Yes, Peter Parker is a super hero with the proportionate strength and agility of a spider (among other abilities), but what really makes him strong is the people around him. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 turns the spotlight on one such individual, Mary Jane Watson. The two are back together again and it’s amazing to see how they push each other to be better people.
The big takeaway with this issue is that MJ is not a damsel in distress. Writer Tom Taylor shows that she’s a hero in her own right. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 highlights how she can take charge of a situation where any normal person would be losing their mind. She works tirelessly to keep everyone safe and calm while getting them to safety. Oh, and she’s also facing off against a big troll roaming around the subway.
This issue is bookended by a scene in bed. The beginning has Peter coming home exhausted from a night of super heroics, offering his girlfriend bagels and coffee as she wakes up. The ending has him waking up after sleeping the day away and MJ is there to care for him. This continues to show how they work well together. This storytelling device works to open and close this quick look at Mary Jane’s life.
Just in case you needed another reason to love MJ, she also took Aunt May out to go wig shopping to help her cope with hair loss as a result of her chemotherapy. This also shines a light on Peter’s faults. While he literally saves the world and countless lives, he can neglect those closest to him from time to time. We’ve seen this in earlier issues of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man when he first got the news about Aunt May’s cancer. I have a hard time grappling with how he can put everything on the line for complete strangers but can’t find the time to care for the woman that raised him.
Artist Juann Cabal lends his considerable talents to this issue. No one plots a comic quite like him. He is in complete control of the pacing of the story with the use of some top notch panel layouts. He gets extra points for using one of my all-time favorite effects: showing a panel as a big sound effect. In this case, it’s “CRSH!” as the subway car hits the troll. It’s such a great way to amplify the tension and excitement in a scene. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg adds to this energy, shifting the entire image to a bright red.
Throughout the entire book, Mary Jane is calm and composed. She is the person you want to have on your side in times of stress or happiness. It’s no wonder Peter gravitated back to her. Letterer Travis Lanham differentiates MJ’s internal narration in green caption boxes, which come across as warm and welcoming.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11 certainly gets me excited for Mary Jane’s upcoming solo series. She shows here that she can carry her own story without leaning on the super heroes in her life. I’m eager to see how she tackles the world. This issue is a perfectly crafted breath of fresh air, allowing us to compose ourselves between story arcs.