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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Friday, July 2, 2004

Spider-Girl 74

Whenever I read an issue of SPIDER-GIRL, which is not as often as I'd like, I come to the same basic conclusions.

Each issue is a satisfying experience. Writer Tom DeFalco and his artistic collaborators put a lot into each and every issue. We get plenty of action and character play, as well as enough movement of the ongoing storylines to keep things interesting.

For this alternate-but-roughly-contemporaneous version of the Marvel Universe, DeFalco and company have put together a large cast of intriguing characters. Some are new, some are doppelgangers of their "real" Marvel Universe counterparts. Though the individual issues always tell me enough about these characters to allow me to follow the current story, they also leave me wanting to know more about them.

Finally, every time I read an issue of SPIDER-GIRL, I get the urge to dig through the dozens of boxes of unread comic books which fill the corners of my life and read all the issues I haven't read. That urge gets beaten back by the demands of family and deadlines, but it never goes away entirely.

I have before me SPIDER-GIRL #74 and #75 [Marvel Comics; $2.99 each]. In previous issues - and I know this because each of these issues starts with a handy "previously" page - a nasty gent by the name of Canis murdered Wilson Fisk and other crime lords to become the new Kingpin of New York. Running afoul of our title heroine, Canis is behind bars as issue #74 opens.

May Parker, daughter of Peter and Mary Jane Parker, is caught in a pair of uneasy "professional" relationships. Former mercenary Kaine is running a top secret government special mission team and doesn't much like her playing on his turf. The Black Tarantula, an international crime figure, has been assisting Spider-Girl to bring down Canis and his allies, which currently include the deadly Lady Octopus and the serene-but-also-deadly Kodiak. May's private life isn't going much better, but I'll cover that as I go down my list of what's good, bad, and so-so in these two issues.

The bad: The covers are of the pin-up variety. Not only are they not particularly well-drawn, but the scenes are scenes we've seen on more than a few Spider-Man covers.

The good: Those "previously" pages.

The good: The "second person" narration. I don't see that too often these days. It's a nice change of pace.

The so-so: "Your name is MAY "MAYDAY" PARKER and you are the daughter of SPIDER-MAN." DeFalco uses this line near the start of every issue and it's losing whatever effectiveness it had. When he used it twice in issue #75, I started groaning.

The good: The interior art is first-rate in both issues. Pat Olliffe pencilled issue #74 with Sal Buscema doing the inking. In the next issue, Ron Frenz did looser pencils and Buscema finished them. From where I sit, clear storytelling and easily-recognizable characters never go out of style.

The good: The "Darkdevil" character looks like fun. I want to know more about him.

The good: May was the star of her high-school basketball team, but quit because her powers gave her an unfair advantage over other players. It was a tough decision with equally tough consequences. Watching May deal with those adds some very real drama to the usual high-school angst.

The good: I dig seeing Peter and Mary Jane as the SPIDER-GIRL equivalent of Pa and Ma Kent. Keeping them in the background adds a certain reality to the proceedings.

The so-so: In issue #74, DeFalco and Olliffe do a riff on the classic Spider-Man trapped under the rubble scene. I hate to say this - because I did my own riff some time ago - but this homage is wearing thin.

The so-so: A surprise revelation at the end of issue #74 did not stir me in the slightest. I fear the interesting relationship between Spider-Girl and the Black Tarantula is becoming needlessly complicated. It already had plenty going for it.

Spider-Girl 75

The bad: In #75, the Black Tarantula hires Elektra to improve May's fighting skills. Elektra leaves me cold. Even Frank Miller, who created the character, went back to her when he should have let her be...and no one else has ever come within a continent of making her interesting.

The good: The Tarantula sets Spider-Girl up with her own team of assistants. Now that's a cool development.

The great: Spider-Girl lays down the law to those assistants. She's a natural at telling them to jump and they're getting used to asking how high.

The good: Kodiak. As bone-crushers go, he is a genuine hoot-and-a-half. His battle with Spider-Girl goes on just long enough to raise the question of the ultimate cost of May's alliance with the Tarantula.

The so-so: May gets a new black costume. I don't like it any better this time than I did when her father got *his* black costume in the middle of Jim Shooter's inane SECRET WARS.

The good: May is skirting some murky morality in her quest to stop Canis. It's a realistic mistake for a teenager to make and it should lead to some intense situations.

The bottom line: SPIDER-GIRL is a perfectly decent comic book. It's not an award-winner, but it always entertains me and gives me my money's worth. Most importantly, it's got heart and integrity, qualities lacking in a great many super-hero books. I'm going to keep reading it.

Uh-oh. I'm getting that urge again.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/01/2004 | 07/02/2004 | 07/03/2004 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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