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Spider-Man: Mary Jane, Vol. 1 - Circle of Friends Paperback – November 17, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Why should Peter Parker have all the fun? Now, Spiderman's true love, Mary Jane Watson, gets a comic all her own in which Peter and Spidey are only peripheral characters. MJ's story is about being a high school teen, sorting out who she wants to be and, equally important, who she wants to be with. Befitting a comic about classic adolescent dramas, the focus is on the homecoming dance. MJ's best friend, Liz, has her sights set on becoming Homecoming queen. Her boyfriend, Flash, the star quarterback, has been dragging his feet on getting his application for king handed in. MJ doesn't have a date for the dance, but Liz has that sewn up: the perfect guy, Harry Osborn, is up for grabs, and has his eye on our Mary Jane. She likes him, but does she really "like" him? He's no Spidey, but he sure is nice, and he pays for everything. MJ's efforts to raise money for a new dress and the identity of Flash's secret crush add even more complications, and all the suspense makes for fun escapism. Miyazawa renders the high school sturm und drang in a beautiful landscape of strong lines and pastel colors—it's a world of great hair, stylin' clothes and clear skin for all.
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Second, both Peter Parker and Spider-Man are really secondary figures in this story. The emphasis is on Mary Jane, her boyfriend Harry Osborn (who was not around in the high school days of the original comic), her best friend Liz Allen, and Liz's boyfriend Flash Thompson. Peter is the science geek that Flash insults and when Spider-Man rescues MJ from Electro and takes her home (he explains he knows where she lives because it is, ah, one of his special powers) she has a crush on the mysterious superhero and she confesses to Liz she wants him to take her to homecoming.
But this is not about a high school girl having a superhero as a date for homecoming. It is about a high school girl who does not understand why she is not happy with her boyfriend. Harry pays for everything and MJ does not like it, so she goes out and gets a job to carry her own weight. She is also a kid who is concerned that Liz is calling Flash "stupid" all the time and she thinks it is really starting to affect him. But then she finds out there is a bigger problem for her small circle of friends when she discovers Flash is "crushing" on her.
Sound like a teenage soap opera? Absolutely. But take away the fact that every once in a while MJ runs into Spider-Man and you have a pretty serious attempt at dealing with typical teenage problems (certainly more realistic than "The O.C." and arguably more so than "Smallville"). There is also some decent role-modeling involved since these kids talk about their problems, albeit indirectly in many cases. At the heart of the stories is Mary Jane, which justifies having the Spider-Man face that appears between her first and middle names on the cover is in the shape of a heart. She is an interesting kid.
We are currently three-quarters of the way through the next story, "Mary Jane, Volume 2: Homecoming," which picks up right where "Circle of Friends" leaves off, which is good because this one ends with what is no so much a cliffhanger as a major crisis point for MJ and her friends. These comic books are doing more than re-modeling Mary Jane Watson as the girl next door, whereas she was the ultimate party girl in "The Amazing Spider-Man." Besides, the way Miyazawa draws her Mary Jane is really cute. No wonder Peter Parker is pinning for her from afar and no wonder the rest of us are willing to read these comic books.
Should you buy this book? Why not. I know some people may be to stuck up to think of having a book like this on the shelf with books like Watchmen or DKR, but Mary Jane is a fun, different take on the love of Spider-Man's life, and for the price is too good to be passed up.
The problem is that the comic itself is quite predictable and nothing that is any more interesting then what one would find on any of the television dramas aimed at teenage girls. It is also a very fast read for six dollars.
It is great to see Marvel (in this case, though i could easily be saying DC also) marketing something like this, I only wish that it would have been something better.