Good Marvels: Doctor Strange: The Oath #2, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12, X-Factor #13

I thought, over the holiday weekend, I’d sit down and read some comics. I had a stack of DC and Marvel stuff I thought might be interesting, and no pressure to review them. (Although I still can’t stop myself from telling you what I thought of them.) I even enjoyed some of them… but oddly, only the Marvels. Which, even given everything over the past few years, still seems strange to me, because I was always a DC girl. Growing up, I read Superman and Wonder Woman. When I got back into comics in grad school, it was Legion of Super-Heroes. (Heck, right now I’m wearing my DC Bullets baseball jersey, but that’s because it’s old, soft, comfy, and a KC hand-me-down.)

I could recognize most of the characters in Crisis on Infinite Earths and New Frontier, but I knew little and cared less about the Marvel characters. Maybe that’s why their comics now work for me. When I read DC, I keep thinking that the characters aren’t right. Marvel, I have few comparisons and thus not many jolts out of the comic when they get it wrong.

Doctor Strange: The Oath #2 cover

Anyway, I liked Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12 — it’s good teen soap opera, and I was surprised to note that this issue didn’t even have Spidey OR Peter Parker in it. Instead, Harry and Mary Jane are being interviewed for the school paper about being the biggest flirts in school. (So, entertaining, but not terribly significant in the long-term scheme of things.)

I giggled at Doctor Strange: The Oath #2 because it’s so wrong in silly ways. Strange has found a cure for cancer (which faithful manservant Wong has), only he was beaten up and it was stolen. So now he’s in some underground hospital being patched up by the take-no-crap Night Nurse.

I like her. She demands to come with him when he tries to leave. When he says that he doesn’t want an assistant, she says, “I’m not your sidekick, Stephen. I’m your primary caregiver.” Then he makes a joke about her title sounding like porn.

Plus, she makes for a wonderful excuse to tell the presumably new reader all the bits of Strange’s history they’re unfamiliar with.

This is not the Strange I’ve known about and been uninterested in. This is the oh-so-mystical Strange not coping well with his circumstances. The way Brian K. Vaughan is writing this, Strange, after being treated and while casting a spell to put his shirt back on (because that’s the way he does things, I guess), starts talking about the Defenders’ group insurance plan covering the cost. This is not a typical subject for a superhero comic. But it’s fun. (Art is by Marcos Martin.)

And Strange finally says what has been read between the lines all along: “By the hoary ****-ing hosts!”

X-Factor #13 cover

And here’s the one that I loved best: X-Factor #13. If I was restricted to only one corporate comic, this would be it. It’s funny. Which makes me laugh in itself, because once upon a time, writer Peter David was convinced I hated everything he wrote just because he wrote it. Now, I love telling people how good this comic is. (I don’t know whether he changed, I changed, or both, but I like the idea of things getting better over time. A redemption story is also appropriate for this book.)

This issue is a throwback to a classic story from David’s earlier run (1991-1993) on the title in which the team members individually go to a psychiatrist. (Art is capably provided by Pablo Raimondi.) Guido’s in deep pain over what previous actions might reveal about him, but the character that really catches my eye (as usual) is Layla. She’s firmly in the mold of other scary genius children of literature, but at least she’s not evil. It takes skill to write a believable smart person, especially one so unpredictable, and I think her portrayal is a tour-de-force. (Not least because she was created as a crossover plot device by the much less talented Brian Michael Bendis, so David’s redemption of her is even more impressive.)

The other characters — Siryn, Monet, Madrox, Rahne, and Quicksilver (one of the few participants who was also in that long-ago first issue) — also reveal secrets about themselves, whether they want to or not. This kind of issue is terrific, because it serves as a great starting point for someone who wants to know who the cast are and what motivates them. Yet it’s even more rewarding for someone who’s already following the book, because there are plenty of surprises there for them, too.

I can’t think of anyone else in corporate comics today who blends truly funny humor (because it’s character-based) with deep realistic emotion, even though it’s the spandex set.


11 Responses to “Good Marvels: Doctor Strange: The Oath #2, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #12, X-Factor #13”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, given the make-up and history of the Defenders, I find it odd that they have a health care plan. Who funds it? And does anyone other than Dr. Strange really need it?

    I like the idea that Dr. Strange is human enough to case a spell to put his shirt on because he is still sore from his injuries and wants to avoid the discomfort of manually putting it back on.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I love your Dr. Strange explanation, but the Defenders question is a bit too fannish for me. I don’t know why I draw the line between the two, but there it is.

  3. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Well, the Defenders question was meant to be sarcastic and rhetorical. I should have written it better to bring out those qualities. Even under that reading it might still be a bit fannish.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Oh. Well, it’s kind of funny. And wouldn’t Nighthawk need some medical assistance, given that he’s a Marvel Batman?

  5. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, You have me beat. I was thinking of the classic four Defenders. I had to look at Wikipedia to see the full membership list. Guess, this ends my career in Marvel snark.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Well, the Defenders IS the only Marvel title I’ve read all the way through, so I should be able to remember more of them. (I know, weird choice, but there it is.)

    But yeah, I can’t see the Hulk making much use of a medical plan. Banner, though…

  7. JD Says:

    Re: Mary Jane…
    Peter Parker appears for three panels on page 3.

  8. Dwight Williams Says:

    Waiting for some elements of Moon Knight fandom to raise an objection to that comment about Nighthawk. ;-)

  9. Johanna Says:

    JD: Thanks. I just knew, when I mentioned that, that I had probably overlooked him somewhere. Did he have a speaking line?

  10. JD Says:

    Well, yes. Basically, he’s rehearsing his lines to try and talk to MJ about her recent attitude (not that anybody around pays any attention to him).

  11. Blog@Newsarama » Sure, Spider-Man loves Mary Jane. But what about you? Says:

    [...] should save my money or not. Posted by Graeme McMillan in News & Views, Creators, Marvel [ Permalink ] [] [...]

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