We've seen some good moments in recent issues of Spider-Girl, but it seems to be struggling to keep up the pace. This month's story is titled "The Question". Question? What question?
We open with yet another "Spider-Girl in Training" scene... Spider-Girl vs. the Ladyhawk Sisters under the watchful eye of Uncle Phil. The question is revealed... May is wondering what she should do with her powers. Ladyhawk seem to have their own motivation, hinting at some painful events in the past. This doesn't help Spider-Girl.
One page flashback about the recent events regarding Kaine.
Cut to May's school, and a couple of goons hiding a video camera in the girls changing room. May swaps it the male change-room. Heh. May has a run-in with her coach, about her failure to turn up to basketball practice (echoes of Peter Parker and science class - except that May has an unfair advantage now).
One page reminder that Moose (school Jock) believes that Courtney (school plain-Jane) is secretly Spider-Girl.
Cut to the school corridors, where a commotion between JJ, Brad, and the two try-hards from from "America's Most Intrusive Home Videos" from two pages back are having a scrap which ends them all in trouble. Is JJ part of the pervert plot?
From here, to the Avengers Mansion - where May meets Stinger - the next generation Wasp, for a six page friendly fight-fest, while they muse over the question - what makes heroes do the hero thing... Stinger just seems to have been inspired by her predecessors. Nova shows up, chastises them for fooling around, and provides in the same breath his own interpretation on appropriate hero behaviour.
Return to school, where it is revealed that JJ was not part of the camera caper - a plan which has (of course) backfired on the two perpetrators now that the school mens football team believes that they planted the camera in their locker room. Ouch.
So JJ is innocent - in fact, he acted like a hero would have done - wading in to the fray for what he thought was right. May and JJ seem to have something in common. They head out for a soda, and May has the beginnings of an answer to her question - "What makes a hero".
First, I confess to having trouble identifying the male supporting characters. And when I can identify them, I have trouble identifying with them. Jimmy, Brad, JJ... one too many? Compare with Spider-Man's early cast. Betty, Flash, Gwen, Harry - far more distinct personalities and appearances.
Secondly, the layout fails to help the story. The panels always seem to be roughly the same size, 3-5 per page. When DeFalco is trying to advance the plot, the panels seem too large, and the pace is sluggish. When the action starts, the panels seem just a little cramped, and the movement doesn't quite flow.
However... the underlying story is very well constructed. I confess to having speed-read this issue initially, and having completely missed the whole point of "The Question". At first glance, this seemed like a jumbled collection of incidents and unrelated character interactions.
It wasn't until the second or third reading that I saw how Ladyhawk, Stinger, Nova, JJ, and the amateur film-makers tied together to actually make the story which the title alluded to. Lucky I had to review the comic, or I would have missed the whole point.
Spider-Girl rewards a proper reading. That's got to be worth at least 4 webs.