Mary Jane has been out of the Spidey books for the past couple of years, real time, and out of Pete's life for a year in comic time, having gone out to California to find fortune and fame as an actress. Now she's returned to New York, having shown up at Aunt May's recent wedding. Why has she decided to come back? Read on..
On the set of a Hollywood pirate movie, Mary Jane goes through her mail to find an invitation to May Parker's wedding, via her Aunt Anna, who says she knows there's bad blood between MJ and May because of "the way things ended" but wants to take MJ as a 'plus-one'.
While on a plane returning from the shoot, MJ recollects about Peter showing up as Spidey after four days missing, chewing him out for it. There's also a shot of her checking the "no" box on the 'will you be attending?' card and dropping it in the mail. During a break from her movie shoot, she decides to drop in on her actor boyfriend Bobby Carr, who tells her he's just landed the role of Steve Rogers in a Captain America biopic. They go out to a club to celebrate.
Bobby takes a call from a Drug Enforcement Agency officer, telling him he wants Bobby's Mutant Growth Hormone drug connection. Carr says he has to handle it carefully as she's completely psychotic. Meanwhile men in animal masks outside are piping in a strange gas into the club. One of them is killed by an umbrella's tip by the White Rabbit, who says the whole operation was timed at 7 seconds, and they took 12, making her late which she hates.
The gas has incapacitated most of the clubgoers, including Bobby Carr. White Rabbit stands over Carr, saying she has ears even in the DEA and that no one rolls on her, that an example must be made of him. He runs off before she can stick him with her umbrella. One of Rabbit's female thugs is stalking out the bathrooms with a gun. MJ kicks a stall door into the thug and takes her mask. She sneaks off in the mask to where Rabbit has her gun trained on Carr. MJ has a flashback to Peter taking off his mask to reveal his battered face, telling MJ that when he's honest with himself, he needs to be Spider-man more than the world needs his heroics. Crying, MJ says next he's going to tell her again about how he should've done something when the burglar who killed his Uncle had run past (classy, MJ), how he can't let one moment define his entire life. Pete says maybe she's right, but tells her if she should ever find herself in a similar situation, don't do what he did, which was nothing; that he would'nt wish that feeling on his worst enemy least of all her.
She smashes a chair over another of Rabbit's thugs and drags Bobby Carr off. They escape outside and MJ tells the police that Rabbit is inside. Later, Carr tells MJ that White Rabbit is a big drug dealer to movie stars, and that he had to get the MGH to bulk up to play Steve Rogers. He also says they need to get their stories straight before they talk to the cops. Bobby says he was getting too old for his parts--that he had to do something..and that MJ should know about plateau-ing careers, that the window for ex-models turned actors is closing. MJ asks how long has her employment potential been weighing on his mind--he answers that his therapist warned him not to tell her about the MGH, and that there's always tension in a relationship when one partner is so much more successful than the other. Cue a shot of Spidey and then a close up of MJ in realization. She walks away from Carr and the scene of the crime while he yells after her.
Later MJ is on a talk show answering questions about being back in New York, and if a failed love affair had something to do with her leaving in the first place? She says that by coming back she's helping to put it all behind her, and that she's not letting one moment define her entire life--as the scene shifts to MJ catching May's bouquet at the wedding.
Serving as an endcap to the "Red-Headed Stranger" arc, this issue shows MJ in action and has a distinct lack of Spider-man. The first thing it brought to mind was the Flash-at-War issue, Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #574, where he's having flashbacks to heroism on the part of Spidey to get him through combat. Though not as good as that tale, this issue has some good characterization of MJ as well as an explanation of where she's been for awhile. Interesting that MJ might be jealous of Pete's accomplishments as Spidey--yet another cool character twist. One does wonder what the "bad blood" Aunt Anna referred to between MJ and May is.
It was a bit of kick to see White Rabbit again; never a serious spider-villain or threat, but an amusing animal-themed villainess nonetheless. Her standing over Bobby Carr ready to kill him with a frozen smile and the buckteeth is a weirdly creepy image. Her gang in the animal masks is also cool and seems Stanley Kubrick-inspired. First the Spot appearing, now White Rabbit--I guess when Stilt-Man and Frogman show up it'll be a true 80's villain revival.
Great story and good dialogue between MJ and Peter. Javier Pulido's artwork gives the book an appealing indie edge and Javier Rodriguez's coloring is awesome. Not the most plausible story (would White Rabbit and her gang really have to crash the club in costume just to take out Bobby Carr?), or even the most essential (was anyone out there clamoring for an MJ/ White Rabbit tale in the first place?), but its a well-told one just the same.
I can't give full marks to this chapter with no Spider-man appearing. But this is a good diversionary tale--the story plays on the reader's expectations and shows off more winning characterization by Fred Van Lente, who's probably my favorite writer on the books at the moment.