Take one very talented writer with loads of potential (Sean McKeever) give him his own alternate continuity to play with, and throw everyone's favorite red-head superhero girlfriend into the spotlight. It's an interesting formula, but does it add up to make a good book?
Our series opens up in Queens, New York as our adolescent protagonist is sitting in her bedroom and talking on the telephone with Liz Allan as they discuss their plans for the school's Homecoming dance. MJ is unsure if she even wants to go, even though Liz and Flash Thompson are poised to be this year's King and Queen. Allan suggests Harry Osborn as a possible date, but well MJ's unsure. Sure Harry's a good friend, and funny, and cute... but well MJ's looking for someone more exciting. "Like a rock star. Kinda."
The next day at school, MJ bumps into Liz in person. (A cute touch, Mary Jane's wearing a T-Shirt bearing the logo of Marvel's ill-fated Star imprint.) As it turns out, Flash Thompson, described as "the biggest dope of a boyfriend in the history of Midtown High" has forgotten to register for Homecoming King and the deadline was yesterday. Needless to say Liz is pretty steamed as she's puffing up her cheeks in a Cardcaptor Sakura-esc manner. ("Someday Touya, I'll be as big as telephone pole...") It turns out that Liz had to go to the school superintendent who was able to make an exception, but well she's still irate with Harry.
"You know... when I'm really upset or depressed, I just like to ride the trains by myself. Like for hours. Gives me space, you know? Room to think." Mary Jane says.
"Really?" Liz responds.
To which point MJ smirks and it turns out she was acting all along. Or was she? The two reach Mary Jane's locker, and Liz runs the idea of going out with Harry again by MJ It seems that Liz rather fancies the idea of the four of them hanging out as couples and double dating. Mary Jane thinks that Liz is thinking way ahead of herself as we see a glimpse of a Spider-Man poster in MJ's locker. Mary Jane promises to think about the idea as Liz leaves and she mutters to herself. "Hehh... Me and Harry Osborn. Yeah, right..." As luck would have it, Harry's standing right behind her.
Harry asks if MJ is thinking about running for Homecoming queen against Liz. Mary Jane points out that she has no such plans and that she thinks you have to be a cheerleader to run. The two agree to meet at "the Bean" later, as MJ is left blushing from an awkward moment.
Later that afternoon at the Coffee Bean the four friends are sitting and chatting as Harry Osborn wonders if he's ever going to use algebra in real life. The answer of course is no. Flash, wearing a goofy cowboy hat, meanwhile wishes he could get out of this "homecoming king garbage." Which Liz correctly interprets as a sign that Flash intentionally forgot to sign up.
Then guess who shows up.
Yes it's Harry's nerdy friend Peter Parker who's asking Harry about a science project. Flash promptly tells Peter to go get a life, prompting awkward stares from both Parker and Osborn. The two agree to meet later tonight. Meanwhile Liz warns Flash Thompson.
"You know, one of these days, he's gonna start working out and you'll be in big trouble, mister."
"Puny Peter Parker? Uh-huh, that'll be the day."
As it turns out, Flash thought Peter was going to try and *gasp* ask MJ out on a date and asks just who she's taking to the dance. Liz decides this is an opportune time to leave Harry and Mary Jane alone for a moment. Harry walks over to Peter for a moment and tells him not to let Flash's words get to him as MJ watches on fondly. Harry returns and after an awkward moment the two manage to agree to go out on a date next Friday.
We cut to see MJ and Liz playing badminton, Mary Jane confesses that after much thought that Harry is the perfect guy for her. "I mean, he's smart, he's funny, he's selfless, he's totally adorable and he's already a close friend, so that part's in the bag! It's like it all makes sense to me now!" Liz is astounded that this comes across as a sudden revelation for her friend.
"Well it is new to me! I mean I know you were trying to tell me but it's like you were speaking in tongues or something." MJ says.
"Uh-huh. More like you were daydreaming about a certain someone in red and blue tights..." Liz responds.
"Hey! Every girl has the right to fantasize." Mary Jane says.
"Yeah but why can't you have a more realistic fantasy? You know like dating someone from The O.C.?" The two girls bicker for a bit before Liz asks our heroine what she's going to wear for the big date.
Fast forward and we see MJ and Harry on their first date in a rather fancy restaurant where Osborn impresses the girl by ordering off of an all-French menu. Later the two enjoy a carriage ride through Central Park. Harry reminisces about how the two used to stay up all night playing during their childhood and the time she confessed to having a crush on Flash. He wants to be very strait forward with her. "I don't want to be a mystery to you."
And yet despite the lovely evening, something seems missing. Perhaps Mary Jane wants mystery. She decides to head home early. We find her riding the train alone as she turns to her reflection and asks. "Any girl would be happy to date Harry... what's wrong with you?"
Alas MJ's moment of peace is abruptly cut short by a flash of light and speedlines. A sudden burst of electricity cuts through the side of the train as our heroine is almost sent to hurling to her doom. As Mary Jane clings for her life to the handle on the exit door, Spider-Man appears battling Electro. Spidey cracks wise about Electro's costume before quickly taking MJ by the hand rescuing the girl. He then swiftly and easily takes down the villain.
After hanging Electro like a pinata for the police, Spidey swings Mary Jane for a ride home. Our heroine getting a lovely view of the city just before dropping her outside of her house. A potential romantic interlude between the two is abruptly cut short by a sudden jolt of logic.
"Hey. How'd you know where I live?" MJ asks.
""Uh-- It-- It's one of my special powers." Spidey quickly makes up as an excuse.
The next day at the Coffee Bean, Mary Jane is recounting her adventure to Liz. Peter briefly walks in to say high before abruptly walks off. Liz still wants to know how the date with Harry went, and MJ admits that the evening was great but Harry just doesn't seem to be the right guy for her.
Liz points out that now she's back to square one with no one to take to the homecoming dance.
"Well actually, I kinda have an idea about that. But you're gonna think I'm crazy." Mary Jane confesses.
"I already do, so just spill it." Is Liz's response.
"Ok, here goes... I want Spider-Man to be my Homecoming date."
I admit this book may be a tough sell for some folk, but Sean McKeever and Takashi Miyazawa have crafted one of the best debut issues of the year. Taking full advantage of the freedom given to him by an alternately continuity line, McKeever has blended elements of Ultimate Spider-Man, the movies, and the old Lee/Ditko stories into an highly appealing take on these classic characters.
On the artistic end of things Miyazwa's artistic talents here really shine as well the book's artistic style resembles shoujo manga tossed into a blender with Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, a touch of Cameron Stewart's run on Catwoman, and a sprinkling of Chynna Clugston Major's Blue Monday all frapped up into a delicious smoothy. After impressing us with his run on Runaways, he manages to show us here as a master of facial expressions and wonderful body language.
All in all this looks to be a great title for new readers, fans of Ultimate Spider-Man, fans of the movie, and well... everyone.
Just how will Mary Jane succeed in asking Spidey out to the dance, how will Harry react and just how does Liz with Flash? Find out next issue.