. It doesn't help that De Landro draws some ferociously ugly art... especially at moments where the characters are supposed to be smiling and attractive!

Thankfully, things are soon back to normal, with Mary Jane, Gwen, Liz, Peter, Flash, Harry, and Spider-Man rotating affections in their usual complicated dance; by the end of this volume I'm pretty sure we've seen every possible permutation of male/female pairings. I feel like it shouldn't work, but it does; just flipping through the pages now to remind myself of what happened, I have a strong sense of affection for the story-- and those heartbreak moments (like where MJ sees Gwen kissing Peter) are always killer. There's more Spider-Man in this volume than in the previous ones, too, especially his ongoing battle with the prosaically named "the Looter," the climax to which was hilarious and fantastic. The issue where Gwen relates a Spider-Man/Sandman battle in flashback is also great, even if we have to put up with another fill-in artist: McKeever puts Gwen's rendition of the dialogue in the balloons, such as, "Hi, I'm Peter Parker? And I act like I like you? But now I'm totally gonna ditch you without warning for no reason whatsoever."

Other things are silly, though, like a subplot about the football players considering wrecking the school play. And of course MJ continues to be the best at everything ever without even trying; the entire male population of the school falls in love with her after her play performance. The bit where a writer for the school paper tries to get Harry and MJ to explain why they are such big flirts is also weird, though it has some nice moments. I do like that the MJ-is-so-popular subplot gives us some moments of vulnerability from our often-invulnerable heroine.

Things go as they do for most of the book, until the last third, when Miyazawa departs permanently, David Hahn takes over. Hahn is okay. I suffered from the dialogue-just-sounded-wrong problem again, but since he's there for five issues, I was able to get used to it eventually. (Except for his weird eyes.) Firestar comes back, which is one of the best plots in the whole series: she attempts to put the moves on Spider-Man, not Peter Parker, at a moment where he's feeling particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile, Harry Osborn is receiving advice from his evil father on how to win MJ to himself forever; he alternates between seeming manipulative and seeming like he genuinely wants to be with MJ. The Felicia Hardy subplot isn't so great, but on the whole, the end of the book comes together very nicely, just in time for Sean McKeever to jump ship too!

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