Interesting Tidbit Volume 3 #1: Literally translated, “manga” means “whimsical pictures,” a word first used in the 18th century with the publication of such works as Santo Kyoden’s picturebook “Shiji no yukikai” (1798). It was also used in the early 19th century with such works as Aikawa Minwa’s “Manga hyakujo” (1814) and the celebrated “Hokusai manga,” which contained assorted drawings from the sketchbook of the famous ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world,” which is a form of Japanese woodblock prints) artist Hokusai. Rakuten Kitazawa first used “manga” in its modern form.
With that “tidbit” out of the way, I would just like to say that this is NOT MANGA! So, for those of you who are frightened by the extreme facial forms and expressions of manga characters, fear not! I implore all of you to try “Spider-man Loves Mary Jane;” if not this “Season,” then perhaps the first and the Mary Jane miniseries. Oh, better get on with the review before Spidey-Kong eats me!
SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE: SEASON 2
WRITER: Terry Moore
ARTIST: Craig Rousseau
COLORIST: Guillem Mari
We begin with a cute scene featuring Mary Jane and Spidey-Kong, where SK is going berserk because he asked MJ out and she jokingly said, “I’ll think about it.” After SK gets hit with a bi-plane, MJ wakes up suddenly and realizes it was all a dream. MJ’s first day as a sophomore is a device that gives us insight into her relationship with all the other characters. Liz Allen, her BFF, has a new hairstyle but the same attitude and high-maintenance manner. Liz’s boyfriend, Flash Thompson, is still lacking some IQ points but has some endearing qualities when he’s around Liz. Subtly, we see that MJ has a pretty good friendship with someone named PP, and he’s a “QT?” Who the devil is PP??? MJ is forced to sit beside Gwen Stacey in her first class. She explains that she has nothing against Gwen, except for the fact that she’s a “boy magnet” and is naïve about it. Past readers will probably more think that the reason MJ is a little hesitant about Gwen is the fact that Gwen and Peter were once an item. Harry Osborn, MJ’s ex-boyfriend, is giving her the cold shoulder mainly because she admitted last “Season” that she was not in love with him and remained close to Peter and Spider-man.
In Drama class, we see that the director is lacking in professional prowess, as dictated to us by MJ. An interesting character, Zoe, is called to do a short performance of someone needing help. Her performance shocks and amazes everyone, but we, along with MJ, see that there is something deeper to her act. Fast-forward to football practice, where MJ keeps Liz company as they watch Flash practice. Liz, a cheerleader now, asks MJ to join the squad, but MJ replies that she cannot since she has to hold a job afterschool. Enter Peter Parker. MJ is happy to see Pete since he is taking IB (International Baccalaureate) courses and she hasn’t seen him all day. Flash throws a ball “accidentally” at the bleachers, but Pete’s quick movements prevent him from any injury. MJ and Pete walk home as Liz and Flash fight about the incident.
On the walk home, Peter pulls another disappearing act and MJ follows only to discover that he was window shopping for a camera, which suits her better than the alternative of another girl! Once MJ arrives home, we see her in an atmosphere where she is not content. Her mother is not usually home at this time but she consistently tries to act as a perfect mom, much to MJ’s chagrin. MJ’s tolerance or intolerance for this effort nonwithstanding, we see that what MJ wants is “for somebody (who) cared enough to be here for me.” Little does she know that Spider-man was there, wanting to talk to her. In the end, Mary Jane attempts to find solace in the fact that she has her friends, and her sometimes kooky dreams.
When this series was first teased as to being started again in JANUARY and it finally came to fruition in AUGUST, I had my hopes set extremely high. This issue was not up to my expectations and there are several reasons for this, but let me begin with the positives. First of all, I have to applaud Terry Moore of “Strangers in Paradise” fame for taking this project on. Knowing the genre and stylistic approach of SiP, he seems like a valid choice to write this series. Unfortunately for him, he has to compete with the memory of what this series was like under the masterful pen of Sean McKeever. Moore is able to keeps ties with the previous incarnations of the series as well as make it easier for new people to get into the book by not having it so convoluted at the beginning. Moore starts out with just the right amount of drama to suffice for now: Zoe has a lot of potential and the thought of her maybe having a troubled home life makes me think that she and MJ could get along quite well. Liz and Flash are usually quite stagnant so I cannot really comment on them. Harry, at least right now, seems better to be left away from the series if he is just going to have silent panels. Is Harry just a device? Peter always has great panel-time, and I love the fact that there is never any on-panel changing from Peter to Spider-man because MJ does not KNOW that Peter is Spider-man! That is one consistent aspect. And MJ? Well, she reminds me of Catherine from “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen. She is a heroine with a great imagination and a complicated/frustrating love life. And as with Catherine, her home life and her friends are not always the best. This series continues to deliver the one trait that the Mary Jane in the ASM series is sometimes lacking: depth.
The negatives? My biggest problem with it is actually going to seem like a paradox, so bear with me as I explain. Moore both cuts his book off from the previous series and ties it back too much. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s assume that there are returning readers like me and then there are new readers like…mmm, Kevin Cushing! I am going to want some connection between this “Season” and the previous “Seasons” as well, while Kevin, on the other hand, is going to want to jump on and have little confusion about what has happened in the past. Moore blows both of these points.
For the veteran, we know why Gwen Stacey is not appealing to MJ as a BFF, but Moore puts a blanket statement over that entire description. There is seemingly no resolution to the Peter/MJ relationship that happened Season 1 and there is a disconnect between the actions and the words of the two characters, which merely confuses the veteran reader. For the rookie, one does not know why Harry is angry, is probably even MORE confused by the Peter/MJ relationship, and wonders why Spider-man is visiting MJ in the end. Threads are cut, and new threads are being twined within the story. The Sisters of Fate would not be happy. The story just lacks consistency from the previous issues. If we were to treat this as completely new and separate then I would be fine with that, but there are obvious connections to the past issues.
I only have one thing to say about the art: Rousseau is NOT Takeshi Miyazawa. He’s trying to have his own style while imitating Miyazawa to an extent. Maybe it will grow on me.
2.5 Webheads out of 5. This issue lacks consistency which is really where I take off the points. However, we quickly get attached to the drama and depth of many of the characters so I am confident that it will get better. I loved this series SO much. I loved the soap operatic feel and could not wait until the next issue so I could “tune in.” I hope it gets its Mojo back or Stella-Hulk will smash!
Reviewed by Your Friendly Neighborhood, Spider-Girl!