Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 71

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

by Sean McKeever, Takashi Miyazawa and Christina Strain
Genre notes: superheroes, romance, day-in-life
2 big hardcover vols
ISBN: 0785126104 and 0785130837

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane absolutely sparkles. It’s the most fun I’d had on a Spider-Man book in ages. Maybe ever. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane isn’t concerned with just how depressing Peter Parker’s life is (which is, of course, the overwhelmingly resilient vibe I get from my accumulated contact with the original series), partially because it isn’t really even about Spider-Man. At least not at first.

Mary Jane Watson is a popular girl. She’s good-looking, fun, buoyant, and has a fair amount of cross-over appeal in her school—making nice with kids from multiple walks of life. She’s the lynchpin fourth to a trio of popular friends: wealthy flirt, Harry Osborn; quarterback of the varsity football squad, Flash Thompson; and Liz Allen, head cheerleader and Flash’s verbally abusive girlfriend. Mary Jane’s got a good good life, but nothing’s perfect. Her friends want her to hook up with Harry because they’re basically made for each other, but she’s actually incapable of generating any real romantic interest because her heart belongs to a celebrity that she doesn’t even know: Spider-Man.

For much of the narrative, the hero occupies only the small dark corners of Mary Jane’s story. He’s not the main character, after all; just the MacGuffin. This is really and truly Mary Jane’s story—at least for the first several arcs, after which Peter Parker’s romantic drama begins insinuating itself into the narrative and we start getting more scenes with no Mary Jane. But that’s all pretty late-in-game for the book’s lifespan and one’s never sure if that creeps in as the book gradually distracts from its raison d’etre or if the shift was editorially mandated.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is foremost the story of a young woman who cannot interact with reality in any kind of healthy way, hiding her existential dissonance from friends and acquaintances by a mask of effervescence. Even to her closest friend, the one who sees the cracks, she demurs, pretending that her fears, insecurities, and obsessions are perfectly within normal parameters. It’s a balancing act that constantly threatens to overwhelm her, and minor breakdowns pepper the script from start to finish.

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