by Glen Weldon
So Marvel Comics canceled one of its titles this week. Not a big deal, on the face of it: books get canceled all the time. Out with the old, in with the New Avengers, and all that.
The thing is: The character who's getting her plug pulled is the only female superhero in Marvel's 70-year history who's managed to carry her own book for more than 100 issues. Reaching that milestone is no mean feat; it puts her up there with your Supermans, your Batmans, your Hulks and your Iron Mans.
And I'm willing to bet you've never heard of her.
After the jump: Who she is and how she came to be. Also: creepy manga, the dumbest title of the week, and the theme song that propelled an entire generation into lives of abject geekery ....
Give up? Spider-Girl.
See? Told you so.
Now don't you go confusing Spider-Girl with Spider-Woman. Spider-Woman is Jessica Drew, ex-secret agent, member of the New Avengers, and wearer of what is, for my money, the flat-out coolest-looking superhero costume out there. (Also, she's secretly an evil alien shapeshifter bent on world domination, but why nitpick? )
No, we're talking Spider-Girl here. She's May Parker, the daughter of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in one of several possible futures.
Writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz spent the last decade exploring this alternate timeline, and one of the things that made the book such a fast, fun read was its self-contained quality. She might bump into the offspring of some present-day hero or villain now and again, but she didn't get dragged into big, universe-spanning crossover events, or bogged down by years of Byzantine continuity.
But because fanboys as a people tend to prize continuity over story ("Hawkman is wearing his GOLDEN AGE helmet in the group picture hanging on the wall in the background of panel 3 on page 5!!!! WTF!!!?"), Spider-Girl's sales have always been low, and she's been threatened with cancellation several times. Looks like this one's for real.
Which is a shame, because her future setting means Spider-Girl can't just jump into a team book, the way most heroes tend to do when their solo titles get cancelled. At best, she'll be relegated to a backup strip in some Marvel anthology series.
Stay strong, spider-powered teenager from the future. You deserve better.
A friend describes the The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service -- the defiantly creepy and deeply weird manga series by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki -- as CSI meets The Ghost Whisperer. Which I suppose covers the basics, in an oddly CBS-specific way.
The book's about a team of students at a Buddhist University whose supernatural abilities allow them to find dead bodies, talk to their unquiet spirits, and lug the corpses to whichever specific locations will permit the spirits to go to their final rest.
But I can't shake the feeling that there's more to this book -- that in its own twisted, absurdly violent way, it's saying something larger about the Japanese attitude toward death. When you consider that 99 percent of the Japanese population chooses cremation, this book's utter fascination with dead bodies and the means to preserve them seems even more out there.
In a way, it's the Japanese version of The American Way of Death. If you imagine Jessica Mitford wearing a handpuppet that talks to aliens.
Most Gallingly Stupid Title of an Actual Comic Arriving in Stores this Week
Gah. What they said.
RIP, Composer Neal Hefti
Hear now the siren song that led many a young, impressionable lad to shipwreck 'gainst the rocky shores of Bat-fandom, and stranded him there for the rest of his days.