Comics : Spider-Girl #23
This review was first published on: 2004.
A mysterious encounter on the basketball court leaves May questioning both her role as a superhero and the limits her powers place on her life. And another Darkdevil cameo, but it's fairly gratuitous.
Aug 2000 : SM Spin-Off
During a Midtown High basketball game, May Parker begins to notice something odd about one of her rival players, a girl named Nancy Lu. Every shot goes in. Every pass comes straight to her. And every time May tries to steal the ball, she trips. ("You possess the agility of a spider. You don't trip! You never trip!") Despite a valiant effort, Midtown loses 68-61. And despite the congratulations for a hard-fought game, Nancy seems to May to be hiding something. After a quick shower and change, she tracks Nancy to her home where she finds a normal-looking family. Not exactly the Batcave. Puzzled, May returns home insisting to herself that something is up.
At school the next day, J.J. tells her that his grandfather is planning to offer her a job. After school, the two journey to the Daily Bugle where a stunned May realizes that Jonah wants to hire her to be a freelance photographer. The rest of the day up to this point has been more or less normal. The lunchtime training session with Phil Urich and the Ladyhawks. The basketball practice . . . where May begins to wonder how fair it is for her to even play, since using the full extent of her powers in a game wouldn't be fair. "Heck," she thinks, "maybe you shouldn't even play at all."
Out for a bit of web-swinging later, in an attempt to learn Nancy's secret, Spider-Girl runs into Darkdevil, who just takes enough time to insist that she stay away from Funny Face. May is too embarrassed to admit who she's really searching for. And as she leaves him behind, she begins to realize that she hasn't done anything of significance as a costumed crimefighter lately. Underscoring the point is the schoolyard bully she runs into. "Using your spider-powers against these kids is like employing nuclear weapons to kill flies." May worries that she's squandering her powers, but before she can figure out what to do about it she runs into Nancy Lu, who promptly reveals her power by telekinetically pushing a child out of the path of a speeding car. Spider-Girl confronts her, and she admits to being a low-level telekinetic but vehemently denies any desire to "dress in a silly costume, fight absurd villains or join a super-team." May is stunned, but agrees to leave her alone if she promises not to use her powers for anything foolish.
The next night brings another basketball game, and as she prepares in the locker room May hears that Nancy Lu quit the Central High basketball team for reasons unknown. May knows why, however, and as the rest of the team files out onto the court, she stays behind.
And now for something completely different. . . .
One thing I've liked about the characters of Spider-Man and Spider-Girl is the theme of how power can limit you. When Peter was in high school, he could have splattered Flash Thompson up one hall and down the other, but he never did. That was due (thankfully) to his overriding sense of responsibility. But because of his spider strength, he couldn't fight back at all. Any attempt to fight back would've caused too much damage, whereas had he not gained his powers, it's possible he could have fought Flash, bloodied his nose a little and earned his respect. The theme has carried on throughout Spidey's history; another example I can think of is when he got the Captain Universe powers. He could do almost anything, but he was jumpy, irritable, angry, and caused strain in his personal relationships because of it. Power always comes with a price.
Now we have Spider-Girl and Nancy Lu. Neither of them asked for their powers. They just wanted to be normal people. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. It's not fair for May to play on the basketball team with the abilities she has. Yet her abilities aren't serving any grand purpose at the moment. It's bound to be frustrating but it takes Nancy's sacrifice to put it all in perspective. As much as May wants to live some semblance of a normal life, her spider powers are going to keep her from doing that sometimes. It's not fair, but that's the way things are, and as the story ends I think we're meant to believe that May is going to quit the team. And while that's a sad thing, I think it's a good direction for the book to take. May hasn't really had to sacrifice all that much as a superhero. If her career is anything like her father's, though, that will change soon. And I think that's the best way to go.
On the other hand, I really don't see where Tom DeFalco is going with this freelance photographer storyline. I don't like it and I don't see how it's going to contribute to the overall character development. That's Peter's world, not May's. Plus, when Peter started selling pictures to the Bugle he did so because he and Aunt May were in dire need of financial support. Where's May's motivation here? Granted, high school is the time to try out new directions in life, but is this something she's ever had any interest in? It's not working for me.
Also, I thought the obligatory training session and the even more obligatory Darkdevil cameo detracted from the story. They seemed to be there for the sole purpose of filling some superhero quota. Better to spend more time fleshing out the dilemma of Nancy Lu, maybe even show some more of May's reaction to her refusal to fight crime. Unnecessary.
This one earns three webs. I liked the overall plot very much but knocked off a web each for the things that bugged me. Still a good read, though.