Peter Parker's long thought to be dead wife, has been found alive and well, after almost six months of being presumed dead. Pete has dispatched the stalker that kidnapped her and now has some quality time for his wife...
For more history on the Stalker, check out Al's recent Rave on the Stalker, entitled Stalker Screw-Ups.
For a double size annual, there's not much to tell and what there is... is well dissapointing.
Pete's reunited with his wife, so he moves out of his flat. Check. Has some romatic walks. Check. Reminisces on the past on the past with his beau. Check. And settles back into a happy marriage with the woman of his dreams! WRONG! Nup. No Way. Instead MJ has some understandable, emotional scars from being kept locked up for 6 months, which Pete seems keen to help her out with. But, while Spidey has to save some lives, MJ seems to come to the wacky conclusion that it's time for splitsville, after only being back for a matter of days! She walks off into the sunset, leaving behind her loved ones, just about calling off the marriage to tackle some mighty big problems all by herself! And what does Pete do? After being on heat all issue, telling MJ he loves her out of his mind? He accepts it without a word and just lets her go!
Makes sense? Nup, no way.
I really would like to say something nice about Howard's last issue. But, really there's not much. There's some nice moments between Pete and MJ. Some realistic moments, dealing with MJ's trauma and Pete's desire for his wife. I mean I feel for Pete, six months without MJ and then she comes back, drawn like this! It's a miracle he shows the control he does. But, seriously Mackie does write some nice moments.
But, besides that, unfortunately, just about everything else is flawed. First of all, the plot. It doesn't make sense. I can undestand that MJ is distressed. I can understand that she's a little freaked out. I know she's probably thinking Pete's duties as Spidey suck. But, that does not logically lead too her deciding to leave everyone who loves and supports her. It doesn't mean she leaves the man she professes to love and who loves her. And what's even crazier is that, Pete, who's been drooling over her all issue and loves her so much, just lets her go! That's absolute lunacy! There's just no way this should happen!
Fortunately for Mackie, he's not the only one who dissapoints. Bennet's pencils are not up to scratch. I normally enjoy Joe Bennet's pencils, especially when he's doing action. He does a great acrobatic Spidey in my opinion. But, this time out he's got mainly talking heads. Which I think he could be up to. Except, as my wife put it "What's with this guy?!@!? I'm looking and all I see is MJ's impossible breasts or her butt, short skirt and long legs!" I know I commented on this the last issue that Bennet pencilled. But, it is really, really bad here. It distracts from the whole story. It works, with the sub-plot (and yes I am serious that this is a sub-plot) that Pete is desperate to bed her after sixs months celebacy. But, all issue? Just about every panel she's on? It's just plain wrong, it might work on drawing teenage boys in, but for other readers (like my wife and probably many others) it just turns 'em way off the book and reinforces stupid stereotypes about comics.
Overall, I must say I was pretty dissapointed all round by this comic. I thought it was a great idea, bringing MJ back, but then to dismiss her again like this is just plain stupid. I don't know what the reasoning was beheind this storyline. Here's my guess though. I think Jenkins and Straczynski planned stories around the status quo of MJ being gone, with an eye to bring her back around issue 50, according to some reports. Then Mackie, long time writer, gets the free reign to write a final storyline and clear up a long standing sub plot of his choice. Among the plethora of things he could've done, he chooses to bring back MJ. But, said other writers have already planned stories without her there. So, Mackie has to bring her back and send her back off. ARRGGHH!
Anyway, here's my final thoughts on the end of Howard Mackie's run on Spidey...
It's the end of Howard Mackie's run. It's been long. It's been arduous at times. It's been enjoyable at times. The biggest shame though is that he seemed to lose interest and get worse, at a time when he should have been at the top of his game (with the reboot and post reboot stories). The reboot was supposed to attract new readers and break new ground, but it was only really run of the mill and served up some horrible things, when it was dredging up past stories and villains. I don't know what happened to Howard, for him to seemingly loose interest and stuff around with Spidey. Maybe it was Byrne's influence or editors, who knows. But, sadly it means.... IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE! The new era has come and what should of been the reboot is around the corner!
It's really pushing to get one and a half webs. But, I'll give that out of sheer relief that hopefully no story like this, featuring Spidey, will ever be published again!
I'm the Editor, so I'm going to have my say on this one.
I despise Howard Mackie's work. That's no secret. He has no sense of continuity, he takes the easy way out of situations. He has no true idea of drama, character or depth, and he has presided over one of the most confusing, erratic, and disappointing periods in Spider-History since the dark days of Terry Kavanagh.
So how come he finally got something right in his last (ever?) Spider-Man story?
How come he finally managed to put into print the truth of the relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane... that she should leave him when she returned.
And how surprising that he finally tacked some characterisation onto Peter. How just like a guy, that when MJ returns, all he wants to do is shag the living daylights out of her. How about talking about the issues? How about supporting her, or thinking about the changes he needs to make to his behaviour if there's any chance of them staying together. Nah, the bedroom's the only thing in his head!
Then, the first night she's back... off he goes, playing the hero. That's the way it always is. And MJ knows she has to leave. Mackie represents the whole thing with a tact, subtlety and sense of timing which I haven't seen from him in a long time. Well, in fact, ever.
Bonus points for the gentle touches which show that they still love each other, but they know that things can't go on as they are. I've heard people complain that Peter just let her go... but that's because at the time he knew it was they only thing to do. The anger and emotion will come later.
Mary-Jane deserves better, and now she and Peter both know it. Of all the recent attempts to "youngify" Peter, I say this is the one which truly has a ring of truth to it. It throws his emotional immaturity and sense of balance into sharp relief. Well done Mr. Mackie.
Of course, does this make up for all the abandoned plots, the thin characterisations, the promising stories which drifted into nothing, the cheap shots, the simple answers, and the re-constituted rubbish that which had to tolerate over the last however many years? Perhaps not, but it's a lovely parting gesture. Yes, he's screwed-up pretty much every other aspect of the story, but at least it ends with a little style. Maybe this episode is worth three or four webs... even if the overall story is a walking disaster.
Of course, maybe I'm just pleased that Mary-Jane is single again! Well... at least separated, which is a good start!