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Jason Schachat has been threatened with cancellation numerous times.

Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

Amazing Spider-Girl #1 is trying to do what its predecessor had trouble accomplishing: bringing enough fans into the Spider-Girl to keep the book from getting cancelled. A couple weeks ago they gave us Amazing Spider-Girl #0 to catch us up on the plot. Sure, they charged $2 for what any rube at a public library could get from Wikipedia, but at least they tried.

This issue demonstrates the other problem with the series: an assload of characters populate this world. All the friends at school and friends of friends and parents of friends and employers of parents of friends– it’s a lot to fit into 22 pages.

And somehow Tom De Falco and crew pull it off.

The story opens up by telling us what Spider-Girl is NOT when May “May Day” Parker’s friend Jimmy shows her the pages of the Spider-Girl comic he and Wes whipped up. Ever since May retired as Spider-Girl, people seem to be hankering for her return, but she promised her Mom that she’d end the madness and try being a normal teenager for a change.

Of course, the comic book definition of “normal” means running for class president, volunteering at a shelter after school, quitting the Basketball team because you’re too good, and being friends with jocks, preps, geeks, and nerds alike, so reality is still blissfully removed from the picture.

May’s fairytale life may not last when she bumps into some toughs trying to get at one of the girls in the shelter, though...

Despite the amount of effort that’s gone into this first issue, it still doesn’t look like new readers are suddenly going to flock to Amazing Spider-Girl. The massive continuity has been boiled down into a neat little boullion cube for the moment, but readers know it’s going to melt once the plotlines get heated up.

There’s also a problem with the size of the audience. Much of Spider-Girl could easily appeal to the girls reading manga today, but the comic companies need to get something through their thick skulls: they chased off that demographic a long time ago. The girls who would’ve been raised on Spider-Girl learned the language of graphic narrative from Fruits Basket instead.

Just like action fans flocked to the widescreen style for its emulation of major action films, manga fans go for certain visual cues, panels that aren’t jammed with tiny text, and different artistic sensibilities than you’ll get from Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema.

So, since Amazing Spider-Girl doesn’t look like it’ll be picking up many readers from other Marvel comics or the manga readers, who’s their audience? I hate to say it, but this is like a book comic fans would want their daughters to read. The names are warm and familiar to a longtime Spidey fan, the teenage drama is timeless and the art is solidly superhero americana.

Once the plot picks up, I’m sure May Parker’s story will be just as fun as ever. I just don’t think they can expect the audience to grow much more. Spider-Girl will be kept alive by the same thing that’s powered her for years now: loyal fans. ‘Nuff said.

Don't cross her. Get it? Cross?

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures #1 is, if nothing else, a great sign that Marvel is realizing they need to shift focus more towards the bookstore crowd that makes their trade paperbacks increasingly profitable. Their new partnership with Dabel Brothers Productions is only going to help them there.

Thankfully, Anita Blake also makes for quite a nice comic. Adapted from Laurell K, Hamilton’s story by the same name, this series finds us with the experienced Vampire Hunter turned “Animator” (granting movement to corpses, not cartoons) as new laws have granted legal citizenship to Vampires in the United States. Still, one of the bloodsuckers turns to her for help when Vampires start turning up dead, even though that’s not really her racket.

But who is behind the murders in the new Vampire Club District? Why are Ghouls rising from their graves? What is going on with Anita’s friends’ bachelorette party at a Vampire Strip Club?

If you look at the great vampire stories, you inevitably find they’re more about tension than action. That may be why vampire comics so frequently fail. The medium has been spoiled by the need for instant bloodshed. The EC horror tradition was lost for so many years that it seems we never really recovered.

Anita Blake is just sopping with the atmosphere that makes vampire stories stand out. Primal and somewhat erotic with imminent death always a distinct possibility, yet we’re always kept just at the brink. That’s the golden spot where vampires belong.

This book keeps us there by building up the textbook crime thriller while the vampires work their seduction on the crowd. Anita doesn’t fall for it and keeps pointing out the cards up the magicians’ sleeves, but not even she can explain the real mysteries going on in the wings. Stacie M. Ritchie’s adaptation keeps the material from getting cartoony and Brett Booth’s clean yet spidery style puts us nicely on the borderline of attraction and repulsion.

Fans of the Anita Blake novels may not care so much to see their treasured heroine in a “funny book," but fans of vampire comics just got a new reason to head to the store.

Page 2: The Authority #1, The Flash #5, Gen 13 #1 and Wildcats: WorldStorm #1...

Jason Schachat

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