When May “Mayday” Parker–the stunning Spider-Girl–swung onto the comics scene in 1998, she quickly became a fan-favorite. The daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Parker was one of those characters who was a hit with both the fans and the critics. Despite all the fanfare, Spider-Girl never made it onto my weekly pull list (I was young… and collecting way too many X-Men titles). I do remember enjoying a trade paperback that collected the first few issues of Spider-Girl, but there wasn’t any additional exploration beyond that one collection.
So, you better believe I jumped at the chance to read and review Marvel’s newly released Spider-Girl: The Complete Collection Vol. 1, which, hopefully, is the first of many new Mayday-themed trades. At $39.99, and collecting What If? #105, Spider-Girl #1-15, Annual ’99 and #1/2, this is a great purchase for Spider-Man fans who have always wanted to know what makes his daughter so lovable.
What exactly is the deal with Spider-Girl? Let’s roll back the clock to the late ’90s, before there was a Spider-Verse, when if there was more than one Spider-person in the Marvel Universe, it was likely some kind of clone situation. Around this time, Peter and MJ were about to have a baby… until Marvel editors decided they shouldn’t have a baby. Cut to What If? #105, where creators Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz got to explore a world where that Spider-baby survived and grew up to be a Spider-Girl.Readers demanded more adventures starring teenage May Parker and, in return, Marvel gifted them a small line of comics set in the MC2 universe–just one of many possible futures. It’s a world where the Human Torch leads the Fantastic Five and Peter Parker hung up the webs a long time ago (following a final battle with the Green Goblin that cost him his leg). Despite the little differences, however, this world felt somewhat familiar. Spider-Girl, specifically, feels like those classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Amazing Spider-Man stories we hold in such high regard, and is totally refreshing at the same time. And therein lies the magic of May Parker.
Spider-Girl is an excellent blueprint for how a major comics publisher can recapture the magic of beloved stories without having its characters make deals with fictional devils or forcing reality-warping relaunches. Through Spider-Girl, Marvel could tell new stories about a teenaged superhero that respected–and didn’t disregard–everything that came before it.
Of course, most of the credit for this very enjoyable series goes to its solid creative team of DeFalco and artist Pat Olliffe. Issue after issue in this collection, these two consistently deliver the right mix of character development, action and heart. Aside from classic Spidey tales, this collection of teen-focused stories most reminded me of Mark Waid’s modern Archie comics (which, if you haven’t read those, is a huge compliment).While I very much enjoyed this collection, I must warn you, Spider-Girl is far from a flawless series. For instance, May’s rogues’ gallery really can’t compete with her dad’s. Sorry Killer Watt, but you’re no Electro. And then we have the occasional dated ’90s joke. If this series takes place about 15 years after 1998, why are people still making Bill Clinton jokes?
Actually, thinking back to what we saw during the 2016 presidential election, that may be dead-on. Point Spider-Girl.
I could definitely heap more praise on this book, but Spider-Girl is truly one of those Marvel series you need to experience for yourself. While many of the issues conclude with “The end… for now!” they actually flow together very nicely. The teen drama subplots, especially, benefit from this collection’s format. You always want to know what happens next–and you don’t have to wait a month to find out, you just keep reading!
So whether you’ve been missing those simpler Spider-Man stories from yesteryear, love Nick Spencer’s current run and wonder what the future could hold for Pete and MJ, or just love fun superhero comics, definitely consider adding Spider-Girl: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 to your reading pile!