In my quest to find good comics for young girls a few people recommended the Marvel Mary Jane books to me.
On first sight I was really impressed. The art style is nice fit halfway between superhero comics and shojo manga, and I liked that it was in full colour throughout. I disliked however, the character design of Peter Parker, whose physique and head shape completely mismatched that of Spiderman. In a story focusing on social drama and teenage romance; Peter is a love interest as well as a misfit nerd. If on the big screen he can be played by often termed “cutie” Toby McGuire, why is it that in this version aimed at young teenage girls Peter isn’t much of a looker?
Not that I want to suggest that attractive male leads are the way to get younger teenage girls into comics- I just feel that this example demonstrates a disconnect between the author and the intended audience. Mary Jane Homecoming is a straight-up romance comic, almost all of the story’s conflict is based on relationship feuds, the girls who typically want to read these kinds of stories will care about the quality of the eye candy as much (if not more as proven by the success of the Twilight books) as they will about the story’s heroine.
The story isn’t the sort of thing that even as a young teen I would have wanted to read myself, it takes place in the all too familiar world of the American High School, with its never changing hierarchy of stereotypical cheerleaders, jocks and popularity contests. I might actually have warmed to it more had it been told from the point of view of Peter, at least then it would have had an outsider’s perspective.
All in all, the story is sort of harmless and boring, little action is given to Spiderman and almost as much as that is given to the homecoming american football game. (A double page sports spread? Yep.) Mary Jane is faultless in an irritating goody-two shoes way; perfectly upholding her part-time job in a clothes store, refusing to help Harry cheat on a test, being in no way to blame for her friend’s fall out with her, very modestly becoming homecoming queen and seemingly unintentionally winning the affections of all the boys she meets. I don’t think that this makes for a very lovable protagonist, but I suppose at least she is a “good role model”.
My biggest criticism of this volume would be the complete absence of family life from events. Instead of living with her aunt as she did in previous spiderman stories, Mary Jane lives with parents who we never see and never think about. Nor do we see Harry’s dad- who is even a plot point! The lack of family- either to provide support or create problems is entirely unrealistic and flattens the whole world in which these characters live.
I may pick up other books in this series to see how representative this second volume was, because I did genuinely want to like them!