Completists take note: the follow-up to last year’s Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: The Unexpected Thing is out this week in comic book shops, carrying the beloved series to its end. This is a reprint of the original collection but now in digest format for smaller hands. Collecting Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #14-20 and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane Season 2 #1-5, readers are privy to intense love triangles, Firestar showing up to throw a wrench into all that, and primo Mary Jane drama you can’t get anywhere else. It’s the perfect book for teenagers who want a touch of superheroes.
And a touch of superheroes is what you’ll get. Spider-Man shows up, naturally, but he’s only here or there for Mary Jane to speak to or reflect on as he thwips through the city. Firestar adds a bit more heroics with Spidey, but really this is Mary Jane’s book. The meat of this series takes its main focus on Mary Jane, but other characters like Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy, Felicia Hardy, and Flash Thompson all get moments to shine. Set during high school, this is an original take on the characters that’s 100% focused on the dating lives and troubles high schoolers can connect with.
This volume starts with a secret that eventually blows up and causes some pain for characters. At the start, only Gwen Stacy knows Peter is Spider-Man, which is partly Peter’s fault as he’s avoided telling Mary Jane. In the first volume, he abstained from telling her to make sure she was interested in Peter and not the hero, but that blew up in his face. Much of the first half of this book is about characters gossiping a bit in school about Peter’s secret, but of course, most of them don’t know the truth. This puts Peter in a bad spot since he assumes they mean he’s a hero when that’s not the case, and it ends up creating interesting conflict.
Younger readers are going to enjoy this far more than adults — it’s schlocky drama to be sure. But if you’ve ever watched a soap opera you can get the gist. Sean McKeever has a great handle on writing kids this age and you’ll believe every emotional outbreak and overreaction. Mary Jane is the heart of this book, literally and figuratively. She’s kind, thoughtful, and honest, which is more than you can say about most characters. She grounds the book and makes it feel wholesome.
Fans of Spider-Man will love how McKeever and artists David Hahn and Takeshi Miyazawa weave in nods to the original series. Felicia acts the part of high energy and flirty while Norman has a scary temper and can’t really be trusted. Flash is a bully, but deep down he means well. It’s a nice reflection of who these characters are in a new high school narrative.
The mix of Miyazawa and Hahn works well to add an endearing and fun vibe to the book. Mary Jane is wholesome and easy to connect with thanks to her expressive facial expressions. If you’ve read the last two volumes you’ll be right at home with the first chunk of this book thanks to the cartoony, manga feel to the book.
This also collects Terry Moore and Craig Rousseau’s Season 2. The art style is far different, but suits the high school setting. This five-part story suffers a bit as it has to follow such a strong soap opera. Acting class, confrontations between Peter and Flash, and even a student who has made a website to disparage and gossip about others occur in this chunk of the book. It doesn’t have the up and down nature of the melodrama in the main series to carry your interest, however.
This is a good volume, though it has its failings. The “Season 2” doesn’t live up to the main series and the narrative is certainly written for young teens more than adults. Having said that, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: The Secret Thing is a great gift for the middle school reader in your life.