Spider-Girl #4

Background

Spider-Girl first appeared in What If (Vol. 2) #105 in February 1998 and the alternate reality she lived in was eventually spun into a whole universe called MC2. She is May Parker, the daughter of Peter Parker (the original Spider-Man) and Mary Jane Watson-Parker. After hitting puberty, she inherited her dad's spider-powers and decided to follow in his heroic footsteps. These stories occur very early in her crime-fighting career...

Story 'Deadly Is The Dragon King'

  Spider-Girl #4
Summary: Dragon King, Peter & MJ Learn About Spider-Girl
Editor: Tom DeFalco
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inker: Al Williamson

The secret is out. Spider-Girl's adventures from the first three issues have finally landed her a spot on the front page of the Daily Bugle. Which is bad news for our heroine because Peter and MJ do not approve of her following in her dad's footsteps. They think it's too dangerous for a 16 year old to go out and fight supervillains and argue that she doesn't always have to play the hero. It's an interesting inversion of the “with great power comes great responsibility” spiel you usually hear from Peter. But is he speaking from the wisdom of old age or out of fear that is daughter may get hurt?

May arrives at school and sees Moose (the school bully) and Jimmy Yama (May's friend and resident bookworm) squabbling in the hallway. Her first instinct is to break them up, but with her father's words still ringing in her ears she decides to let them work it out themselves. Moose pushes Jimmy right into the school janitor. The janitor yells at them for being ruffians and retreats to his basement sanctuary that includes dozens of random mystical items he has collected (with a heavy emphasis on dragons). See where this is leading, yet?

Sometime later, May visits Courtney (another friend and a stereotypical nerd girl) in the library. Courtney wants to help Jimmy out, but May argues that they should leave him alone. Coach Thompson (Flash Thompson to you and me) pops in to remind May she has basketball practice after school. See, she's the star player and the team is depending on her.

Then, we switch over to Daily Bugle where someone in shadows (whom everyone just calls Chief) demands more information on Spider-Girl. Mr. Walters, one of the employees, explains to another unnamed employee that there is a tragic back story to his obsession with anything related to Spider-Man. Who is the Chief (is it our very own J. Jonah Jameson still alive, or possibly his second-hand man Robbie Robertson)? More on that front later.

It's lunchtime now and May meets up with Phil Urich, who used to be the Green Goblin (number four, I think - the heroic one). In this reality he works with Peter at the city crime lab. He say her father is meeting with Johnny Storm (from this reality's Fantastic Five). We cut over to their meeting, but it does not go well. More and more people are learning about Spider-Girl and Peter is not happy.

She make it back to school in time to moon over Brad (her love interest and standard preppy boy) in the lunch room. Moose and Jimmy are still at it. Moose knocks into Jimmy while he's hold a tray of food. Mr. Hackmutter (the janitor) is there again to pick up the mess. But, he cuts himself on a broken shard and quickly runs out to find some bandages. Not before bleeding all over a gold dragon medallion, however. And if one thing horror movies have taught us is that mystical objects and blood do not mix. Unless you want to turn into an orange scaled behemoth with super strength.

May is talking with Davida (her best friend and teammate) when the Dragon King busts up through the floor. He can shoot lasers from his eyes and starts using them on the students. You see, like all school janitors, he has always hated the students he has to clean up after, and now he's going to have is revenge. Cliched? Maybe. But this isn't Shakespeare we're talking about.

May, of course, runs to the bathroom and changes into her costume. Then she runs back out as Spider-Girl to confront the villain. He's in the middle of ranting about “kids these days” when she kicks him in the back of the head. Dragon King swings at her but she is too nimble to be hit. Then he picks up some rubble and tosses it at the crowd of kids. It heads right for Jimmy Yama, who is frozen in fear! But just before it hits him, Moose pushes him out of the way.

Spider-Girl decides she's got to go on the offensive before someone gets hurt. She webs up Dragon King's laser eyes, but he tears them away easily (the webs, not his eyes). Then she starts leading him away from the crowd of kids so there won't be any more innocent bystanders to distract her. She eventually arrives in Mr. Hackmutter's basement sanctuary where she threatens to destroy his collection of knick knacks. In a panic, he swings wildly, which is just what she wanted him to do. He hits an circuit box on the wall and electrocutes himself - zap, he's down for the count!

Alright, it's wrap up time. The police haul Dragon King away. Jimmy thanks Moose for saving his life, but Moose says that this doesn't change anything between them. Brad is in awe of Spider-Girl. And May returns home after school to her parents. They are upset that she is sneaking behind their backs to do the superhero thing. She argues that she had to act or someone could have gotten hurt, which makes Peter stop in his tracks. “So, where do we go from here?” May asks.

General Comments

This is shaping up to be a very unique inversion of the usual Spider-Man mythos. Originally, Peter became Spider-Man out of guilt over the death of his Uncle Ben. Here, there's no need for a personal tragedy to motivate May; she is just being kind-hearted and proactive.

This is packed with character moments and interesting dilemmas. All the supporting characters really bring the story to life. These early issues are good because it isn't just a retelling of Spider-Man with different people. It is a mix of old school storytelling and self-referential superheroics.

Overall Rating

In the fourth issue of his own title, the Sandman, one of Spider-Man's most enduring villains, debuts. Dragon King doesn't even come close. That's the main reason I can't give this issue more than an average 2.5 webs.