With the encroaching threat of The Inheritors present but sidelined, Spider-Girls #1 re-introduces a compelling family dynamic, and enough outside characters and elements to shake things up in equal balance to effect a fantastic story about family, friendship, and the importance of asking for help in a largely successful but weirdly focused first issue from writer Jody Houser and artist Andres Genolet that finds itself reveling in Peter Parker more than it does the eponymous spider-girls.
What’s it about? Marvel’s preview reads:
MAY “MAYDAY” PARKER, the original SPIDER-GIRL, ANYA CORAZON, the Prime Universe SPIDER-GIRL, and ANNIE MAY PARKER, A.K.A. SPIDERLING — together for the first time! May will do anything to protect her brother from the Inheritors, and Anya’s knowledge of the mystical Spider-Totems could save the day. But how does Annie fit in? And what chance do three girls have against ageless universal forces?!
From a high level, it’s a fantastic plot: one that doesn’t have to stretch the bounds of the existing Spider-Geddon storyline much and finds a way to rely on the inherent strengths of each character in this compelling cast without much busywork. Even in execution, things are mostly great as characters are laugh out loud funny, a certain sense of earnestness and seriousness bleeds through the pages, and the massive, sometimes draconian and weighty plot elements of the main storyline in the background don’t interfere too much. So what’s the issue?
Very few of the best moments have to do with the Spider-Girls!
While some very good characterization happens here for Mayday, Anya and Annie alike, it’s apparent that Houser revels in the opportunity to write more Peter Parker, who here takes the role of an affable, loving father with a sharp (dad-jokey) wit and eyes for the future — grounded in a need to protect the present. And while that’s all well and good, really good actually, it’s a strange predilection given the book’s title and premise that means the true selling point here doesn’t really come into a clearer focus until the near end of the issue in favor of building a kind of strong family orientation with occasional narration from the likeable Annie, but always overseen by Peter. A strange, not entirely off-putting, but unexpected choice that creates a dissonance between what this story presupposes it’s about and what it ends up being about in practice.
In keeping with the narrative, Genolet’s art is entirely character focused to great effect. The few fight scenes there are, including a two page spread with Vultures, don’t work at all — a static, uninteresting painting rather than a flowing piece. But most everything else, especially characters without their masks on, works exceedingly well. Expressive, dynamic, unique and wholly realized character design carries a lot of dialogue scenes very well throughout the book and, paired with Triona Farrell’s sharp, evocative colors, entire scenes drip emotion and tone in a great way with great orange, blue, green backings and dynamic shading.
So, while it’s not the story readers might expect coming into this book, it’s still a very good one. A small, quiet piece about family and responsibility in the middle of something larger — the way the best tie-in issues tend to work. A perplexing, but enjoyable read.