Friday, February 09, 2007

Amy Reads the Week (of February 9th, 2007)

The name of the game this week, Gentle Reader, is Catch Up. That is to say that I am woefully behind on my Comic Book Pop Culture, and I am, somewhat desperately, going through my backlog in order to get caught up with the present. Two issues behind on Supergirl—-although I only thought I was behind the one-—three weeks on 52, finally caught up on White Tiger, only to remember that issue #4 came out this week, and I haven't had the chance to pick it up yet. Not to mention Action Comics, Detective Comics, Civil War, JLA, X-23, and that partridge stuck in that bloody pear tree.

I have plans, great plans, for Next Week, as the revision of the chapter will finally be done and the chapter will, in its 50+ pages of (somewhat) Glory, be Turned In To The Director. Those plans include a much belated review of White Tiger #s 2-4, a series that I am thoroughly enjoying, albeit belatedly so, as well as finally Jumping On The (Supergirl and Batgirl) Bandwagon, as I've read Teen Titans, but not, well, Supergirl.

But I have managed to stay current on A Few Things, Gentle Reader, and first and foremost of those is:

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #13 and #14 by Sean McKeever

I adore this series, Friends. I believe I've mentioned that fact several times over the course of This Blog's Two Incarnations. There is something fun and innocent about it, at the same time there is something dark and mysterious, too. That is, in the opinion of This Humble Author, Good Writing.

The fun and innocent, of course, come from the subject matter. Mary Jane Watson, the future Mrs. Peter Parker, is in high school, and finally, after several mishaps, including a massive obsession and disastrous date with Spider-Man, crushing on the adorable, science-geeky Peter Parker. Cue Gwen Stacy, who arrives at the high school and turns the head-—and kisses the lips-—of said adorable science geek. The art, very pop, almost manga, bubbly and colorful and bright, lends itself to this feeling of Young Adult Comic Book.

The dark and mysterious comes in, though, quite often and quite fast. Mary Jane, disappointed in love, exhausts herself by creating a veneer of bubbly brightness. She can't be concerned with Peter's flirtations with Gwen, so she claims; she's too busy being the most popular—-and most desirable—-girl in the school. She smiles and waves and flirts and blows kisses, but when she's alone in a room, her face falls, she stares in the mirror at her reflection, and she doesn't look too happy about what she sees. She is torn between doing What She Wants and doing What Is Right. Seemingly obvious choices, yes, but quite mature subject matter for a girl still in high school, still crushing on the boy she really shouldn't, according to High School Hierarchy, crush on.

Where the good is-—and trust me, Gentle Reader, there is much good to be found—-is in the writing, and the art, and most importantly, the tone. Mr. McKeever gets the voices right, and in issue #13, when Gwen details her conversation with Peter to Mary Jane, the art changes, and the dialogue, to reflect not What Happened, but rather, What Gwen Understands Happened. That is to say, Peter Parker doesn't make awkward excuses for running out on their date, but rather, from Gwen’s point of view, says, "But now I'm totally gonna ditch you without warning for no real reason whatsoever," followed by a perky, "'Bye!" This is Peter Parker According To Gwen Stacy, and the art shows a boy a little hipper, a little cooler, very cute and very suave. The same boy as Spider-Man retains that hipness; when Gwen sees him fight The Sandman, Spidey says, "Hey, look at me! I'm Spider-Man! I'm cool!"

I was once a High School Student, Gentle Reader, and while I know you find it Hard To Believe, I was, yes, it's true, Friends, once awkward, and naïve, and less than eloquent. I can relate to these statements, these views, as I, like Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane Watson, found the geeky science kid Quite Cool And Hip. And if I can remember what it was like these dozen or so years since graduating from high school, I'm sure current high school students can relate, as well.

I don't know the numbers of distribution, Friends, nor do I know how to get such information. But it seems-—just seems, Gentle Reader!-—that Marvel must be doing Quite Well with this series. Not only because of the subject matter, and I'm not speaking here of the love story. Because in truth, the love story of Peter Parker and Mary Jane takes the backburner in most of the series. Rather, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is about insecurities, and artificiality, and not knowing your place, at home, in high school, in the world. So many comic series handle that well in teen settings-—Gen 13, X-23, Teen Titans, X-Men—-but Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane sets it in the almost-normal world of an almost-normal high school. Spider-Man is a character inasmuch as the Quarterback is a character, or the Prom Queen: larger than life, almost mythical, but Just Like You once you get to know him.

In short, Gentle Reader? This series is one of the smartest on the market today, and every issue, I am reminded of Why I Read It.

In a brief but well-deserved coup in the Reads Household, I have introduced Mr. Reads to the Wonder that is Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. Of course, let's be honest here, Friends, Mr. Reads threw me the comic in the first place. But he hadn't read it. Not at all. It was, as he put it, "very much an Amy Book." And it is, of course, but that's because it is Smart. So I kept telling Mr. Reads, over and over again.

He's now read all of the issues, and he is, as he told me last evening, rather thankful to me for making him pick up the series. Mr. Reads reintroduced me to comic books several years ago, and I am grateful to him for it. But I am-—yes, it's true, Friends—-Rather Smug in having scored such a turn-the-tables coup.


Tamora Pierce said...

>>finally caught up on White Tiger,<<

And? And?

Amy Reads said...

Hi Ms. Pierce,
>>finally caught up on White Tiger,<<
And? And?

I know! I'm a terrible fan. I'm so behind on the things that I love that it kills me.

The short answer is: I *adore* it, for all of its smartness. The longer answer is being written as we speak (er, or type) and is waiting for me to pick up #4 and add that to the mix.

Soon, Ms. Pierce, I will stop being such a lousy reviewer and actually review some comics! (a point for which Mr. Reads waggles his finger at me every day--a comic fan without time to read comics is a Sad Thing Indeed!).