Thursday, August 14, 2008

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Season 2 #1

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, season 2, issue #1
by Terry Moore/Craig Rousseau
Marvel 2008

Hillary Brown: I was definitely a little nervous about anyone taking over this book, even someone with a great reputation like Terry Moore (whom I've read nothing else by, but is also taking over Runaways, so I guess I'm going to get familiar with him), but, at the same time, I was just so happy it was coming back at all that I would have been willing to accept some slightly sub-par work. Better something than nothing, right? Well, it's a step up from that. It's hard for me to say what a single issue reads like, as I went through the trades as fast as possible, wanting more every time I finished. Moore's pacing is a little slower than that, but it's one issue and it's a relaunch of sorts, an explanation of what's happened to everyone since the last issue. Is this necessary? Well, maybe, even though this is only supposed to be a five-issue miniseries. You could argue that taking up that time with exposition is wasted space, but I didn't find any of it clumsy or un-enjoyable. The difference in art is noticeable, too, but equally not bad. Do I just want more Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane that much? Is it sucky and slow and boring and I'm just turning a blind eye to its flaws?

Garrett Martin: No, it's not sucky or slow, or whatever. It's actually pretty good. Which is a relief, as I was more than nervous about this book proceeding without Sean McKeever. His Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane was such a surprise, so sweet and clever and unlike anything else on the superhero stands, that continuing it with another writer seemed so unnecessary. Maybe even unfair. I'm not going to compare SM Loves MJ to Howard the Duck, but I figured non-McKeever issues of this book would fare like the post-Gerber issues of Howard, and be immediately dismissed and/or quickly forgotten. Moore's first issue isn't quite as slick as McKeever, as you mention, belaboring the character intros a bit, and dipping a bit too far into high school fiction cliche, what with the comically named, "why I never" vice-principal. But his humor isn't feeble, he nails MJ's voice, and he realizes that these characters aren't quite the stereotypes they could easily turn out to be. Honestly, that's more than I expected. And it's hard to fault the pacing; yeah, it's weird to blow one-fifth of the story on reintrodutions, but it's been so long since the (fairly low-selling) first season ended that reintrodutions are pretty much a necessity. Craig Rousseau's art is a step down from the heavily manga-influenced Takeshi Miyazawa, the book's original artist, but is more vibrant and fluid than David Hahn's inert work near the end of McKeever's run. It's not exciting, or especially notable, but perfectly acceptable. Miyazawa was just as important to the first series as McKeever, though, so it's unfortunate they still haven't found somebody who's work is as whimsical and distinctive as his.

Speaking of digests and single issues, do you see yourself following this on a monthly basis, or waiting on the eventual collection?

HB: Yeah, I mean, I love Miyazawa, and I merely like Rousseau. I think it's all the swirls and patterns that end up in Miyazawa's work, so it's not as manga as it could be but almost (maybe) a little art nouveau. Still, Rousseau's work is more than competent and often interesting. It might take me a minute to recognize some characters (Liz Allen), but I got everyone straight eventually, and it's certainly not distracting.

I still think I'll probably wait for digest, but I guess it depends on whether the book continues beyond those five issues. This and House of Mystery would be about as close as I've come to wanting to buy something on a weekly basis, and, if anything, it's not even so much based on wanting to follow the story from week to week as it is on just wanting to show my support. To keep the book publishing, perhaps.

So, have you read any other Terry Moore? He's clearly excellent at writing contemporary teenagers (compare the awkward shoehorning of twittering into that Fraction/Brubaker X-Men #500 to the seamless incorporation of texting here), but why? Is he a young 'un trapped in an old 'un's body? My guess is that the book will continue to be less zippy than McKeever's work, but McKeever's clearly so good that tons of male comic book nerds ended up reading, enthusiastically, a book about a teenage girl with a crush on Spider-Man.

GM: Never read anything by Terry Moore before. And frankly, Strangers In Paradise, his big creator-owned book, doesn't sound too good, what with the lipstick lesbian secret agent ex-prossies and what-not. But it ran forever and a lot of folks like it so maybe it's better than the plot description. He's got a rep as a dude who can write women, and he backs that up with this here first issue of SMLMJ. And yeah, he also seems capable of writing believable teenagers, so maybe his upcoming Runaways series will be okay, too.

It's weird about McKeever; Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane was fantastic, and Gravity was pretty great, but nothing else I've read by him has impressed me. I can't single him out for Countdown's misery, but even the two or three issues of Teen Titans that I've read were a let-down. I don't know if he has much of a fanbase, as a creator; he was kind of a name on the rise when DC signed him to an exclusive, and none of the books he's written over there have sold particularly well. But it's not like there were "tons" of people buying SMLMJ, either; I think it was usually selling under 10K copies through the direct market. It's a shame he's at DC, not because I dislike that company or its characters, but because for whatever reason he seems far better at writing Spider-Man (or Spidey-type characters like Gravity) than anything else. I've got no idea why he's not the regular writer on Blue Beetle. Anyway, I should probably check Teen Titans out again, to see if he's gotten any better at it. I hope it's not a situation where Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane was such a perfect combination of creator and book that each will always feel slightly underwhelming without the other.

HB: Yeah, but maybe only underwhelming according to the pizza rule: even if it's underwhelming, it's still pizza.

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