Review: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 Gives Mary Jane A Well-Deserved Spotlight

Once upon a time, Peter Parker was a shy and awkward kid who acquired amazing (no pun intended) superpowers one day. Coincidentally, Peter started gaining friends, perhaps due to a newfound level of self-confidence. Despite his new pals, he often found himself having difficulty maintaining a relationship with the opposite sex. Time passed and the “Parker Luck” started changing in his favor–until a writer or editorial team would decided to shatter any chances Peter might have at happiness.

One of the true loves of Peter’s life has been Mary Jane Watson. Some may argue whether Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy is Peter’s true love, but he and MJ have been through a lot more over the years. They’ve grown together and shared incredible and heartbreaking moments. Thankfully, fate has allowed them to come together once again. Fate has also given comic book readers a spectacular (okay, that one was on purpose) issue putting Mary Jane front and center in the action.

Peter and Mary Jane deserve to be together. Even ignoring bizarre deals with the devil (or was it a magical spell?), there were often times the relationship between the two seemed to be called into question. From a readers’ perspective, it really felt as if writers or the editors didn’t know what to do with the two. Mary Jane was left sitting around waiting for Peter to return to their apartment while he was out fighting one of his many costumed enemies. If Mary Jane wasn’t sitting around, she would fall into the damsel in distress role by getting kidnapped by an unstable stalker or cornered by one of Spider-Man’s foes.

As the solicit for this issue states, we haven’t seen Mary Jane within this series since the first issue. Tom Taylor makes up for that in a big way. Spider-Man may be present and seen buying coffee and bagels after fighting a leftover troll from War of the Realms, but the real action takes place when Mary Jane heads out for the day.

Taylor simply gets who Mary Jane is and what she’s capable of. In just a few pages, you can see the depth of her character. We see MJ take care of Peter after his all-nighter battle, have some touching moments with Aunt May, and immediately take charge when things go horribly wrong. This is New York City in the Marvel Universe so you can almost always count on a major and deadly catastrophe coming up.

The great thing here is when the troll poop hits the fan, Mary Jane knows exactly what to do. What she doesn’t know, she can soon figure out. Being in close proximity of Spider-Man’s crazy adventures for so many years, living in Avengers Tower, and working at Stark Industries has exposed Mary Jane to many deadly situations. The fantastic thing is, she’s shown taking charge. She’s finished being the damsel in distress. She’s not afraid to stand up and do what she can in the situation. Even when another hero shows up, it’s Mary Jane who has to call the shots.

Juann Cabal and Rachelle Rosenberg provide the art and color in this issue. It’s always a joy to see “civilian” characters look like normal people rather than everyone somehow having superhero physiques. The different scenes really play out well. The facial expressions of characters and wardrobe really brought a smile to my face–especially the troll’s outfit. It’s refreshing to be able to read a comic that has a focus on “normal” looking people while still containing plenty of fun and excitement.

Mary Jane Watson is one of the best things that’s come into Spider-Man’s life. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 is the perfect showcase for MJ. Tom Taylor shows he has a deep respect for the character and helps to elevate her into a more substantial character–which is exactly what she deserves. Juann Cabal and Rachelle Rosenberg deliver great visuals that nicely capture the civilian adventures that can take place in the Marvel Universe. Also, how sensational is that cover by Andrew Robinson? This issue is now one of my favorite Spider-Man issues.

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(Also, be sure to read Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man: Life Story #6 this week).

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