Let’s face it, one of the broadest appeals of Spider-Man is his romantic life. This is particularly true of his early run when Stan Lee was still writing him as Mary Jane and Gwen Stacey were vying for Peter Parker’s attention. Sean McKeever took the great foundation Lee and Ditko used and built on in it with a fantastic manga-esque series Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. The second, YA friendly digest-sized trade paperback is out now and it highlights some of the best chapters in the series.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
It’s the moment Mary Jane Watson has been waiting for – her first date with Spider-Man! But before her big night, another suitor is vying for her attention – and his name is Peter Parker! Mary Jane is facing an impossible choice, but it might not be a problem for long – not after Gwen Stacy arrives in school, and sets her sights on Peter! What’s a lovesick MJ to do? She wasn’t always the girl she is today…but how did she become the sort of person to push her problems away rather than face them? And how can she overcome this self-destructive habit? Plus: Harry Osborn! Liz Allan! Flash Thompson! MJ on stage! And more! It’s the birth of the greatest super hero romance of all, like you’ve never seen it before!
Why does this matter?
This collects issue #4 through #13 although if you know the general idea behind the love life of Mary Jane and Peter Parker you should dive into this rather easily. Also, check out our very recent interview with the writer of this series to get even more detail on the title.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is about as good as it gets to soap opera style Spider-Man comics. There are certainly fight scenes of sorts, but the real drama and focus are on Mary Jane’s perspective as she attempts to navigate her feelings. The book opens with Mary Jane as one of the most popular kids at school who could date anyone, but her heart is all-in with Spider-Man. Soon she’s going on a date with him all the while Peter Parker is attempting to change her mind and go out with him. In typical melodrama fashion–and I mean that in the best of ways–Mary Jane brushes Peter off only to realize the mistake she made when it’s too late. Enter Gwen Stacy who ends up dating Peter for much of this volume. All the while Mary Jane is fully aware of the mistake she made. McKeever tugs at the character’s heartstrings and your attention exquisitely. I could see a teenager picking this up and getting addicted rather quickly.
The art is split up between Takeshi Miyazawa who draws the scenes taking place in the present day while Rick Mays draws flashbacks with Valentine De Landro taking over for two issues. The mix of Miyazawa and Mays works well thanks to the flashback structure although Miyazawa’s style is much more endearing and fun. Leave it to Mays to draw the more serious flashback scenes which suit the scenes well enough.
I rather liked how McKeever shows how utterly odd it must be to date or even be friends with Peter Parker. His rushing to save the day, yet keeping his superhero identity secret, makes for interesting interpretations which McKeever explores thoroughly. Gwen might see Peter as a coward in one scene, or in another Mary Jane may see him rushing off as him being offended. It’s a clever way to ramp up the drama in the scene while the audience knows the truth.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The will they or won’t they and perfect timing can be a little convoluted. This is a YA sort of narrative so it’s not that big of a deal, but it can grow a bit tiresome when Gwen shows up at the very perfect moment, or Mary Jane gets angry about everything effectively keeping the drama going without resolution.
Is it good?
An enjoyable take on the love life of Mary Jane and Peter Parker. It’s well worth a look to see how well McKeever ramps up the melodrama Stan Lee and Steve Ditko so perfectly set up.