Sensational Spider-Man (Vol. 2) Annual #1

Background

Peter Parker is a wanted man. After revealing his secret identity during the Civil War, he went on the run aided by MJ and Aunt May. May has been shot and is in hospital, while SHIELD are on the trail of Spider-Man.

Story 'To Have And To Hold'

We begin with a black-suited spider-man covering MJs eyes, before letting her open them to reveal the breathtaking view from the very top of the Empire State Building.

Earlier, MJ had run into Brady – a former bodyguard. They stop and have a drink at the Coffee Bean. Mary-Jane remembers how her and Harry plus Gwen and Peter used to hang out there together. That is before Brady reveals he is an agent of SHIELD now and that she is under arrest if she doesn't give up Peter Parker.

Elsewhere, at Hoppers Diner, Peter has arranged to meet Detective Lamont. He wants to give himself up in return for immunity for MJ and May. He is upset at what live they have now because of him. He shows Lamont pictures of Aunt May and Uncle Ben and tells him how Ben was killed.. Peter remembers more about his, Harry's and Flash's shared history with the girls.

Mary-Jane is also remembering how, after she made Peter a mix-tape with music on it, he made her a tape with, erm, lectures taped from the TV on it. And how the nerdy Pete wouldn't kiss her when she had mistletoe on a Christmas hat. We see the same scene with thoughts from both MJ and Peter.

Lamont tells Peter that it's just come in that SHIELD are holding MJ at the Coffee Bean. He tells Pete to go – and not contact him again.

Back at the Bean, MJ remembers their first kiss – and Peter asking her why she always calls him Tiger (because he's not). She tells Lamont to arrest her. At that moment, Peter swings in through the window, dodges all the undercover SHIELD agents and swings straight back out with his wife. He swings her off to the Empire State Building.

General Comments

It's hard to describe in a review quite how well the flashback scenes blend into the overall story. They're subtle but at the same time core to the tale and very well written by Matt Fraction.

The art from Salvador Larroca is also lovely. He successfully mixes a modern style for the current events, with a almost Romita Sr-esque feel for the Gwen and MJ styles of the past.

Fraction's handling of the character is superb – especially at a time with so much going on in the Spider-books.

It is fairly common knowledge that some at Marvel are unhappy with the Peter-MJ marriage, with rumours abound that it may be broken up at some point in order for writers to tell the tales without the burden of MJ as a character.

But Fraction shows how MJ CAN be used in a good way in the titles. His flashbacks from the two points of view are inspired and very nicely scripted.

Peter telling Lamont “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot”, and Lamont replying: “One, don't call me Tiger and two you sound like a crazy person.” is a cracking line.

Overall, this is probably the best Spider tale we've had out there in ages. It is true to the character and just tells a love story between Peter and Mary- Jane.

Overall Rating

An excellent piece of work - proper Spidey at a time when it's unclear which direction the character is going in.