The cover of this issue touts “a Spider-Girl reunion.” That’s not a get-together of alternate Earth Spider-Girls. That’s a return of the creative team from the MC2 Spider-Girl series: DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema. I’m excited to see one last Spider-Girl tale from this team. So, how did they do?
Back in that Earth-3145 bunker, Mayday Parker is ready to go to Loomworld (the home of the Inheritors) to save her brother Benny. “Couldn’t save my Dad,” she thinks, “My mom.” This has understandably put her in such a state that she shoves other spiders away from her. (Two of them are Spider-Punk and Anya so we can probably assume this story takes place at the same time as the first story, beginning just before the crew leaves to help Spider-Ma’am.) When Spider-Man India tries to calm her, she declares that her Dad was the only real Spider-Man (which is a clever DeFalco line since, from the reader’s perspective, her Dad is another of the “phonies.”) When Uncle Ben, the spider-totem from this world, tells her she is safe here, she lashes out at him. “Like I’m really going to listen to the biggest coward of all!” she says, “The man who allowed his world to become a radioactive wasteland and has hidden in this hole ever since.” She races off to a deserted part of the bunker, raging against her counterparts until she tells herself that “Benny isn’t their responsibility. He’s on me. Just like my parents. It’s my fault they died. All mine!” And with that thought, she punches the wall, putting some big jagged cracks in it.
Uncle Ben follows her. He tries to joke about the damage she has done to the bunker, then tries to bond by asking her about her Dad. May will have none of it. “Go to hell, old man!” she yells and attacks.
They fight. May argues that Ben gave up on his responsibility. Ben tells her she has no right to judge him. May refers to her Dad as “the real Peter.” Ben says, “You can’t possibly be that egocentric. My Peter was as real to me as yours to you.” Suddenly their spider-senses go off. (Ben calls his a “danger sense.”) The danger is coming from the hole in the wall that May’s punch created. An army of irradiated mutant spiders crawls through. Even as May and Ben try to stem the tide, they continue their discussion. May argues that this proves the bunker isn’t safe. Ben points out that May caused the damage that brought in the spiders. May tells him that no place is safe from the Inheritors. Finally, May stops the spiders by using her sticking powers to magnetize the floor. (Has she ever used this power before?) When Ben asks why she is the only Spider-Person with this power, she replies, “Who says I am?” Her point is that you don’t know what you can do until you try.
With the spiders magnetized to the floor, Ben uses his webbing to collect them and push them back through the hole. He still thinks May should forget Loomworld and stay in the bunker. (“If you’ll just try,” he says, turning the tables on her.) But May can’t do that. “I can’t have a life without Benny,” she says, “I really hope there are an infinite number of alternate realities. Maybe even one with a Mayday Parker who woke up this morning to eat wheatcakes with her parents and baby brother. I’ll be fighting for them when I rescue Benny from Loomworld and kill Daemos!”
It’s great to see DeFalco-Frenz-Buscema back on a Mayday Parker story but, sadly, it’s not like the old days. In its universe tidying, Marvel has decided to dispense with the MC2 Spidey-verse by killing Peter and MJ. (I haven’t read ASM #14 yet but I fear for Mayday’s safety as well.) This is not the hand DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema would have dealt to Mayday but now they must play it. They do an admirable job under the circumstances. Tom injects a very standard “hero vs. hero” story with two very clear points of view. Ron and Sal give us some of the darkest images of Mayday ever (on page 2 panel 2, page 4 panel 2, and all of page 3 with some great speed and ricochet lines). In spite of it all, the story feels like a sop to them, a sort of apology from Marvel editorial for wiping out their years of work and continuity in one fell swoop. Maybe that’s why there’s sort of a hollow feel to the story. No matter how hard they tried, their hearts weren’t in it and Tom can’t help but include May’s line about hoping there is a world where “a Mayday Parker…woke up this morning to eat wheatcakes with her parents and baby brother” as if telling us that’s the world he’d rather be writing. That’s the world I’d rather he was writing too.
I loved the old Spider-Girl series and have a lot of respect for the work Tom, Ron, and Sal did on it. It’s great to see them back together on a Mayday tale but not this one. This one feels like Marvel took their toy away from them, broke it, and gave it back, telling them, “Go on. Go and play with it.” One and a half webs.
Spiderfan reader Daniel has provided me with an example of May using her magnetizing power. "The one that really jumps to mind," says Daniel, "is in Spider-Girl #58. She is fighting an evil doppelganger of her father and magnetizes him to the wall." Daniel also pointed out that May calls her brother "Benny" in this story rather than "Benjy" as she did in her own series. "Is this supposed to be some kind of hint from DeFalco that this isn't "our" May (even though the designation of her universe IS the MC2 designation)?" Daniel asks. I don't think there's any question of it. Tom and Ron are clearly upset over the decision to eliminate their MC2 characters. As longtime pros who are used to working with company-owned characters, they know there is nothing they can do about it. But that doesn't mean they can't plant a seed of doubt. To which I say, "good for them!" It's almost enough to make me raise the web-rating. Almost.
Thanks for the help, Daniel!