“Mom and Dad are down a hole in danger and I’m being chased by a dinosaur.”
We’ve seen Pete and MJ’s point of view leading up to their confrontation with The Mole Man. Now find out what Annie’s been up to!
WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Ryan Stegman
COLORIST: Sonia Oback
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Ryan Stegman & Sonia Oback
VARIANT COVER ARTIST: Joe Quinones
TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Anthony Gambino
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITOR: Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: Annie gets caught doodling in class and gets sent to the principal, where she meets Stephanie Kim, the toughest kid in school, who gives her some advice. Later on the playground, Annie sees Jermaine Grant being bullied. Before she can physically intervene, Stephanie steps in and disperses them. Annie then gets a Spider-Sense vision, showing her parents menaced by The Mole Man and his T-Rex, and races off to help. Normie Osborn spots her in action before Annie drops the T-Rex underground. Reunited with her parents, Annie lets out a battle cry to fight!
THOUGHTS: Who’s ready for more from Marvel’s greatest crime-fighting family?!? Stegman cracks the ice with this issue’s star front and center, with her parents lovingly supporting her in the background. I love all the detail he puts into this image, from the dings and scratches on Annie’s pads, to the cracks in the buildings, and the spaghetti-style webbing shooting just off camera!
With the first issue rightfully introducing us to this new world though Peter’s perspective, and the last issue from the marvelous Mary Jane’s, I don’t think anyone doubted that Annie was going to be the focus this time out. What’s impressive here is that Conway manages each issue’s respective voice with ease, making them sound unique and authentic to themselves. I can’t see Peter thinking “OMG” to himself over and over, but it works perfectly fine for his young daughter, who would be more used to writing text abbreviations.
As with the style of dialogue, Stegman’s art seems to have taken a minute shift this issue, too. Sometimes faces seem to have a Greg Capullo influence, but mainly the change seems to be of a more cartoony vibe, like when Ms. Santiago gets impatient and frustrated. Sara Pichelli would occasionally have Miles Morales over on Spider-Man have a chibi-styled panel showing his thoughts, which didn’t work for me given the more mature Miles presented in his 616 set book. Here though, the perspective works given the point of view is being narrated by a grade schooler.
It’s not just outlandish faces that Stegman provides to get you into Annie’s head, but camera focuses, too. As Principal Morton drones on and on to Annie, the panels push further in on the clock and what time it is agonizingly ticking towards. Later, we get to see Annie’s perspective of the first issue’s fight, be it from her parents dangling high above, or her mom diving into the fray of Moloids. There are a few shots that seem to be coming from a lower angle, indicating Annie’s relative height.The Moloids feel clumped together thicker than a barrel of monkeys and the blood that spurts as MJ pummels them seems more visceral when coming from the eyes of a child. Spinneret is definitely ferocious when it comes to protecting her kid, as any parent would be, and I can see where Annie’s reverence for her mom comes from.
Not everything is super-hero struggles, though. The real world issue of bullying rears its ugly face as Gloria Grant’s son, Jermaine, is getting the shake down at school for his lunch money. It’s a small callback to the inaugural issue where Peter mentions to Glory that Annie has seen Jermaine around. Gloria is about to ask him something, but gets interrupted by Jonah. Was it for Peter to ask Annie to keep an eye on her first grader?
Whether that would’ve been the case or not, it’s great to see that Annie was sticking up for him and upholding the family tradition of helping those in need. It’s also worth noting that whilst Annie is trying to hold herself in and not get physical to resolve the conflict, it’s Stephanie who breaks things up and diffuses the situation with her words and reputation.
What I really like about how Conway has structured these first three issues is how he demonstrates each character’s own personal day to day “real world” conflict, then juxtaposes it with the outlandish Moloids and their ilk. Peter has shopping lists and earning a living, MJ has her business and blog, and Annie has school and bullies. Their normalcy makes them relatable to we, the reader, and serves as a gateway to the fantastic, like Stegman-rendered dinosaurs.
So far in this series we’ve been given examples of how Annie takes after Pete and MJ, but Conway pushes it further by having Stegman interpret her Spider-Sense in a completely different way. She almost seems to have a splitting headache as prophetic premonitions erupt out of her skull in psychotropic waves that Steve Ditko might be proud of. It doesn’t look fun, especially with tears welling up in Annie’s eyes from the shock. I’m looking forward to Conway’s eventual moniker for this Super-Spider-Sense.
Each time we look at the Moloids melee, Stegman has shown us the scene from a different angle, but familiar enough to make it easily match up. However, for this third go round, we see little Normie Osborn become smitten with Spider-Annie. It’s little touches like this that make each revisit worthwhile as we learn of a new layer. You’ll have to forgive my memory, but wasn’t the MC2 Normie Osborn also crushing on Mayday Parker back in the day? Annie’s cleverness is on display as she tricks the T-Rex into dropping in for a visit. It reminded me of Bugs Bunny, in a good way.
Stegman is fast becoming one of my favorite Spidey artists! There’s so much life and energy in every panel, not to mention a cinematic flair. His panel layouts are also carefully constructed and balanced. If reading a digital version, you can easily flip and see what he’s doing with structure. I also dug the parallel between this issue and last of our heroines swinging to the scene respectively. It was cool to get a different glimpse of Annie’s suit before she puts the pads on and how can you not love a guy who includes art from his 8 year old niece, Ellie, to fill in for Annie’s doodling? It’s priceless!
Before I forget, this issue also has a letter column, further adding to the classic comic feel! I’m looking forward to seeing other people pour in with love, and of course, they are also asking for letter column name suggestions, so get yours in and maybe become part of history! Any chance they’ll resurrect Crawlspace? I appreciated Shan mentioning his love for MJ Watson-PARKER and that there are those in the Spider-Office who grew up with and appreciated the Spider-Marriage.
To be honest, while I was greatly looking forward to this issue, I was also slightly trepidatious about it. Issues focusing on Pete and MJ are great, but how much enjoyment would I get reading about a little kid? Would Conway be able to capture a voice that sounded authentic or would it come out like someone trying to sound like a child? Would I get tired seeing the same fight for the third time?
Personally, I think he pulled it off. Some might be disappointed in the lack of new material focusing on her parents, and I can understand that, but Conway still delivered a great introduction to a relatively new character. Now that “my” Spidey is back, it’s agonizing to wait for a story that focuses more on him, but I’d wager this tale reads GREAT in a collected edition format. My hope is that Conway doesn’t resort to this structure for every narrative and I don’t think he will. I’m really looking forward to the conclusion next month!
MY GRADE: A-
JAVI’s HUH?: So, the story’s title is “Brawl In The Family”, not “Brawl: In The Family”??? Thanks Mr. Shan for clearing that up in the letters page! I’ll have to dust these old cobwebs out of my head since I didn’t realize this sooner!