Fresh off of battles against Apex and Loki--the latter chronicled in "Last Hero Standing"--May now finds herself facing a much more common menace: Howard Kavanaugh. Can May stop Howard once and for all now that he's put two girls in the hospital, and can she stop one of her closest friends from making the biggest mistake of his life?
The battle against Loki has taken its toll. May's broken left arm and her father's ruined artificial leg are only a few of the scars that the Parker family bears as a result. While getting dressed to go to school one morning, May asks her mother where the Spider-Girl costume is. MJ tells her that it was shredded beyond repair, and that she doesn't have the strength to discuss it. "You and your father were almost killed in that final battle. I think the family could use a little break from the whole spider-thing." Realizing the toll that her super hero life has taken on her family, May agrees.
Midtown High provides little comfort, as May receives yet another scolding for falling behind on her schoolwork. But her day takes a turn for the horrific as she stumbles across Meagyn Brady, who tells her that Howard Kavanaugh put two students in the hospital. "Sandra's probably one of his victims," May thinks. The identity of the second victim becomes clear as a raging Moose storms through the hallway. Brad is unable to calm him down, and as Moose leaves he fills May in on the worst part: "The police have already talked to Howard's parents, and they think he might have stolen his dad's gun."
May and Davida head to the hospital to visit Courtney, who is not too badly injured. Still, the thought of one of her best friends being beaten sends May into a rage. At that moment Caitlan Leiber--a counselor from the St. Andrews battered women's shelter--arrives and tells her that anger only makes the problem worse. The two of them head down the hall to visit Sandra and bump into her parents, who are fighting in the hallway. Mrs. Heally welcomes May and thanks her for trying to help. Her father? "Just help me get my hands on the maniac who hurt my little girl so that I can show him what a real beating feels like." Desperately trying to think of a better answer than violence, May enters Sandra's room and is struck dumb: Sandra has been seriously beaten.
May listens to Sandra, then asks where she can find Howard. She tells him of their special spot in Midtown Park, and May heads over there as the rain starts to fall. "Sandra used to think that Howard loved her," she thinks. "There's a good chance he did, too. Why did things go bad? What drives someone like Howard? What triggers his violence? Is it fear? Frustration? How do you truly end the circle of violence?"
May arrives at Midtown Park and finds Howard preparing to kill himself. Howard spots her and shoots at her, but is quickly disarmed. Enraged, May throws a punch that would easily crack Howard's skull; it hits the tree instead. May reins herself back in, turning her anger on the gun, which she crushes. That respite gives Howard a chance to run... right into Moose. "You. Hurt. Courtney!" Moose takes Howard down with two wicked punches and is stopped only by May, who tells him that this isn't just about Howard anymore. If he takes revenge he will only be hurting himself. "You have to choose the kind of man you want to be... the kind of man Courtney deserves." Moose calms down, and the two begin to cry.
Moose and May take Howard to the police station. Moose then heads back to the hospital and May heads home, wondering what she really accomplished. She arrives to find her mother feeding the baby; the two hug.
Very well done. I've thought in the past that the Sandra Heally storyline has been drawn out too far, but with this issue Tom DeFalco reaches a conclusion that feels real. It's a rare thing when a comic that tries to send a message can pull it off without sounding forced or cliche. Other than a few moments when Davida and Caitlin are speaking in the hospital, this issue pulls it off in spades. Stories like this have always been the essence of Spider-Man and Spider-Girl: one ordinary man or woman trying as hard as they can to make the world better with the power fate has given them. In this case, all of May's spider strength and abilities are useless. It's up to her to find the answer. It's not a perfect answer, but then it's not a perfect world.
The anger and desperate need to DO SOMETHING that May and Moose both show is very realistic. Many of us have lost someone or had someone hurt by another's senseless or cruel deeds, myself included, and we would be less than human if we didn't entertain thoughts of revenge. But what good would that really do? Moose let his dark side show through for a few moments--and kudos to both DeFalco and Frenz for making him look and sound very intimidating in the park--but was able to pull back with May's help. May nearly takes Howard's head off two pages earlier but is able to restrain herself. That is the heroism in this particular issue, and it is done very well.
"I'm a writer, not a preacher. An entertainer, not teacher. But too many teenage girls are being brutalized by their so-called boyfriends. Let's all do what we can to stop the circle of violence. To learn more about this great American tragedy, look up teenage dating violence on the internet and become as horrified as I am."--Tom DeFalco
An important story that works as a story and not just a lesson. Five webs.