The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Spider-Girl

This is what "Batman Beyond" should have been. 

Very recently, I plucked down about $150 at my local comic book shop and purchased seven Spider-Girl trade paperbacks. All five volumes of "Amazing Spider-Girl" and both volumes of "Spectacular Spider-Girl" which conclude the series. I wish Marvel would release trades of "Spider-Girl", covering those initial one hundred issues before the relaunch, but it has yet to happen. I loved this series. Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz were just a dream team on a book that was obviously a labor of love, more so than any other comic published by Marvel and DC in the last twenty years that I can think of.

For those of you who don't know, "Spider-Girl" stars May "Mayday" Parker, the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. After she was born, she was kidnapped by Norman Osborn before being rescued and returned to her parents. When she was around two years-old, Peter and Osborn had their final battle where Peter lost his leg and Osborn lost his life. Peter then became a forensics scientist for the NYPD and focused on raising his child, who's own spider powers manifested when she was sixteen... and well, with great power there must also come a great responsibility. So Mayday becomes a superhero, herself. She finds her own allies, make her own enemies among a new generation of superheroes and supervillains.

I think what I like most about Mayday is that while she is very much both of her parents' child, she's very much her own person. She feels just as real as either Peter or MJ did in their best stories without ever feeling like a gimmick. Watching her develop and grow over the course of this series feels organic and believable. She has just as rich a supporting cast as her father, and she, herself, is great. In a medium with a very disappointing lack of great female protagonists, Mayday distinguishes herself by being everything a protagonist, regardless of gender should be. Also, unlike most female comic book heroes, she's never objectified. Oh, she's sexy, don't get me wrong, but without any male gaze cheesecake. She's smart and tough, but she also has her vulnerabilities, insecurities. She's trying hard to live up to her father's standard, as well as maintain a normal life which in itself provides relatable angst without a background in darkness and tragedy. Not that those kinds of backgrounds should be avoided, but it's hard to just have a hero living a relatively normal life without tragedy and still be compelling, something which Superman tries and fails at (and don't mention Krypton, he has no memories of that). In fact, there's a point in the series when a character called Mayhem (who I will not be spoiling), with a different outlook than Mayday's says it's time for a darker, grimmer kind of superhero... clearly Tom DeFalco hanging a lampshade on a majority of modern comic characters. So, in a way, Mayday is very much a response to the dark and grim 90's.

The series is compelling, and fun. It's not written for the trade the way most modern comics are. Don't get me wrong, there are arcs running through the series that make great trades, but each individual issue packs more story in them than the majority of modern comics. While it's definitely not like comics of old, it often reads like a hybrid of classic and modern comics in a way that works... this is the model modern comics should have been based upon, as opposed to comics by the likes of Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis. And as far as writing a Spider-Man for a new generation, this succeeds at it where Bendis' "Ultimate Spider-Man" failed. It respects the mythos without handcuffing itself to it, and forges its own path... in a similar manner that "Spectacular Spider-Man" the animated series would do later. Both series have a similar tone to them.

Sadly, recent times have not been so good to Mayday, but I still hope we'll see her and her family again under DeFalco and Frenz's pen. Overall, I give the series an A+

2 comments:

  1. I loved the Spider-Girl comics, so I agree with a lot of what you said. Would have been great to have had more of them - I felt there was more to tell of the April Parker arc, for instance.

    *SPOILERS*

    Even if April did die, it would have been nice to know whether she was a clone or actually the true daughter of Spider-Man.

    I don't think Batman Beyond should have taken this direction though. It's fun seeing Peter and Mary Jane as parents with an up and coming superheroine daughter, but I think Batman Beyond was fine as it was and didn't need its whole premise to be altered. I say this despite the revelations of the JLU episode "Epilogue" because in the series itself, it was important that Bruce was a lonely recluse and Terry was a street kid who fell into the Batman gig by chance. It was an unlikely relationship for that reason, and a great dynamic which felt more appropriate for the character of Batman than the story of Bruce raising Terry would have.

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    1. what I mean is that Batman Beyond was a Spider-Man rip off. It felt more like a Spider-Man show them the Batman show. Whereas Spider-Girl was very much as Spider-Man spin off

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