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The Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 12/28/05
brought to you by Brian's Books of Santa Clara

Each week we look through the upcoming releases to offer our two cents as to what's hot and what's not. You can agree with us or not, but spend your money wisely.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #1
writer: Sean McKeever
artist: Takeshi Miyazawa

Here's hoping the third time makes the charm for McKeever and Miyazawa's delightful (yes, I said delightful) recasting of Spider-Man's high school days as a romance. After all, our culture has repositioned the story of Peter Parker and Mary Jane as a classic love story. At some point, the comics had to follow suit.

Though this new series refers back to the two earlier tries, it really works as a stand-alone issue, which makes it a perfect spotlight book, but more importantly, makes it a perfect effort to get new readers. Told from Mary Jane's point of view, this may be the most realistic look at the life of these teenagers.

McKeever has an even better ear for teenagers than Bendis does in Ultimate Spider-Man. Over there, as brilliant a book as that is, teens seem realistic but through the filter of the Bendis rhythm. Somehow over here, though, the teenage girls talk like teenage girls without any rhythm but their own. Maybe it's that I haven't read nearly as much McKeever as I have Bendis, but that's not a bad thing; it's great to discover a new writer catching my attention.

As simple graphic storytelling, this book has flashes of brilliance. The issue opens with a battle between Dr. Octopus and Spider-Man, showing what a clever little spider hero he is, but Miyazawa pulls back the camera to reveal it to be a news report. In her upstairs bedroom, Mary Jane Watson watches raptly, struggling with what she knows is an impossible crush.

Then the camera pans back to her bed, where Peter Parker sits patiently waiting for attention so he can tutor her. Yes, tutor her. Right now he might as well be invisible, but McKeever is slowly but surely building up to Mary Jane understanding Peter's good qualities as she starts seeing the shortsightedness of her friends and ex-boyfriend, Norman Osborn.

The Mary Jane books are clearly set in a universe somewhere between Ultimate and Sony Pictures, because this is that universe where Peter is nowhere near as painfully dorky as he was in the original Lee-Ditko collaborations, and Harry is smooth, suave and just a bit of a bully. If Gwen Stacy exists here, she hasn't been made obvious. But the general public never got that great romance.

Put continuity aside. Revel in the resourcefulness of a determined redhead teen on the cusp of adulthood, doing crazy things in pursuit of a dream, but willing to accept that the dream is crazy. Yet, of course, it's closer than she knows.

Marvel's push in pursuit of new readership is laudable. Despite this book being a rehashing of a franchise instead of something wholly new, the company's commitment to it is absolutely right. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane fits a niche and deserves its audience. Make it work this time, and if you know someone that loves teen romance, tell her. Or him. Let me not be unenlightened about this, because as McKeever and Miyazawa prove, good storytelling is good storytelling.


JLA Classified #15: "New Maps From Hell" ends with this issue, the last great hurrah of what DC and Grant Morrison intended JLA to be. The big guns get together and prove why they're the big guns in creative ways that blow the readers' minds. Let it serve as a reminder that this iteration of the League had greatness once. And remember that if more people had written Kyle Rayner as this competent a hero, maybe Hal Jordan wouldn't have had to come back from the dead.

The Savage Sensational She-Hulk #3/100: Having the strange dual numbering and superlative makes sense to fandom. Though this is the fourth series that the character of She-Hulk has had, it adds up to one hundred total issues. Marvel gives a sampling of the Jade Giantess over the years, starting with current writer Dan Slott wrapping up his relaunch arc. He has help from a variety of artists, and the story also drops a few hints about what's coming up in the Marvel Universe, sort of the equivalent to DC laying the groundwork for Infinite Crisis in the pages of Aquaman.. The difference is that nobody thinks I'm insane for liking She-Hulk.

Solo #8: The solo light falls on European artist Teddy Kristiansen. Though his work is quirky and interesting, that's not why you should pick up this book. No. Without much fanfare, it turns out that Kristiansen had a little help from one of comics' most popular writers, one who had left us for a little while. Neil Gaiman writes a Deadman tale. Let me repeat that. Neil Gaiman writes a Deadman tale. Of course, he captures the character perfectly and makes me want a Deadman book from Gaiman. Maybe I can convince Grant Morrison to write something that contains a sigil that will convince Gaiman to do it.

Vigilante #4: The first couple of issues didn't seem to have anything all that new going for them, just the aura of Bruce Jones doing some work for DC. Though it still feels like a lot of the take on this book is darkness for its own sake, Jones has begun ratcheting up the plot and this new Vigilante may become something more than a vaguely S & M pulp hero.

X-Factor #2: Ryan Sook gets a little help to keep this thing going monthly. We're okay with that, because Peter David's revamp of the concept (revealed in the editorial page to have been hoped for from the beginning of his brilliant Madrox mini-series) needs to stay on time. And then some. He's the master of the cliffhanger that gets resolved in the next issue while building to the next cliffhanger. Everything about this book is fun, especially the recasting of House of M plot device Layla Miller as an actual character. Well done.

X-Men/Power Pack #3: Every time Power Pack has met an X-Man it's been quite a stretch of coincidence, but the book is just so fun and right for kids that it just doesn't matter. So this week, if you know children that think they might be interested in comic books but fear that your average X-Men by Peter Milligan or the alternately disgusting and stupid "The Other" storyline may be way too intense, buy them this. They'll love it. Or buy them Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. They'll love it

The Alternately Disgusting and Stupid "The Other" Storyline:

Truly, I understand that characters periodically need an update, but not at the expense of either my belief or their core. Spider-Man ate a guy's head. Spider-Man could potentially have powers like Wolverine. And a few issues back, he put his loved ones in old Iron Man armor (The Invincible Iron May and Iron Mary Jane), broke into Dr. Doom's castle and traveled back in time to the day that his parents left him with Ben and May. Um, if I could travel back in time to see my parents, I'd pick a freakin' day that they didn't drop me off to never be seen again. Instead, a time-distorted invisible Peter Parker waves for them to come back, as impotent as the writing of Reginald Hudlin has been on this arc.

Phew. Sorry. I hadn't worked that up into a full rant for anyplace else. So go buy comics. Enjoy. Complain to me. Something. Have a Happy New Year.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think. Talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

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