Tag Archives: Mary Jane Watson

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Black Cat Annual #1

Being an unapologetic fan of romance and superhero comics, I like to think I understand the dynamics of superhero couples better than most. Some, like Superman and Lois Lane, will always be iconic. They’re defined by how strong and ideal their love is in the face of overwhelming forces. There’s certainly a place for couples like that in comics.

Then, there’s Spider-Man and Black Cat. In terms of romance, they’re one of those couples who are like nitro and glycerin. Alone, they’re stable in their own right. Put them together, though, and things get volatile. Sometimes, it’s sexy. Sometimes, it’s literal. Most of the time, it ends badly, even by Spider-Man’s defining Parker Luck standards.

However, it’s because their relationship is so volatile that it’s also a lot of fun to follow. If ever you needed proof of that, “Black Cat Annual #1” should make that point beyond a reasonable doubt. In one single comic, you see why Spider-Man and Black Cat have such unique chemistry, yet still frustrate one another in the most adorable way possible.

You don’t have to be a romance fan to appreciate it, but it certainly helps. While “Black Cat Annual #1” is entirely a love story, it dares to have fun with a historically volatile relationship.

The story is billed as the wedding between Spider-Man and Black Cat. To all the Mary Jane Watson fans out there, as well as those not familiar with the dynamics between these two, there’s no need to worry. I won’t spoil much, but I will spoil that the wedding isn’t exactly traditional, even by superhero standards.

The wedding is just part of a more elaborate plot hatched by Black Cat. She just ropes Spider-Man into it because it involves dangerous criminal organizations like the Maggie. He’s reluctant. He’s not thrilled about it. Even his usual wisecracks are somewhat tempered. He still does it, though. That’s the kind of effect Cat has on him.

It’s not healthy, but it’s hardly the most toxic relationship Spider-Man has had over the years. This is a guy second only to Wolverine in terms of getting caught up in unhealthy relationships, some more so than others. While Black Cat might not bring out the worst in him, she’s more capable than most at getting him involved in less-than-heroic endeavors.

In this case, the wedding is almost secondary. Initially, it looks like Black Cat is just looking to steal from the Maggie and humiliate them while looking good in a wedding dress. Even for Cat, that’s pretty ambitious. However, as her plan and its many dangers unfold, her motivations aren’t quite as clear cut.

Writer Jed MacKay nicely captures Black Cat’s persona and motivations. She’s still a thief at heart. That, she doesn’t run from. On the surface, she’s cunning, sassy, and manipulative. However, she’s not a thief in the same mold as Spider-Man’s other villains. She doesn’t steal food from orphans and chuck it in the East River.

MacKay balances out her sass with some genuinely respectable goals. Even Spider-Man cannot deny that. While he’s still not thrilled with her methods or the fact that she roped him into a wedding ceremony, he still gives Black Cat his tenuous trust and she rewards that trust, for the most part.

There’s plenty of banter. There’s also plenty of quips and complaining on Spider-Man’s part. That doesn’t stop Black Cat from having fun with him, even as they face danger and deceit every step of the way. By the end, she clearly has had more fun than Spider-Man.

It’s a fitting summation of their relationship. They have chemistry. They genuinely care about one another. They also work well together. At the same time, they really push each other’s buttons, get on each other’s nerves, and have them do things they prefer not to do. It can make for a volatile and sexy romance, but it’ll never be stable.

MacKay captures the best parts of that dynamic in “Black Cat Annual #1” and fits it into one of Black Cat’s more creative heists. It all comes together perfectly in a single comic, complete with a beautiful cover by J. Scott Campbell and incredible interior artwork by the likes of Natacha Bustos, Juan Gedeon, and Joey Vazquez.

Black Cat Annual #1” will not convince you that Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy are star-crossed lovers in the mold of Superman and Lois Lane. However, it does nicely demonstrate that there’s plenty of room for a different kind of romance in superhero comics.

It doesn’t have to be a classic love story. It doesn’t have to be totally toxic, either. There’s a lot of gray area in between. Spider-Man and Black Cat occupy a unique spot in that area. They can team up. They can oppose one another. They can even love one another. All this is possible due to the unique dynamics between them. That’s what make them a special kind of superhero couple.

While “Black Cat Annual #1” didn’t give us a true, full-fledged wedding, it offered plenty of fun for these volatile ex-lovers. At the very least, this phony wedding went a lot better than the wedding between Kitty Pryde and Colossus.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Amazing Mary Jane #1

An iconic character is only as great as their supporting cast. On their own, icons like Batman, Superman, and Captain America can only do so much to carry their story. Like Santa Claus without his elves, they’re limited in how compelling they make that story without other characters around them adding dramatic fuel to the story.

This is especially true for characters like Spider-Man, whose supporting cast is one of the strongest and most in extensive in comic book history. If you need proof, just remember that a movie based around one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains grossed over $856 million. However, if you need further proof that Spider-Man’s supporting cast is what makes him so amazing, then look no further than Mary Jane Watson.

She’s not just Spider-Man’s girlfriend.

She’s not just the super-hot, super-sexy redhead who gets every straight man’s blood flowing for all the right reasons.

She’s not just the eye candy that makes for some of the best variant comic book covers of all time.

Mary Jane Watson makes Spider-Man a greater character because she’s a great character in her own right. She didn’t come into his story as some wide-eyed bimbo who existed only to make Peter second-guess the merits of male superheros wearing skin-tight outfits. She has her own story, motivations, and aspirations.

Most of the time, her story is relegated to secondary sub-plots in Spider-Man’s stories. While some of those stories are great for both characters, she’s never had a chance to carry her own story. Leah Williams and Carlos Gomez finally give her that chance in “Amazing Mary Jane #1.”

It’s still a story closely tied to Spider-Man, but Mary Jane is the one leading the charge this time. It’s not a radical reinvention of who she is or what motivates her. Williams and Gomez simply shift the spotlight to her and let her work her amazing charisma. It’s a simple approach, but it works.

Mary Jane is still an aspiring actress. Like many aspiring actresses, she’s looking for ways to further her career. The basic premise of  “Amazing Mary Jane #1” is that she gets an opportunity to do just that. It even involves a role that she’s very familiar with. She’s caught up in a battle involving Spider-Man. For her, she really doesn’t need to do much acting.

There’s just one glaring problem and it’s not just that her role is reduced to being a beautiful woman in a skin-tight outfit. This opportunity that she desperately wants happens to be courtesy of Quentin “Mysterio” Beck, one of Spider-Man’s most colorful villains and one whose star really rose with “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

It’s a situation that might make even the most ambitious actress hesitate. At the same time, it puts Mary Jane in a position to show her greatest strengths, none of which involve superpowers. She’s able to carry the story with her personality and William captures it wonderfully on multiple fronts.

Mary Jane doesn’t just smile and nod to go along with everything. She speaks her mind, but never in a way that makes her sound condescending or self-centered. She sees something wrong with the role she’s playing and she confronts it. When the nature of that role is objectively bad for both her and the movie, she says so.

It’s an issue ripped right from recent news surrounding the Hollywood horror stories that ambitious actresses have endured. It’s a sensitive, hot-button issue, but one that “Amazing Mary Jane #1” doesn’t ignore. The characters don’t ignore it, either. It’s a real issue that’s worth addressing, even in a superhero comic.

However, that issue never derails the story or takes away from the substance of the plot. “Amazing Mary Jane #1” is not about Mary Jane Watson calling out the predatory practices of Hollywood producers. It’s about her finding out that this major opportunity her in the center of Mysterio’s latest endeavor.

Being Spider-Man’s girlfriend, she knows better than most that this endeavor will likely involve something going horribly wrong. Since she’s in Hollywood and Spider-Man is in New York, she can’t count on being rescued this time.

It’s a great setup that perfectly blends Mary Jane Watson’s personal story with one of Spider-Man’s most well-known villains. She’s still part of Spider-Man’s story, but this is one in which she shoulders the responsibilities. On top of that, she has to do that without the aid great power.

At the same time, the very absence of that power is part of what makes Mary Jane such a strong supporting character for Spider-Man. She knows she’s not the one with the superpowers. Even Spider-Man knows this. That doesn’t stop her from accepting those responsibilities. She, more than anyone, shows Peter Parker that responsibility doesn’t end with stopping muggers, criminals, and guys with fish bowls for heads.

Even when she’s accepting responsibility, Mary Jane Watson still knows how to have fun. Williams goes out of her way to capture that in “Amazing Mary Jane #1” and Gomez makes her look great while doing it. The sweet, playful moments between her and Spider-Man often bring out the best in both characters. They’re the kind of moments that are sure to piss off Mephisto.

Peter Parker will always be the center of the greater Spider-Man universe, even when that universe involves talking pigs. However, Mary Jane Watson makes that universe more compelling and dramatic with her presence. She also makes it sexier, but that’s just a nice bonus. Amazing Mary Jane #1” further proves that she’s capable of being amazing in her own right. 

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Spider-Man #1

It’s an unwritten rule in superhero comics. Certain characters are only ever allowed to grow, evolve, and mature to a limited extent. Whereas some like Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain Marvel are allowed to grow and mature, others tend to revert to a rigid status quo that keeps them in a certain state, often for marketing purposes. Few characters are beholden to this rule as Spider-Man.

Whether he’s Peter Parker or your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, Spider-Man is rarely allowed to grow beyond the down-on-his-luck, can’t-hold-a-job, struggles-with-relationships situation he’s been in since the Nixon Administration. Granted, he can still have plenty of fun, entertaining adventures in that state, but it can get predictable and monotonous after a while.

Then, every once in a while, you get a book like “Spider-Man #1” by J. J. Abrams, Henry Abrams, and artist Sara Pichelli that dares to shake things up with the standard Spider-Man formula. It’s not in the same continuity as the mainline Amazing Spider-Man books, but that’s exactly what helps it stand out. It has a chance to do something different with Spider-Man’s story and it takes full advantage of it.

Using the same approach as “Into The Spider-Verse,” this book tells a new kind of story that puts Spider-Man into a whole new situation. For once, it’s unpredictable. There’s no status quo to revert to. It has to build an entirely new world for Spider-Man. Both Abrams and Pichelli prove they’re up for the challenge.

This new world is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re a fan of Spider-Man never being allowed to mature past 30. It’s a world where Spider-Man’s responsibilities finally caught up with him. He was able to save the day. He was able to defeat a villain named Cadaverous, a name that isn’t quite as ridiculous as it sounds, but he paid a high price.

That’s because this version of Spider-Man wasn’t just late for work, late for a date, or missing his rent payment again. This Spider-Man had a lot more to lose. He had a family. He and Mary Jane are married and not just trying to schedule dates. They have a son named Ben. Peter Parker has every reason to come home safe, intact, and triumphant.

I won’t spoil too many details, but I’ll just say that doesn’t happen. In this case, saving the day doesn’t necessarily mean keeping Galactus from eating it. Yes, Spider-Man does save lives. However, the life he can’t save ends up changing his life, his responsibilities, and his ability to shake hands. That last one wasn’t a joke, by the way.

In other versions, including many alternate realities, some being more ridiculous than others, this sort of loss would’ve broken Spider-Man. It would’ve broken his family too. It’s one of Spider-Man’s most famous foils. When he loses too much, he quits being Spider-Man. While it rarely lasts, this is a world with different dynamics. He actually has a reason to not be Spider-Man anymore.

His son, Ben, gives him even more reason and not just because of the losses they’ve endured. Unlike some of Spider-Man’s other alternate reality kids, Ben is not nearly as endearing or likable. He’s young, he’s impulsive, and he’s angry at the world. Essentially, he’s not the kind of kid you’d want to continue Spider-Man’s legacy.

At the same time, Ben shows that he still has some of the traits that make Spider-Man the iconic hero he is. He’s not a lost cause. He’s not some brooding loser who looks for excuses to be miserable. He even comes off as genuinely relateable, more so than Peter Parker in some respects. You may not entirely sympathize with him, but you can still understand him.

This kid is every bit as haunted as his father. Unlike his father, though, he’s a kid who doesn’t have years of being a battle-hardened superhero under his belt. Even if he inherited his father’s super-powers, he didn’t inherit his ability to cope with loss. He didn’t have his proverbial Uncle Ben moment because so much of his situation was beyond his control.

Overall, “Spider-Man #1” is a different kind of Spider-Man story, but not just because it takes place in an alternate continuity. It doesn’t directly mirror old, time-tested Spider-Man tropes. It also doesn’t paint Peter Parker as someone who simply crumbles when he loses too much. He, Ben, and the supporting cast around him simply do their best to move forward with their lives.

For a superhero comic that tends to regress to the status quo more than most, it’s both refreshing and engaging. For once, we have a Spider-Man story we can’t expect to end with him sleeping on his Aunt May’s couch because he missed his rent again. We have a different Peter Parker with an emotionally unstable son trying to make the most of a tough situation.

On top of that, the villain responsible for that situation is still out there. We don’t know much about it or whether he’s related to any of Spider-Man’s long list of enemies, but that only adds to the intrigue. Abrams and Pichelli are taking Spider-Man’s story in a new direction and there’s no telling what might happen. As someone who has read more Spider-Man comics than most, I find that genuinely refreshing.

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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11

There’s an old saying for those of us who have read Spider-Man comics for a good chunk of our lives. Behind every strong Spider-Man is a beautiful redheaded woman. Sure, sometimes that woman is a cute blonde or a skilled thief, but it’s the beautiful redheaded woman who often makes Spider-Man the iconic superhero he is.

If ever you’ve doubted that, then “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11” should provide the definitive proof you’re looking for. Spider-Man, like many iconic heroes, derives as much of his strength from his supporting cast as he does his powers. For years, the bedrock of that power was his Aunt May. Then, Mary Jane Watson entered the picture and his bedrock hit the goddamn jackpot.

While their history, romantic and otherwise, has been convoluted by some rather infamous moments, Mary Jane Watson has proven to be one of the most integral components of Spider-Man’s story. It’s part of the reason why she’s his most iconic love interest and I say that as someone with the utmost respect for Gwen Stacy.

However, like many superhero love interests, Mary Jane often gets caught in the crossfire of Spider-Man’s heroic activities. There are times when she’s more damsel than lover and these days, that trope is prone to all sorts of unpleasantness.

It’s for that reason, and so many others, that “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11” is uniquely satisfying in how it affirms Mary Jane’s role in Spider-Man’s life. She doesn’t just prove herself and look sexy while doing it. She tells a side of Spider-Man’s story that isn’t often told.

Writer, Tom Taylor, has given plenty for both Spider-Man and Peter Parker to do since he took over the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man series. For this issue, however, he keeps Peter Parker on the sideline. Superheroes need rest too and Mary Jane understands that. She also understands that being Spider-Man’s girlfriend requires more than just looking great in skin-tight outfits.

There are responsibilities, as well. Responsibility has always been a big part of the Spider-Man mythos, going all the way back to the days of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It doesn’t just apply to Peter, though. Mary Jane has her own share of responsibilities and not just with respect to being a good girlfriend.

She narrates much of this issue. Taylor doesn’t rely heavily on melodrama or standard relationship issues. Much of the dynamic between her and Spider-Man resemble that of a couple who’ve already worked those issues out. They’re just two people, managing their lives, and doing their part.

For a couple whose romance is one of the most iconic in comic book history, that shouldn’t be such a novel concept. It really shouldn’t and yet, Taylor makes it feel like the most refreshing romantic sub-plot in years. That says more about the history of Spider-Man’s love life than it does anything else.

In addition to being the focus of the story, she finds herself in a situation that usually requires superpowers or billion-dollar gadgets to deal with. It’s not the most daunting situation she’s ever been in. There’s no Green Goblin or Sinister Six to deal with. Even so, it has all the traits of a conflict that usually requires her being rescued.

However, that’s not how it plays out. On top of showing why Mary Jane Watson is such a great superhero girlfriend, “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11” proves she’s just as capable in those situations. She doesn’t have super-powers, unless you count being irresistible to heterosexual men. For this particular story, she doesn’t need them.

Whereas most civilians would just run at the sight of a threat that requires a suit of armor or a magic hammer, Mary Jane steps up to help. She still can’t do it alone, but she still finds a way to seem as capable as any experienced her.

It’s not just her choice. She sees it at her responsibility. It shows that Spider-Man has influenced her every bit as much as she has influenced him. That doesn’t just belabor why she’s so important to both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. It perfectly reflects the larger themes of Spider-Man, as a whole.

While the news surrounding Spider-Man’s movies are making all the headlines, comics like “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11” prove why his story is so endearing. There have been countless comics that show Peter Parker rising to the occasion, fighting crazy super-villains, and saving the day. This comic shows how taking those responsibilities seriously help inspire others to do the same.

Mary Jane Watson may never win a fight against Rhino or the Green Goblin, but Taylor makes it abundantly clear that if she has the power to help in a situation, she won’t back down. She’ll fight when others run away. She’ll be strong when others can’t. She’ll look sexier than Peter Parker ever will in the process, but that’s more a bonus than a responsibility.

Throughout her history, Mary Jane Watson has shined in many ways, both on her own and as Spider-Man’s top love interest. A book like “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11” might not be her most iconic moment, but it shows in a single issue why she’s such an amazing part of Spider-Man’s spectacular story.

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“Spider-Man: Far From Home” Review: An Amazing Movie With One Spectacular Flaw

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In this golden age of superhero movies, Spider-Man occupies a special place. Aside from being one of Stan Lee’s most famous creations, this franchise has undergone many triumphs, failures, scandals, upheavals, and everything in between. No matter where it stands among other franchises, Marvel just isn’t Marvel without Spider-Man.

The first “Spider-Man” movie helped revolutionize the superhero genre alongside “X-Men.” It’s not unreasonable to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t exist without that first movie. That’s why when Spider-Man entered the MCU with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” it carried a lot of weight.

With “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” both the standards and the stakes are higher. This movie is coming off the historic success of “Avengers Endgame” and is poised to close out Phase 3 of the MCU. It’s tasked with building on the foundation of its predecessor and dealing with the dramatic aftermath of the battle against Thanos. That’s a tall order for any franchise.

Look at this face and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

At the same time, it feels like Spider-Man has to be the franchise to pull this off. Between its special place in the genre and its cast of emerging stars, including the inherently lovable Tom Holland, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” feels like the only movie worthy of such a task. It has everything going for it. The question remains. Does it succeed?

In my humble opinion, I say it does, but not without some major flaws.

In terms of the big picture, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a quality Spider-Man movie that checks a lot of boxes, both for the franchise and for the MCU. It seamlessly weaves itself into the evolving narrative of the MCU in wake of “Avengers Endgame.” The first five minutes of the movie touch on the lingering aftermath of that climactic battle. It even injects some of that trademark MCU humor into some heavy moments.

On a more personal level, Peter Parker’s story builds upon the drama of Tony Stark’s death in “Avengers Endgame.” Throughout the movie, Iron Man’s presence looms large. Spider-Man is essentially stuck in the shadow of another hero who really affected his journey as a character in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” It makes for plenty of dramatic moments that guide Peter throughout the story.

In terms of it genre, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” even succeeds in maintaining the increasingly high bar that Marvel Studios has set for its villains. While Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio won’t rank as highly as Josh Brolin’s Thanos, he proves himself a daunting foe who doesn’t just test Spider-Man. He comes very close to breaking him.

I would even go so far as to say that Gyllenhaal’s take on Mysterio is worth the inflated ticket price. He makes “Spider-Man: Far From Home” work on multiple levels. I would argue that he’s the primary reason why the movie succeeds, despite its critical flaws.

Now, this is where I’m probably going to diverge from the those who have given this movie such glowing reviews. I may even upset some of my fellow Marvel fans who recoil at the idea of an MCU movie faltering. However, I believe the flaws are there and are being overshadowed by factors beyond the scope of the movie.

To me, the biggest failure of this movie isn’t in how it tells Spider-Man’s story. It’s in how it develops Peter Parker’s story. The battle between Spider-Man and Mysterio is beautifully developed. It’s what happens when Peter is out of his mask where the story stagnates and it has everything to do with Zendaya’s character, “MJ.”

I put “MJ” in quotes because she is definitively not Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man’s most famous love interest in the comics and the character that Kirsten Dunst portrayed in the first three Spider-Man movies. That’s not the issue, though. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” established her and Peter’s friends as something very different from the comics. It wouldn’t be the first time the MCU made such changes.

The problem with MJ, Peter, and their shared role in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is how poorly their romantic sub-plot plays out. It’s not a trivial sub-plot, either. A good chunk of the plot involves Peter following this elaborate plan to tell MJ how he feels about her. On paper, it’s pretty romantic. In practice, it’s a catalyst for too many cringe-worthy moments.

There’s no polite way to say it. The romance between Peter and MJ in this movie is awful. I won’t say it’s as awful as the nonsensical babble we saw between Peter and Gwen in “Amazing Spider-Man,” but it’s pretty close and for the high standards of the MCU, it’s just unacceptable.

While “Spider-Man: Homecoming” did an admirable job of establishing the dynamics between Peter and MJ, it falls incredibly flat in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” In fact, if you didn’t see “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Peter’s efforts to get with MJ seem more obsessive than romantic. At one point, he becomes downright vindictive when someone else tries to get with her. It does not reflect well on Peter.

MJ isn’t much better. Zendaya is a great actress, but she comes off as flat and unemotional throughout this movie. Say what you will about Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Mary Jane, but she still displayed a wide range of emotions throughout three movies. Zendaya’s tone and facial expressions barely change throughout this movie.

In essence, there’s no real chemistry between Peter and MJ. Given how critical this relationship is for the plot of the movie, that’s not a trivial oversight. It frames their actions and their decisions as something petty and selfish. There’s never a sense that Peter and MJ make each other better. If anything, they’re liabilities to one another.

In both the comics and the previous movies, this is not how the romantic sub-plots play out. While Spider-Man’s relationships have always complicated his efforts to be a better superhero, they ultimately make him stronger. They make his decision more heroic and his triumphs more satisfying. In “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” the romance was more a handicap than a challenge.

Compared to how other romantic sub-plots in the MCU, Peter and MJ’s is by far one of the weakest. It’s established that they’re attracted to one another. That’s the critical first step in any romantic sub-plot. However, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” skips the part where they actually start caring for one another before they develop deeper feelings.

Again, that’s not a trivial oversight. Compare that to other relationships like Starlord and Gamora, Pepper Potts and Iron Man, or even Thor and Jane Foster. It starts with attraction. The characters flirt and tease one another. Then, at some point, that flirting turns into genuine care. They show concern and emotion when they see one another in danger. From there, deeper feelings emerge.

None of that happens with Peter and MJ. Their interactions lack drama, which limits the personal stakes for Spider-Man’s battle against Mysterio. It helps that there are other personal stakes besides MJ that guide this struggle. If anything, those stakes would be a lot more powerful if the sub-plot with MJ were completely removed.

As bad as this romantic sub-plot is, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” still works because so many other elements of the movie are well done. Mysterio is a great villain who really capitalizes on the post-Thanos landscape of the MCU. Peter’s supporting cast, from his teachers to his Aunt May to his best friend Ned, all get a chance to shine. They help give this movie the right impact.

Compared to other Spider-Man movies, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” definitely exceeds the quality of the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies that came before it. I would also say it’s slightly better than “Spider-Man 3,” albeit barely. If I had to score this movie, I would give it a 6 out of 10. It’s great, but not amazing.

For the MCU, especially after “Avengers Endgame,” the standards for a great superhero movie have never been higher. This movie met many of those standards, but a major flaw in a key sub-plot kept it from exceeding those standards. While I doubt this will hinder the franchise, I believe it’s a flaw that will only get worse if it’s not addressed in the sequels.

If you see the mid-credits scene, then you know what I’m talking about.

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How “Into The Spider-Verse” Embodies The Best Aspects Of Superhero Movies (And Sets Up A Promising Future)

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In the modern era of superhero movies, Spider-Man is one of the bedrock franchises that has guided the genre through its journey from niche market to global box office dominance. Alongside the first “X-men” movie, Sam Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” is credited with ushering in this golden age of superhero cinema.

It has been a bumpy road at times. We had high points with “Spider-Man 2” and not-so-high points with “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Regardless of how these movies fared, the story of Peter Parker shouldering the power and responsibilities of Spider-Man has become ingrained in pop culture. We still could’ve done without that awful dance scene, though.

Given all the weight Spider-Man has for the genre, a movie like “Into The Spider-Verse” has a lot going for it and just as much working against it. The story of Peter Parker has been done, redone, and overdone so much that it feels like there’s no room left for nuance. Well, “Into The Spider-Verse” definitively proves there’s still untapped potential and it runs even deeper than anyone thought.

I don’t want to spoil much about this movie, but I will spoil this. “Into The Spider-Verse” is every bit as awesome as critics and audiences alike have said. It’s a truly groundbreaking achievement for superhero movies, animation, and the Spider-Man franchise. The fact that it managed to do this without being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes that accomplishment all the more remarkable.

This movie succeeds on so many levels. It takes a concept drawn directly from the comics and expands on it, creating a whole new world in which all things Spider-Man do not revolve entirely around Peter Parker. That’s not a typo, by the way. This is a Spider-Man movie in which Peter Parker is not the main driving force of the story.

It’s this kid.

He’s still there. He still plays a major part in the story. However, this movie is a story about Miles Morales. Those who follow the comics will recognize that name. He’s not just some unknown character who gets thrust into a central role in the vein of the “Ghostbuster” reboot. Miles has a fairly comprehensive history going back to 2011 and this movie captures the heart of that history perfectly.

Miles is not like Peter in many ways. Beyond the fact that he’s half-black, half-Latino, and the nephew of a dangerous super-villain, his powers are slightly different. His personality is different, as well. He’s not the same nerdy dork that Peter Parker was, but he is very much an outsider who struggles to fit in.

Miles has more confidence, but not in the arrogant hipster Andrew Garfield sort of way. He’s someone who isn’t sure of who he wants to be or where he wants his life to go. On one hand, he’s got his parents who want him to aspire to something greater than a life in Brooklyn. On the other, he has influences like his Uncle Aaron pulling him down a darker path.

Him getting bit by a radioactive spider only compounds these conflicting forces. Part of what makes Miles work when other would-be Spider-Man replacements failed is that his struggle feels genuine. He never comes off as a rip-off or a substitute. What makes Miles a Spider-Man worth rooting for is how Peter Parker inspires him to take on that responsibility.

The comics went about that in one particular way that worked brilliantly. “Into The Spider-Verse” utilizes a different, but similar approach that’s every bit as compelling. Peter Parker has a major influence, but the movie throws in many other influences that send Miles down the path to becoming Spider-Man.

Some of those influences come in the form of other famous alternate-version Spider-Man characters, including the likes of Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham. “Into The Spider-Verse” manages to give them their own stories that show how they fit into the greater Spider-Man mythos, but for Miles, they embody the responsibility before him.

Like Peter, and so many other Spider-Man characters, he’s initially reluctant to bear that burden. Over the course of the movie, he endures plenty of agonizing decisions and crippling self-doubt. He struggles in ways that we’re not used to seeing Spider-Man struggle, but that’s exactly why “Into The Spider-Verse” works so well in the current landscape of superhero movies.

Going back to the first “Iron Man” movie, we’ve come to expect struggles and setbacks from our heroes. Miles has a lot more than most and not just because of his youth or inexperience. He has huge shoes to fill and the history of characters filling the shoes of iconic heroes is mixed at best.

By the end of the movie, though, Miles effectively proves that he’s worthy of being Spider-Man. He deserves a spot in the greater Spider-Man mythos. It doesn’t have to revolve entirely around Peter Parker. For some Spider-Man fans, that may seem outrageous. “Into The Spider-Verse” shows that there’s plenty of room for characters like Miles.

How it goes about this has greater implications for the future of superhero movies than it does for the present. I would even go so far as to say that “Into The Spider-Verse” might end up being a major turning point for the superhero genre because of how it tells Miles’ story alongside that of Peter Parker.

Aside from just raising Miles’ profile, “Into The Spider-Verse” does something that is overdue for Peter Parker’s story. Specifically, it ages him. The Peter Parker in this story is not some wide-eyed kid with Tom Holland’s baby face. He’s an older, more jaded version of Peter who has made mistakes and lost confidence in himself, as often happens to those who survive to middle age.

The look of a man who has fought one too many muggers.

It’s part of the paradox of heroism that I’ve mentioned before in that many popular superheroes aren’t allowed to age beyond a certain point. In fact, that was cited as the primary reason for breaking up Spider-Man’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson in the comics. Aging a hero beyond the mold Frank Miller’s version of Batman just seems like a dead end.

Into The Spider-Verse” makes the case that this doesn’t have to be the case. Peter Parker can grow up and even endure a mid-life crisis. For a character who has been around since the early 1960s, it almost feels overdue. His struggle doesn’t have to be the end of his story. If anything, it helps further Miles’ ascension to becoming the new Spider-Man.

It’s a theme that has played out in the comics more recently. Older heroes are inspiring a new crop of younger heroes. Miles Morales was among the first. Others like Kamala Khan and Riri Williams have followed. It feels like a natural progression of the superhero archetype, inspiring others to take up the responsibility and aspire to something greater.

Miles Morales isn’t a replacement for Peter Parker. He’s a supplement to the greater Spider-Man mythos and “Into The Spider-Verse” establishes how well this can work. His story is every bit as endearing as Peter’s, but without supplanting him. As such, it provides a new template for superhero movies in the future.

Not every story has to rely on rehashing and revamping iconic characters from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko era. It’s possible for new characters to emerge without replacing older ones. The world of superheroes can grow and evolve with subsequent generations. It’ll have to and not just because of actors’ contracts expiring.

If I had to score “Into The Spider-Verse,” I would give it an 8 out of 10. It’s a great movie, but it does have some shortcomings. They’re very minor. The pacing of the movie is erratic at times and the designs for certain characters, namely Kingpin and Scorpion, have room for improvement. It never feels chaotic or disconnected, though. The movie has a unique artistic style that fits perfectly with the story.

Every now and then, someone will claim that superhero movies will one day go the way of the western. That may still happen at some point, but “Into The Spider-Verse” shows that there are whole new paths to explore and they have to exist in the MCU. This movie is an incredible achievement beyond just being a great superhero movie and one I hope inspires others for years to come.

Also, the tribute to Stan Lee at the end will bring a tear to your eyes. Be certain of that.

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Jack Fisher’s Top Five Romance Comics

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I love comics. I love romance, too. When you put them together, it’s like putting bacon on pizza. It takes two inherently wonderful concepts and combines them, thereby compounding everything that makes them awesome.

I talk a lot about comics and romance. I’ve cited certain relationships that stand out in the current romantic landscape and praise certain comics that raise the bar for romance between superheroes. I think I’ve made the extent of my fondness for both fairly clear. Now, I’d like to offer some specifics.

For a while now, I’ve gotten comments and emails from people asking for recommendations of good romantic comics. I feel like I’ve contemplated this enough to craft a list of the comics I feel have the most to offer in terms of romance. While there are plenty of comics that cater specifically to romance, I’ve left those out in favor of those that offer a broader story that general comics fans can also appreciate.

What follows are my top five picks for the best romance comics. Please note that this is a personal list. I don’t wish to imply that this ranking is definitive. These are just my hand-picked comics that I feel offer the perfect blend of love and comic book level awesome.


Number 5: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

This sweet, fun little series from the mid-2000s is one of Marvel’s more underrated gems. There’s a lot of drama, angst, and frustration surrounding the romance between Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson. I’ve cited some of the “complications” these two have endured on more than one occasion.

This series basically avoids all of that and doesn’t rely on elaborate retcons to do it. The story is less about Spider-Man and more about Mary Jane Watson. Specifically, it’s about a young, pre-supermodel Mary Jane Watson who hasn’t quite become the gold standard for sex redheaded comic book characters. That’s critical to what makes this series so great in terms of story and romance.

For once, Peter Parker being Spider-Man is secondary. That story is unfolding behind the scene, but the real drama comes directly from Mary Jane. She’s at an age where she’s blossoming into a beautiful young woman, but still figuring herself out. She’s not sure of what she wants, how to love, or where she fits into this crazy world. On every level, she’s far more relatable than any superhero.

As she navigates that world, she makes touch choices and even a few mistakes. More than anything else, though, this series shows how and why Mary Jane came to love Peter Parker so much. It doesn’t rely on overt sex appeal or excessive heroics. The story focuses entirely on chemistry and growth.

On paper, it sounds like something that shouldn’t work in a superhero comic, but it totally does. It’s a romance story that’s balanced and well-developed. It also isn’t too mature. Anyone from age 8 to 80 can appreciate the romance here. On top of that, Takeshi Miyazawa’s artwork is gorgeous, bringing light and heart to a romance that badly needs it.


Number 4: Rogue and Gambit

This is a very recent entry on my list, but one that did more than enough to justify its position. Over the course of five issues, “Rogue and Gambit” accomplished something extraordinary. It took a well-known romance that had been deconstructed, denigrated, and mishandled for years and effectively rebuilt it into something truly uncanny.

Kelly Thompson, one of Marvel’s rising stars, took the baggage surrounding the Rogue/Gambit relationship and channeled it in a way that felt both rewarding and sincere. It starts as an undercover mission, but evolves into some overdue couple’s therapy. Thompson doesn’t ignore all the factors that kept them apart. She even lets them argue and agonize over them.

In doing so, this series presents this romance as one you won’t find in any fairy tale. This isn’t a case of star-crossed lovers destined to be together. It’s a romance in which the two people involved have to really work at it. They have to confront their flaws, their failures, and all the excuses they’ve made to avoid their feelings. It gets ugly, but beautiful at the same time.

I would go so far as to cite this series a template for how a modern superhero romance can work, even without an iconic legacy. The Rogue/Gambit romance isn’t ideal, but that’s exactly what makes it so enjoyable and endearing. These are flawed characters who have both found themselves playing villainous roles at some point in their history. Them coming together despite all that just feels so right.

The only reason this series isn’t higher on my list is because it’s so recent. It’s also still evolving through a companion series, “Mr. and Mrs. X.” I’ve reviewed and praised that series too, but it wouldn’t be possible without this series. Whatever complications the Rogue/Gambit relationship faces in the future, this series will remain one of its most defining moments.


Number 3: The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix

I’ve made no secret of how much I love the romance between Cyclops and Jean Grey. I’ve cited them as one of those uniquely special relationships that is both iconic and balanced, a rare combination for a romance that has been unfolding for over 50 years now. While they’ve endured plenty of tribulations, complications, and retcons along the way, they remain iconic for a reason.

This series from the late 1990s is a testament to just how strong their romance can be when retcons, cosmic forces, and terrible love triangles are set aside. At their core, Cyclops and Jean Grey are two people don’t just want to love each other. They want to create a better world for their friends, their family, and their future children. They get to do all of that and then some here.

Much of the story takes place in one of the many dystopian futures that plague the X-men, namely one ruled by Apocalypse. It puts Cyclops and Jean in a position where they can’t fall back on their fellow X-men or the support of other superheroes. They have to navigate this wasteland of a world with only each other to fall back on. It’s a true testament to the strength of their relationship.

As the title implies, though, the story emphasizes the adventure more than the romance. While there are plenty of sweet moments between Cyclops and Jean, their relationship is not the primary focus. It’s certainly a factor driving them forward, but the meat of the story is how it drives them through the conflict. If you enjoy adventure with your romance, then this is definitely the series for you.


Number 2: Superman and Wonder Woman Volumes 1 and 2

Yes, I know Superman and Lois Lane are still considered the most iconic superhero couple of all time.

Yes, I know there’s an extremely vocal contingent of Superman fans that believe there’s something missing whenever he’s not with Lois.

No, I do not care. That’s because the run on this series by Charles Soule and Tony Daniel really raised the bar for just how great a romance can be for these two iconic characters.

There’s a lot I can say about the romantic potential between Superman and Wonder Woman. It would probably take me multiple blog posts and several essays to adequately describe what sets it apart from Superman’s relationship with Lois and why it works so beautifully. Thanks to this series, though, I don’t need to do that.

This particular series takes place during the controversial, but endearing New 52 era of DC Comics. During this strange, but amazing period of DC Comics, Superman and Lois aren’t married. They know each other, but they aren’t romantically involved. That opens the door for Superman to explore a relationship with Wonder Woman. However, this series makes clear that this romance is no gimmick.

They’re not forced together, nor is it presented as a gimmick. From the very beginning, as well as the events that led up to it, there’s a distinct sense that Superman and Wonder Woman find one another during tenuous times in their lives. They’re two powerful characters making their way through a world in which they feel isolated. When they’re together, though, they’re at their best.

This story brands them as a power couple and they do plenty to earn it. Together, they face threats from alien tyrants and renegade Greek gods. Their worlds collide, but they guide each other through. They make each other stronger. They make each other better. They fight as individuals and as equals. If that’s not the definition of a power couple, I don’t know what is.

Again, if you’re a die-hard supporter of Superman and Lois, that’s fine. This series does nothing to undercut that. However, it does plenty to prove that Superman and Wonder Woman can share a powerful romance, literally and figuratively. Even after DC has undergone extensive retcons and reboots, this series still captures the power of that romance in the best possible way.


Number 1: Saga

This is probably a controversial selection for those who aren’t familiar with this series. It doesn’t involve superheroes. It’s not a product of Marvel or DC Comics. It’s an entirely different world full of bizarre creatures that include talking cats, a humanoid seal, and an entire race of beings with TVs for heads. I swear I’m not making any of that up.

However, at the heart of this amazing series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is an amazing love story between two characters from warring worlds. That love is very much the driving force between all the conflict and the characters that get caught up in it. It’s one of those romances that has every conceivable force working against it, but it still happens and it’s downright beautiful

Alana and Marko aren’t Superman and Lois Lane. They’re not even Rogue and Gambit. They’re not exactly heroes trying to live up to an ideal. They’re soldiers in a war between two worlds, but they somehow find each other, fall in love, and create a family together.

It’s not a fairy tale romance, though. Their romance involves more than a few explicit sex scenes, as well as a scene where Alana gives birth to their daughter. Nothing is filtered or polished. The sexy and unsexy parts of their relationship is laid bare within a world that is full of fanciful characters and locales.

It’s a genuinely epic journey, but one that all comes back to the romance between Alana and Marko. No matter what kind of romantic you are, these two find a way to check the right boxes. There are many moments of passion, sorrow, and loss. There are also plenty of moments that are funny, cute, and endearing. It has everything a great romance needs and then some.

I should offer a fair warning, though. You will get attached to these characters. You will feel it during certain moments. As a self-professed romantic, I can safely say that it’s worth the risk.

There you have it! These are my top five selections for romance comics. I’m sure some will disagree with my selections. The list may even change as other great romance comics emerge in the coming years. That’s perfectly fine and I welcome any debates on my list.


Romance is in every medium and comics are no exception. I would even argue that the romance in comics is under-appreciated and under-valued. As the genre continues to evolve, I have a feeling that’ll change and I hope to be part of that change.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Marriage and Relationships, romance, sex in media, superhero comics, X-men