Comics : Marvel Valentine Special 1997
This review was first published on: 2004.
"All-out romance in the mighty Marvel manner!" quoth the tagline, which is a bit misleading. I mean, I'd read that and think that the comic was chock full of fight scenes, punctuated by the occasional kiss. Thankfully I was wrong -- this issue actually has love stories in it, with comparatively few fight scenes. And for a mere one U.S. dollar, plus ninety-nine U.S. cents, true love can be yours....
Marvel Valentine Special 1997
Year 1997 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
|Articles: Daredevil, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Titania|
Marvel Valentine Special #1 has five stories, leading with a Spider-Man/Mary Jane story, and also including a Daredevil/Karen Page story, an Absorbing Man/Titania story, a Cyclops/Phoenix story, and a Venus/Googam story (yes, you read that right).
The lead story is called "My Fair Spidey." Written by Tom Peyer, with art by Mark Buckingham and Kev Sutherland, it is absolutely charming. Peter Parker tries to help a geeky fellow ESU student attract the woman of his dreams by making him look "cooler" -- like Peter himself. When describing this to his wife, MJ has a good chortle at that, reminding Peter that he was hardly the epitome of hip-dom when MJ met him. ("I ... was a nerd?" a shocked Peter replies.) Spidey and MJ then try to reverse the "cool" makeover, to good effect as it happens, and the geek and the woman fall in love and live happily ever after (or at least happily til the end of the story). As an added bonus, as MJ puts it, Peter comes to terms with his "inner geek." Great fun, and anything Mark Buckingham draws is bound to look beautiful.
The other stories vary wildly in terms of quality. "Love Hurts" is a Daredevil story by John Ostrander, Mary Mitchell, and Chris Ivy that is about date abuse. A noble cause, and there's a plug for the National Domestic Violence Hotline at the end, but noble causes do not a good story make, and this one is rife with clichés and oversimplifications. Mitchell and Ivy's art is also horribly stiff.
"Atom-Age Amore" is a hilarious tribute to Marvel's pre-super hero comics by Frank Strom, Dan DeCarlo, and Terry Austin, as we get the triumphant return of Venus, Goddess of Love and the monster Goom. A dating services is also involved. The story and art capture the feel of the late 1950s monster and romance comics, with some amusing 1990s eye-winking. Strom obviously didn't read any of Goom's previous appearances -- but probably nobody else buying this issue did, either, so what the hey. (Of course, the story does sort of explain how Goom got a son -- Googam, son of Goom, who appeared in Where Monsters Dwell #17. Dear God, why do I remember this stuff?????)
I have to admit, I have come to absolutely adore the romance between Titania and the Absorbing Man. In fact, it's probably the only good thing that came out of the Secret Wars miniseries. They recently got married in a poorly-written-and-worse-drawn issue of Avengers Unplugged, but Tom DeFalco, Dan Lawlis, and Jeff Albrecht come through in "The Greatest Gift!" here to give us the Absorbing Man trying desperately to find the perfect Valentine's Day present -- no easy task when you're a wanted felon. It even has a surprise ending.
DeFalco comes through again with "The Way!" a story that ties in to The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix miniseries. With art by Kyle Hotz, this story is a bit on the obvious side, but still is a nice little tale of perseverance that ends the special on an uplifting note.
From the Spidey perspective, this is a winner. An excellent portrayal of the Peter/MJ marriage and a fun story to boot. It even managed to make the clichés work. The same can't be said for all the other stories, but even the worst of them is a noble effort. Definitely worth the two bucks.
"My Fair Spidey" and "The Greatest Gift!" are the highlights here, with two very different examples of the dynamics of a marriage involving a paranormal person. "Love Hurts" gets an extra half-web for the hotline phone number and nobility of effort, but that doesn't save the story from its cliché-hood and the art from being lousy. "Atom-Age Amore" is true to those crummy old Marvel monster and romance books, but the operative word there is still crummy. And "The Way!" is a decent little story.