Warning: Spoilers for “The Amazing Mary Jane” #1 almost immediately.
“The Amazing Mary Jane” #1 comes at an interesting time for Marvel Comics, the Marvel movies, and Spider Man. The story follows Mary Jane as she sets out on her own to make it as a big time Hollywood actress…where she immediately gets cast as a poorly developed female character in a big budget Spider Man movie, dresses in the skimpiest and most form fitting latex/leather costume, and has to contend with a director who is strangely insistent on making the bad guy more sympathetic.
Considering Spider Man’s current legal battle, the status Marvel’s new position as the lord and master of the Hollywood box office, and Joker making revisionist comic book movies where the villain is more relatable cool again, I get the sneaking suspicion this comic book is trying to say something about Hollywood and pop culture.
Written by Leah Williams
Illustrated by Carlos Gomez
Colored by Carlos Lopez
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
When it comes to superhero stories, Mary Jane is an interesting case study. While other superhero girlfriends like Lois Lane and Pepper Potts have had the opportunity to branch out and develop their own characters and personalities, Mary Jane hasn’t really had the chance. “The Amazing Mary Jane” #1 allows Mary Jane to step out of Peter Parker’s shadow by literally moving her across the country and allowing her to fully realize her ambition of being an actress by going to Hollywood to make movies. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s safe to say that this comic is long overdue.
As a story about Hollywood and making movies, “The Amazing Mary Jane” #1 is fantastic. The story is packed to the brim with tiny little details that come together to make the comic book fascinating to read. Discussions about studio politics, artistic integrity, and even mundane stuff like insurance give the book a feeling of authenticity that made me think that the writer either has quite a bit of experience on actual movie sets or has done a copious amount of research. On top of that, there are quite a few fun little Marvel twists to the proceedings, such as a hint that the movie set use Pym particles to shrink the actors in the name of authenticity, that drew a couple of laughs.
Along with the fine attention to detail of the movie set, Mary Jane is written as a capable and believable actress. She demonstrates a substantial amount of intelligence and agency through her processing of the script and her ability to negotiate and demand better writing for her character and while her discussion of poorly written female characters and love interests in movies may seem a bit on the nose, it’s a relevant topic that is addressed with intelligence and sincerity.
With all that being said, while “The Amazing Mary Jane” #1 works wonderfully as a meta textual narrative about Hollywood comic book movies, it does get a little bit shaky as a Spider Man story. Without giving too much away, it turns out that Mary Jane’s breakout movie is actually a well-meaning scheme cooked up by one of Spider Man’s villains; and since this is a movie with a ton of special effects, you can probably figure out which one it is. On top of that, the end of the comic hints at the Sinister Six is on their way to Hollywood, which probably means the comic will take a tragic nosedive and will probably end with someone either seriously hurt, emotionally crippled, or dead.
Speaking of Spider Man, while Mary Jane the actress is fun to watch, Mary Jane the girlfriend is a bit strange. The end of the book has an extended phone conversation between Mary Jane and Peter Parker which places the book firmly within the Spider Man universe, so it’s kind of bizarre to see Mary Jane cozy up to legitimate super villains that have made her and Peter’s life a living hell. Granted, it’s nice to see that Mary Jane and Peter Parker still have their cute couple dynamic, but it raises too many questions and roadblocks a sense of immersion for the reader.Continued below
The artwork is lovely, although there is a very real sense that Carlos Gomez’s talents aren’t being used as well as they could be. The high panel count and emphasis on close ups lets Gomez focus on facial features and details that make the characters incredibly expressive and enhances the script’s snappy dialogue. Meanwhile, the handful of pages where Gomez is allowed enough space allow him to capture the fantastic sense of frenetic energy that usually makes up a crowded set filled with hundreds of people trying to get a hundred things done all at once. The line art is complimented by Carlos Lopez’s gorgeous coloring work that makes the whole book look like it was filmed during a beautiful Los Angeles sunset. It’s the kind of art that is perfect for a Spider Man story, and it would be amazing to see what this artist team would be able to do with a more action heavy script.
“The Amazing Mary Jane” #1 is the tale of two separate stories that have some difficulty working together. On one hand, the comic is a well written and thoughtful story about Hollywood that has some relevant and meaningful things to say about comic book movies, and on the other hand it creates some baffling contradictions with the familiar world of Spider Man and should probably be treated as a separate character study that will have little impact on Spider Man’s status quo.
Final Verdict: 7.5- As long as you can separate this comic from the regular Spider Man mythos it’s a fun, quirky, and well written book that has some interesting things to say about Hollywood and comic book movies.