Â TodayÂ I am taking a look at two ongoings that could very well make the claim that they are the Matt Hardy of comics,Â Manhunter and Spider-Girl. Both have escaped the hangman's noose of cancellation multiple times due to passionate fan bases who pounded the figurativeÂ pavement online to keep them alive (which is sort of applicable to Matt's career, even if there's no equivalent for the whole Edge and Lita thing that I can think of). Despite their passionate fan bases, stardom remains beyond their grasp. And, given their constant struggles, you have to ask yourself; maybe they don't deserve to be doing any better, or be in the big leagues at all. That's something I'm going to be considering along with accessibility when I look at the latest issue of both comics. The Amazing Spider-Girl #4 by DeFalco, Frenz,Â Buscema, et al.,Â Marvel Comics
I have a lotÂ of snark for this comic. I mean, it's bursting at the seems. I look at that creative team and think,Â "Yes, because nothing says credible portrayl of a teenage girl like Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, and Sal Freakin' Buscema!" I look at the title and think "Do they really think adding an adjective is going to increase sales?"Â I remember readingÂ actually reading this comic for awhile, many years back (because that passionate fanbase had sold me when I was looking to get in to comics, and becauseÂ my local grocery store carried it), and eventually dropping it because it was so subplot heavy, I remember coming up with the phrase "slower than Bendis" to describe it. So yeah, IÂ was going in expecting to not like this too much. But it wasn't that bad.
It wasn't that good,Â mind you.Â And theÂ snark just keeps coming with theÂ issue's main antagonist, Mad Dog, who in theory is a really cool idea (a bounty hunter who uses all of the gadgets he took as trophies off of Spider-Man villains), but in practice is rendered to look like aÂ middle aged Kirby-TechÂ tourist from Minnesota or something.Â That didn't endear me to the book. And it's still so incredibly old school that there are something like 36 ongoing subplots or so taking up space in the book. Also, and this could be my rampant sexism at work here, Mayday just isn't as compelling a character as her dear old dad. Maybe it's because I've seen this routine before, but I just don't care about her the way I do the various incarnations of teenage Peter Parker. I will fully cop to the fact that, since she is not a put upon nerd, her set up isn't the same. I mean, she's running for student council, for god's sake; Peter never managed that.
All of that aside, this is a fairly accessible comic, in the way that any Tom DeFalco written comic is.Â The plot andÂ characters are elaborated onÂ through theÂ dialogue and narration (and thank god, he's dropped the second person narrative in the captions since I last read this title).Â DeFalco's refined his style enough thatÂ the exposition is fairly natural, orÂ at least not as forced as it would have been in, say, hisÂ '80s Spider-Man run with Frenz.Â The story so far page helps a lot, too.
Even the art is better than I anticipated. I usually find Frenz about as dynamic as Ned Flander's breakfast, but having a Buscema to ink your work does wonders, as it looks a lot beter than I remember it being when the art was the other reason I stopped reading this years ago.
Over all, this is a comic that's old school enough to be accessible, but probably too old school to really reach a bigger audience, I think. In a lot of ways, I think it's more old school than the old school comics it's clearly emulating; it copies all the tropes of Lee/Ditko/Romita Spider-Man without any of their verve, imagination, or wit. It's steak without sizzle, vanilla ice cream without sprinkles; competently done, but dull, and almost too inoffensive. I find it sort of comforting that, in this day and age of Civil Wars and Ultimizations and what not, that Tom DeFalco can have his own little corner to play in and advance the continuity of the long dead M2 line of comics, with this and Avengers Next. But that doesn't mean I actually like the comics, or think that there isn't a decent reason that they keep getting almost cancelled beyond the fact that Joe Quesada's a jerk or whatever. But if you're desperate for solid teen age superheroics but want something that's (sort of) more modern than the various Essentials and Masterworks of better material out there; if you are desperate for Bronze Age Marvel storytelling; or you just want to support the last Marvel Editor in Chief to laugh at himself, then you can jump in to this comic pretty easily.
Next: Part two, where I look at Manhunter. This is being serializedÂ because, well, dinner's on, and I have priorities, damn it.