Monday, June 1, 2015

Guest Review - The Amazing Spider-Man: Parallel Lives

Doug: Comics reviews by Mike W. are starting to become the norm around here -- and I like it! The man does a bang-up job, as many of our readers have remarked. Today we get his thoughts on the 1989 graphic novel "Parallel Lives"; and when it's a story by famed Spidey scribe Gerry Conway and penciled by noted 1980s Spidey artist Alex Saviuk, it's bound to be a good day. Toss in Doc Ock as the baddie du jour, and... Well, why don't I get out of the way and let Mike take you through this thing?

The Amazing Spider-Man: Parallel Lives (May 1989)
Gerry Conway-Alex Saviuk/Andy Mushynsky

M.S. Wilson: The subject of this review may be a bit controversial; I know there are people out there who hate the idea that Mary Jane knew Peter's secret identity all along. Maybe I'm biased (since I always liked MJ), but I always liked the premise, for reasons I'll get into at the end of this review. I don't expect to change anyone's mind (we all like what we like), but I hope everyone will keep an open mind, even if you're not a fan of the work in question. This is basically one big retcon, built on the premise that Mary Jane Watson knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man right from the beginning, even before Amazing Spider-Man #1; I think there was a line in one of Tom DeFalco's issues of Amazing (after Spidey fought Puma) where MJ said she'd known his secret "all along" or something like that. I don't know if Gerry Conway got the idea from that or not, but he seems to have done his research. I don't mind a good retcon, as long as it adds something to the characters instead of taking something away ... and I think this Graphic Novel definitely adds something to Peter, and especially to Mary Jane.

The premise for the first couple of chapters is Peter and Mary Jane narrating their pasts (to each other, I guess?). We start with a four page prologue. On the first page, we see Peter's parents leaving him with Uncle Ben and Aunt May because they have to go on a secret (and dangerous) mission for the government. I'm not sure why secret agents would choose to have a kid, unless the mission wasn't in their usual purview? Maybe it was a last minute thing. I know this was covered (to some extent) in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, but it's been a while since I read it. Next we see MJ as a baby. Her father is a failed novelist who blames his lack of success on his family... especially his kids, Mary Jane and her older sister Gayle. MJ's dad is very abusive, constantly yelling at his wife and kids, and waving a bottle of booze around. I'm assuming he takes out his frustrations on his family physically, although that isn't shown here (though it's mentioned in the text piece at the end of the story). Gayle is thoroughly intimidated by her father, and seems to decide that keeping quiet is better than expressing ones feelings; she will pass that on to MJ, as we'll see. On the next page, we see Peter when he's older (14), raking leaves with May and Ben. This is years after his parents died, and Peter (the narrator) says he'd always assumed that their not coming back was somehow his fault. He obviously had some hangups about responsibility even before Uncle Ben was killed. I've read that kids feeling guilty when their parents die is fairly common (no matter how illogical it seems from an outside perspective), and J.M. DeMatteis used that idea later in his "Child Within" storyline in Spectacular Spider-Man; I can't help wondering if this is where he got the idea, or if he and Gerry were just reading the same Psych textbooks. We find out 14 year old Peter is very smart but not athletic (big shock). His prime motivation seems to be to make Ben and May proud of him; if he thinks his parents left (or died) because of something he did, maybe he's afraid of disappointing May and Ben because he's afraid of losing them too? On the next page, MJ tells of the same day from her perspective (she was 13 at the time). After her parents split up, they stayed at her Aunt Anna's place for a while. MJ likes Anna because she's not always serious, she knows how to laugh. I get the feeling there wasn't a lot of laughter in MJ's house growing up. MJ watches Peter raking leaves (he doesn't see her), and blows her sister off when asked to help with dinner. Gayle calls MJ "self-centered", but Anna assures Madeline (MJ's mom) that she's a "delight" because she knows how to have fun. Anna also says MJ will make some man very happy one day... I guess Anna's not that progressive. MJ says that Anna "took [them] in", but I'm not sure for how long; I assume it wasn't too long, or Peter and MJ would've met.

Chapter 1: The Spider's Bite  We see a lot of familiar stuff, starting with Peter being bitten by the spider at the science exhibit. He says he's fifteen at this point. Alex Saviuk does a great job ... he's obviously channeling Ditko here, and it looks great. We see a glimpse of Flash Thompson and Liz Allan, then we move on to some more classic origin scenes, like Peter jumping away from the car, climbing the wall, and crushing the steel pipe; we move on to his bout with Crusher Hogan and his first meeting with Maxie, his future agent. We then see Peter putiing together his costume and web-shooters. Meanwhile, MJ's family (without her father) has been living in Pittsburgh with her mom's cousin, Frank Brown, a widower. Frank seems like kind of a jerk; he's not abusive like Phillip was, but he basically uses MJ's mom as a drudge around the house, and yells at her all the time (even though his three kids are the ones making the mess!).  MJ says they've been living with him for "a few years", but that doesn't make sense, since it was only a year ago that they left MJ's dad; I think Gerry might have meant "a few months". We learn that MJ's party-hearty outgoing attitude is a sham, to conceal her pain. Unfortunately, nobody seems to notice... they all assume her carefree attitude is genuine. MJ's much more observant however; when Gayle and her husband Timmy (whom she married right out of high school) announce that she's pregnant, MJ notices Timmy's haunted look and realizes she's seen it before... on her father's face. That scares the hell out of her, but since everyone else seems oblivious to it, she keeps her mouth shut--and keeps her distance--which elicits more disparaging comments from Gayle. MJ is hurt by her sister's words, but makes sure not to show it. She watches Spider-Man (not yet a crimefighter) on TV, and likes him because he seems fun, and because he wears a mask, just like MJ herself. She also mentions that Spidey had been on Good Morning America, Carson, and Celebrity Olympics... wow, Maxie was a better agent than I thought!

We now go back to Peter's perspective, and see the famous scene where he lets the thief run past him. Peter mentions that he used to feel worthless, but now he's better than everyone. We see Ben and May giving Peter the famous microscope and later he and Ben have a heart-to-heart talk on the porch. Ben says he's noticed Peter's been happier lately and likes that he doesn't seem to have the weight of the world on his shoulders anymore. This is another theme that's been used by different writers, where Uncle Ben always kidded Peter about being too serious. Next we see MJ and her mom visiting Anna's house for Thanksgiving. MJ is still worried about Timmy, but she covers it up again as she attends a party with the neighborhood kids. Peter's not at the party, of course, but he is riding high on his fame as Spider-Man. It all comes crashing down as he comes home to find his Uncle Ben has been shot by a burglar. MJ is at Anna's when May is brought over in hysterics (and we see a glimpse of Doctor Bromwell); MJ is freaked by Aunt May's emotions... I guess growing up hiding her own feelings has made MJ oversensitive to emotional scenes in general. She feels like running off, but doesn't; instead, she watches Peter talk to a cop next door and run into his house (I'm surprised the cop let him... it is a crime scene). MJ is startled to see Spider-Man crawl out of one of the bedroom windows and immediately realizes that Peter is Spider-Man! MJ does finally run back to the party, where she tries to deal with what she's just seen. Peter goes to the warehouse, catches the burglar, and realizes he's the same thief he'd let run past him before. Peter blames himself for Uncle Ben's death and realizes that with great power, there must also come great responsibility. MJ on the other hand, tries her best to repress what she knows about Peter, not wanting to be burdened with any more secrets.

We get a two page interlude with Dr. Octopus, basically showing his origin from Amazing Spider-Man #3. There's also some new stuff about how Ock is a loner, a scientist with no social life and so on. I guess this is to draw a parallel with Ock and Peter (and a contrast with MJ, maybe).

Chapter 2: Encounters  We open with Spidey fighting Kraven (from Amazing Spider-Man #15, although the scene isn't exactly the same). Back at home, May is trying to set Peter up with MJ, but he's not really into it, saying he's having enough trouble with Betty and Liz. May persists, saying MJ will make a good housewife (!). We see Anna, who's obviously in on the set-up, talking to MJ. She describes Peter as quiet and sensitive, which sets off MJ's alarm bells, as her father was "sensitive" too. Anna says there's no comparison, because Peter is very responsible (she doesn't know the half of it!). MJ still isn't sure about dating Peter, since he hides behind a mask a lot of the time (but then so does MJ, in her own way), and that frightens her. Peter catches Kraven and has to let Betty down because of his blind date with MJ. But MJ has a headache, so he tries to patch things up with Betty ... but she's not having it. We find out MJ faked her headache to avoid the date (she ends up watching "Welcome Back Kotter" with Anna); MJ says there'll be plenty of time to reschedule the date, but we find out that she doesn't come back to Anna's place for two years.

Those two years are a whirlwind for Peter, fighting all sorts of baddies (like Molten Man) and graduating from high school. Maybe MJ's instincts were right, because we find out that being Spider-Man (with all the responsibility it entails) has made Peter less observant of the people closest to him; he hadn't noticed how deep Liz's feelings for him were, and he completely missed Aunt May's deteriorating health. When she finally lands in the hospital, Peter is so wrapped up in feeling guilty (her radiation sickness came from a transfusion of his radioactive blood years before), that he ignores Flash Thompson when he tries to introduce Peter to a couple of new college classmates: Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. Of course, that plays into Peter's reputation for being aloof and stuck-up. Curt Connors tells Spidey there's a cure and has the serum sent to New York, but it's stolen by the Master Planner, who turns out to be Dr. Octopus. Spidey defeats Ock, but is trapped under tons of falling steel. We get Saviuk's take on the iconic scene of Spidey lifting the steel off his back; Saviuk's version is so close that I initially thought they'd reused the original, but when I compared the two, I could see the differences. It's almost exactly the same, though ... Saviuk does a great homage. Spidey defeats the Master Planner's gang and gets the serum to Aunt May in time.

For MJ, the last two years haven't been so good. Gayle and Timmy were fighting constantly, with Madeline trying to fix things. MJ finds herself envying Spider-Man (and Peter) for his uncomplicated life; I'm assuming she didn't know about May being sick... maybe Anna never told her? Or maybe MJ is somehow separating Spidey and Peter Parker in her mind, since she hadn't actually met Peter yet. Gayle gets pregnant again, and Timmy immediately takes off; MJ says he was "... like a drowning man who'd just been tossed an anchor". Madeline promises she and MJ will be there to support Gayle, but she doesn't even live long enough to see her second grandchild. After Madeline dies, MJ feels even more trapped. Gayle is making plans on how they'll live, but MJ refuses to sacrifice her dreams for someone else the way Madeline, Gayle, and Timmy did. This makes MJ look kind of bad, but from her point of view it makes sense. She's seen everyone around her put their aspirations aside and end up bitter and frustrated; she obviously doesn't want to turn out the same way, which shows a certain amount of maturity for someone so young. I'm assuming she's in her final year of high school, so she'd be 17 or 18 here. She says her dream is to be a model, but I thought originally she wanted to be an actress; I'm not sure where Conway got the "model" thing from... maybe just because that's where she ended up? She mentions she has money saved from working after school, so she's obviously not as irresponsible as her family thought. A week after her mother's funeral, MJ turns up at Aunt Anna's place. Anna knows something's wrong, but doesn't ask too many questions. She finally gets MJ to agree to meet Peter, and sets up a dinner for that Sunday. MJ says she was still scared to meet Peter, so I'm not sure why she agreed to the date; the two years distance may have mellowed her fears somewhat; or maybe she was curious to finally meet Spider-Man; or maybe with all she'd been through, she decided to take a risk with the only thing she had left ... her heart. Before Sunday, MJ gets a job and an apartment in Manhattan (I assume she's still going to school too). She ponders which side of Peter is the real one... the calm, reliable Peter Parker, or the wild, unpredictable Spider-Man. She can't figure out if Peter is lying to himself (like her father), or just putting on an act for everyone else (like MJ herself). She's drawn to him and scared of him at the same time... or maybe it's the attraction itself that scares her. Sunday finally rolls around and we get another iconic scene, of Pete and MJ's first meeting. This one is less faithful to the original, but Saviuk does a great job of channeling Jazzy Johnny Romita. You can tell Saviuk was having fun with this.

There's another Doc Ock interlude, showing him renting the room from Aunt May (which happened in Amazing #54). Apparently, Ock was thinking he might have a chance at a normal life, but Peter recognizes him and the jig is soon up. Ock blames Peter for ruining his shot at a quiet life, which is a new twist; I don't remember that in the original story.

Chapter 3: Tentacles  We jump ahead a few years to Peter and MJ's wedding. We see that they're both having doubts: MJ because of her family history, and Peter because he's afraid of hurting her like he's (in his mind, at least) hurt everyone close to him. A few months later (Marvel Chronology Project says this takes place between Web of Spider-Man #58, with the return of the Grizzly, and Amazing Spider-Man #326, with Graviton and the beginning of the "Acts of Vengeance"), Peter and MJ are at May's for dinner when a tentacled robot attacks. May is (conveniently) knocked out, so she doesn't see Peter fighting the robot. Of course, it was later revealed that May had known Peter's secret for a long time too, but that's another story... MJ realizes that Peter is scared -- not for himself, but for her and May--and she seees a "look" on Peter's face. We're never told exactly what "look" it is, but I assume it's akin to the "looks" her father and brother-in-law had. There's a note from Doc Ock inside the robot and Peter swings off to fight him (at the Master Planner's old base). Spidey learns that Ock blames him and Peter Parker for not being able to lead a normal life, so he plans to kill Spidey now, and then detonate a small nuke in Manhattan. I'm not sure why Ock is extending his hatred of Spidey (and Peter) to society in general, but Spidey does mention that Ock has gone crazy, so maybe it doesn't have to make sense. Anyway, they fight, the river floods the complex (again), they surface, and Spidey's about to get pulped when the nuke goes off (still underwater), blowing Ock away from Spidey. Conveniently (I guess?) the water absorbs most of the shock and all the radiation, but Peter's overdeveloped sense of responsibility kicks in; he not only blames himself for Ock's (supposed) death, but he starts thinking maybe Ock was right about Peter wrecking his life... maybe Peter wrecks everbody's life. 

Back at home, Peter seems to be about to break up with MJ, since he blames himself for putting her (and Aunt May) in danger, but MJ stops him before he can say anything. She explains that being responsible is necessary for people to grow, but that doesn't mean everything always works out for the best. Everything in life is a gamble and, just as MJ took a risk and put her heart on the line when she agreed to meet him all those years ago, now it's his turn to take a risk, the risk of loving someone while knowing you may lose them someday. Peter realizes that she's right ... putting your heart on the line for love is worth the risk.

As I mentioned before, I love this Graphic Novel. I generally like Gerry Conway's take on Spidey (the Gwen clone notwithstanding) and Alex Saviuk does a great job channeling Ditko and Romita, and in the last chapter gives us a look at his own style (which is closer to Romita than Ditko). This story wasn't perfect... the fight with Ock felt unnecessary, like it was shoehorned in. I guess it was there to set up MJ's little speech at the end, but it was basically just a plot device, which is why the fight felt so perfunctory. I think Conway was also drawing a parallel between Peter and Doc Ock, showing that they were the same kind of people on the surface, but much different deep down. Some people may complain that Gwen was hardly in this story, but I think that makes sense; this is about Pete and MJ ... there are already countless stories about Pete and Gwen. There were a few scenes from earlier comics that I wish had been included; I would've loved to see Conway and Saviuk's take on that scene in Amazing #25, where Liz and Betty drop by Aunt May's house and are blown away when they meet MJ, thinking she looks like a movie star. But I guess they only had so much room, so certain things just couldn't fit. 

I mentioned before that some people don't like the thing about MJ knowing Peter's secret all along, but I love it. I think it gives MJ much more depth. Peter has always had a thing about responsibility, but after reading this, I think MJ comes off as much more responsible than she's usually portrayed. Think about it ... not only does she keep her own secrets (about how screwed up her family is), but she kept Peter's secret for all those years too ... even from him. That is not something a shallow person could do. I know a lot of people thought Gwen and Peter made a better couple, but I think that relationship was always doomed. There's no way Gwen--as she was written at the time--could've married Peter; she hated Spider-Man too much and she never could've handled Peter going out and risking his life every night. And remember, it wasn't later writers that turned Gwen all mousy ... that happened before Amazing #100, while Stan was still writing the comic. MJ on the other hand, has an inner strength that Gwen seemed to lack. She and Peter perfectly complement each other's strenghs and weaknesses: she keeps him from feeling responsible for the woes of the world and he keeps her from internalizing everything and shutting herself off behind her party girl facade. 

A lot of writers (and fans) seemed to hate the whole Peter/MJ marriage, seeing it (and MJ) as millstones around Peter's neck, but I disagree; when MJ's written right, she's an asset, not a liability. Remember at the end of Amazing #122, when Peter is grieving Gwen and MJ comes by to see him? He lashes out at her, saying she wouldn't be torn up if her own mother died. Of course, MJ's mother had died, and Peter's words must have hurt like hell. She must have wondered if she'd made a mistake years before, making herself vulnerable by getting involved with Peter. But instead of walking out, she stayed. That's the Mary Jane Watson that I like, and that's the Mary Jane Watson that Gerry Conway and Alex Saviuk give us in this Graphic Novel.


Redartz said...

Excellent review, Mike W.! Very in-depth and comprehensive look at a fascinating book. As you noted, Conway and Saviuk borrow from numerous sources, including Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz' Amazing Spiderman 259. Interestingly, "Parallel Lives" seems to have inspired other tales itself. Kurt Busiek borrows heavily from some of the dialogue you featured above (in Untold Tales of Spiderman 16).

Like you, Mike, I feel that MJ's discovery of Peter's double life gave depth and sympathy to her character. Looking back on her history as portrayed in the comics, MJ has been the beneficiary of a large and dramatic amount of back story. She is truly one of the most intriguing characters in comics; especially as a supporting character! Gwen,by comparison, never got the coverage MJ did. One must wonder how Gwen would have developed over more time; your observations on her portrayal are spot on.

Edo Bosnar said...

And Mike W. strikes again! Great review of a book I've always been curious about. I like the idea of MJ always knowing that Pete is Spidey, so now I *really* want to read this one.
I have to say, like you, I've always been a big fan of MJ. I started reading comics in the mid-'70s, after Gwen's death, and I always just assumed that MJ was Pete's one-and-only, i.e., the one he'd always end up with, kind of like Superman and Lois. And I've never been bothered by the marriage, just the opposite in fact. I would say the only mistake made by the various Spider-man writers (and Marvel editorial I guess) from the mid-'80s onward was to make MJ an apparently rather successful actress and model. One of the impressions I always got before that (don't know why, really) was that MJ was actually just barely getting by (probably taking small roles in off-Broadway theater and TV commercials, and modelling for department store catalogs, etc.) and just putting on a happy-go-lucky facade for all of her friends and acquaintances. This would actually fit into the sort of dual aspects of her personality that Conway presented here.
Anyway, I'll just say that I particularly agree with every single word in your last paragraph - couldn't have expressed it better myself!

William said...

Very well done (and thorough) review Mike. I have been a huge Spider-Man junkie most of my life, and I was one of those who was wholeheartedly against the Peter/MJ marriage from the very beginning. I felt it was a huge mistake, because it fundamentally changed the entire tone and direction of the character. After the marriage, Spider-Man just wasn't the same book anymore. It had a totally different vibe. Some people viewed that as a good thing, but I did not. I was a big big Spider-Man fan for most of my life because I liked Spider-Man the way he was. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever to so radically change the character like that. I'm a big believer in the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" philosophy.

I have nothing against Mary Jane (in fact I like her a lot), and she could have stayed Peter's steady girlfriend for as long as they wanted, but having them get married pretty much ruined Spider-Man for me. It just changed the whole dynamic of everything and for me the magic was gone. I kept reading the books, but I never enjoyed any of them as much as I once did.

And as for "Parallel Lives", I own the Graphic Novel but this is one I never cared for. Not because it was a bad story, or badly written, or badly drawn but because it was a RET-CON. And if there is one plot device I can't stand, it is the ret-con. For good or bad, I just so much hate the whole "Everything you thought you knew was wrong" thing. I find the practice to be a huge betrayal of the reader's trust.

If in 1984 (which is when MJ originally reveals this knowledge to Peter) Marvel suddenly wanted MJ to know that Peter is Spider-Man, then go ahead and have her find out somehow, but don't go back and try to make us believe that she knew it all along, since day one. That is just stupid!! And it totally changes the premise of dozens of previous (well written) stories. So that when you go back 10 or 15 years and read an old issue with MJ in it, you are now expected to believe that she new Peter's secret identity all that time. Even though, as a reader, we were privy to her private thoughts, and she never once indicated that she knew that information. ARRRG!

Dr. Oyola said...

I love MJ knowing all along and the issue where she tells him her whole REAL life story as they walk in the park is one of my all-time favorite issues of ASM. I wrote a little about it here in a post called "All My Pasts Remembered."

Despite having occasionally regularly purchased Spider-Man comics in the contemporary era, for me the ideal Spider-Man arc ends w/ the marriage. Afterwards I like to think of Spidey semi-retiring - MJ gives birth to May (Spider-Girl in the MC2 universe) and eventually Peter passes the Spider-torch on to her, or in-between he'd train Miles Morales to be his replacement (which is now something that could happen since universes have collided).

Anyway, I bought a reprint of Parallel Lives which came out in 2012 and really liked it.

Martinex1 said...

I never read "Parallel Lives" but now I wish I had. Like others I am a big MJ fan and think she adds a lot to Peter's character through her interaction and balance of his personality. But I was also a Gwen fan. In some of the older comics that my cousin had shared with me were numerous ASM issues, and Gwen was always present (on a date, or at the Coffee Bean, or visiting with her father). It took me a while to adjust to MJ but I liked her enthusiasm for life, her struggling actress days, and the depth of personality hidden behind the happy go lucky veneer.

When I read that she always knew Peter was Spider Man, I never knew she actually saw him. I assumed she "knew" like all true friends and spouses know things. That after months of interacting and observing and conversing...she knew. I never took it that she "saw". Was that clear in ASM and I interpreted it differently and have succumbed to my bad memory? Or was that new to this story specifically?

Alex Saviuk is underrated. He doesn't get much recognition. But he was a solid and consistent storyteller and I felt he kept characters on model. It was fun here seeing different eras under his pencil.

Mike W., this was another great and thorough review. I like how you dig into the depth of the scenes, the art, and the character development.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

@William: I know what you mean about re-reading old issues and the thought bubbles not making sense in this new context. I think there are certain scenes where MJ's knowledge works (like Amazing #43, where SHE suggests they go check out the Rhino), but there are times when it doesn't work at all (like when Pete had the flu and accidentally told everyone his secret ID). As for retcons, I like them if they add to the story without taking anything away...if they slide seamlessly between old stories. I still like this particular retcon (even though it isn't seamless) because I like MJ in general, so I'm predisposed to like anything that gives her more character.

@Martinex1: It's been a while since I read that issue of Amazing (maybe Osvaldo can confirm this), but I think the whole "MJ-actually-seeing-Peter-climb-out-the-window-the-night-Uncle-Ben-died" thing was made up just for this Graphic Novel, as was a lot of the detail about MJ's past; I think Conway read a bunch of Spidey stories (the 60s stuff, the DeFalco issue, the Michelinie issues right after Peter proposed) and filled in the gaps with new material.

Mike Wilson

Humanbelly said...

Really, really solid synopsis and review, Mike W. I'm not sure how it is that I don't have this GN-- except, now that I think of it, most of this story was touched upon to some degree in the monthly titles as well, so as not to leave those readers out of the important continuity loop, I imagine. And I know I couldn't afford too many GN's at that point.

I HATED the "MJ always knew" retcon at the time, for many of the same reasons stated by others above. There's no question that it was done with care and love and certainly respect for the characters, and with as much surgical precision as possible, but nothing this major can ever escape the "everything you thought you knew is a lie" shadow. It just can't. BUT-- I did come to accept it well enough over the course of time, especially since I'm one of the (possibly minority of?) folks who truly loved the fact the Pete and MJ got married. I completely, COMPLETELY recognize and understand why it posed such a huge problem for so many long-time fans. . . but I am unapologetic about the fact that I want to see the characters I love grow and change the way anyone does. I think the problem is that it just stumped the writers and the editors on how to maintain the popular sad sack/underdog persona of Spidey's as he embarked on a young adult husband existence. It was certainly new ground, when you think of it, but no one seemed willing to really go in that direction. The problem, of course, is that when you're married and in love, a huge amount of entertaining neuroses just seem to vaporize. . .

But again, I was fine with that.


Anonymous said...

I can dig it Mike W! Like many fans I was ambivalent about the idea of MJ knowing that Petey was Spidey from the very start. However, after seeing this review it looks like Conway crafted such a well written tale here that I can see how some fans are in favour of it. This story adds a depth to MJ's character that we never saw during the early phase of Spidey's career, at least immediately post Bronze Age. The story of a sensitive (hah there's that word again!) emotionally scarred person hiding behind a party girl persona really fleshes out MJ, and it's this which always led me to think that MJ was the only one for Peter.

As for their marriage, I personally didn't think it was such a disaster like my ol' buddy William but hey that's just me. The storyline where Mephisto magically 'uncouples' them to borrow a term from Gwyneth Paltrow somehow disturbed me more than their marriage.

All in all, another fine review Mike W! Keep 'em coming!

- Mike 'I knew Superman was Clark Kent all along!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Anonymous said...

The Mary Jane we know and love is purely a Gerry Conway creation. She emerged in the Epilogue of ASM # 122. Conway developed her in a humane and dynamic way - Len Wein continued the excellent portrayal. So, it is fitting that Conway's Parallel Lives is the definitive story. It is in Parallel Lives that we are given the Mary Jane we keep in our hearts and yearn for.

As a pertinent note: I just finished reading Renew Your Vows. It just hit the comic shops today. It is issue # 1 of what may be a restoration of the Peter/MJ marriage. But whether that turns out to be true or not - one thing is certain. Renew Your Vows offers a nostalgic dose of the Mary Jane we long for. Dan Slott has delivered what we've been screaming for.

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