Warning: SPOILERS for Stargirl Season 2 – “Summer School: Chapter One”.
Stargirl‘s season 2 premiere sent Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) to summer school and The CW’s teen superhero show is portraying high school angst better than the Spider-Man movies. Although he’s now an adult in Marvel Comics, Peter Parker is still seen as the quintessential teenage superhero and every movie resets Spidey back to high school. But while Peter’s normal life is as chaotic as his life as Spider-Man, Stargirl season 2 amazingly ups the ante when it comes to a high school-age superhero having problems.
Creating Spider-Man to be a teenager deluged with real-life issues on top of being a superhero was a brilliant masterstroke by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and it’s no surprise that Spidey is the prototype for every young superhero who followed him, including Stargirl. Peter Parker is a science nerd who is bullied in school yet he’s secretly a costumed crimefighter with fantastic spider-powers. There’s no shortage of supervillains who want to destroy Spider-Man, but his civilian life as Peter is no refuge because he is constantly dealing with money problems, romantic issues, and caring for his elderly Aunt May. In fact, being Spider-Man tends to be Peter’s escape from his constant woes, despite the dangers of taking on deadly foes like Sinister Six members Green Goblin, the Sandman, and the Vulture. The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming spent more time with Peter in high school than Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man movie did but the tropes of Peter’s teenage crises are well-known by fans.
Stargirl clearly understands the Spider-Man formula and Courtney Whitmore seems to have even more problems than Peter Parker. Despite the fact that Stargirl and her friends, the Justice Society of America, defeated the Injustice Society, Stargirl season 2 shows that Courtney’s life is teetering on disaster in spite of her big win. As junior year looms, Courtney finds out that she failed History and English, which means she has to go to summer school, which is something Peter Parker never had to deal with because he was always Midtown High’s top science student. Despite his career as Spider-Man, Peter’s school record never suffered. He is still always able to keep his grades up, which is something Courtney can’t seem to manage. Her obsession with being Stargirl means she spends her night unnecessarily patroling Blue Valley for evildoers instead of doing her homework.
Spider-Man’s countless enemies exist outside of his high school because Peter’s secret identity is a necessary barrier between Spidey and Parker. Unfortunately, for Stargirl, many of her classmates like Cindy Burman (Meg DeLacy) and Artemis Crock (Stella Smith) are the children of the Injustice Society. Nor can Courtney explain why she attacked Artemis in the cafeteria without revealing her life as Stargirl. Meanwhile, Blue Valley High School is connected by secret passageways to the Injustice Society’s lair. Courtney’s high school is intricately tied to her life as Stargirl and Cindy Burman not only knows Courtney is her nemesis but she’s plotting to use Eclipso and a new team called Injustice Unlimited to destroy her. Peter Parker tolerated Flash Thompson as his personal bully but at least Spider-Man never had to worry that the Sinister Six sat across from him in math class.
In Stargirl season 2, Courtney has to find a way to balance her real life and her family with being Stargirl and leading the new Justice Society, but she would prefer to be a superhero full-time because Courtney believes it’s her “destiny.” Courtney’s issues are even more interesting than Peter Parker’s because of how deeply personal her problems with the Injustice Society are, and how she teeters on losing the support of her family if she keeps screwing up. Stargirl season 2 is compellingly setting up myriad problems to make Courtney’s teenage life exceedingly difficult in ways Spider-Man himself wouldn’t envy, and being stuck in summer school is just the tip of the iceberg.