Sounded Good On Paper

Marvel’s Status Quo (Spider-Man Related)

The big hot button issue in the comics world over the past couple months has been the One More Day/Brand New Day saga in the Amazing Spider-Man book, mainly based around a potentially serious and far reaching retcon that hit Spidey’s past with the final issue of One More Day. It was a high profile book, and it was very, very late. It was also drawn by the Editor in Chief of Marvel, Joe Quesada. It was also practically written by Quesada, if you believe what the credited writer (J. Michael Straczynski) says. The entire thing revolved around Marvel editorial trying to find a way to break up Peter Parker and Mary Jane without having them get divorced, which would potentially lead to bad press from the media. The story of One More Day goes as follows. Back during Civil War, Spider-Man, as a member of the pro-registration band of heroes, was one of the first major superheroes to unmask. He did so publicly at a press conference. Shortly after this, an assassin with a sniper rifle attempts to kill Peter Parker, by tracking him while he visits Mary Jane and Aunt May at the motel they’re staying. He takes the shot and end up hitting Aunt May instead. He dons the black suit for a bit while attempting to live his life despite the fact that Aunt May is in a coma. He is later told that Aunt May (basically) has one day to live, and frantically searches for a cure. Tony Stark’s money, Mr. Fantastic’s science, Dr. Strange’s magic, and The High Evolutionary’s genetics are unable to garner a cure.  

It is at this point of the story, wherein Mephisto arrives on the scene to give Peter a chance to save Aunt May at the expense of losing his marriage, that a good portion of comic fans lost their shit. “Spider-Man wouldn’t make a deal with the devil!” they’d say. “Why would Spider-Man sacrifice his marriage to save an octogenarian woman who probably didn’t have a lot of time left on this world regardless of getting shot or not?” they’d question. But at the end of the day (bad pun), it happened. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson were never married. Peter unmasked, but no one remembers. Oh, and just for kicks, Harry Osborne is back from the dead with no memory of becoming the Green Goblin, though he still has hatred for Spider-Man. Peter’s back living with his perfectly healthy Aunt May in Brooklyn, and lost his organic web shooters. Thus, we have a new status quo for Spider-Man. There’s been a lot of back and forth on this issue. Most of the comic fans are quite upset, assuming that the changes have basically invalidated a good twenty years of comic stories. That’s one of those odd things about comic continuity. The issues are still there. It’s not like the powers that be went into your longboxes and burned all the pertinent Spider-Man issues. It’s perfectly possible to view these issues in a vacuum. You can still experience a story like Kraven’s Last Hunt with the knowledge that at the time it was written and published, Peter was married to Mary Jane.

Continuity is a funny thing, and the idea that this retcon completely invalidates everything that came before it is a little silly.  But here’s the part where Marvel and Quesada are geniuses. Now that Amazing Spider-Man is shipping three times a month, it’s an imperative that the sales stay strong. Marvel is basically trying to take two underselling Spidey titles (Friendly Neighborhood and Spectacular) and goose their sales up to (or at least close to) Amazing level by basically telling mini arcs over the three issues per month with a rotating crew of creative teams. But it’s not like Marvel pulled a Countdown and put a bunch of second string creators on their book to cash in on the good feelings of 52. They’re throwing the big guns at us. Dan Slott and Steve McNiven. Marc Guggenheim and Salvador Larroca. Bob Gale and Phil Jimenez. Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo. Even if the writer isn’t the best, the artist is incredible. Plus, since you’re dealing with the freedom of a brand new pseudo universe for Spider-Man, the writers have a great chance to really bust things wide open.

Many, many writers have gone on record about their frustration of dealing with a married Spider-Man. The core of his personality from day one was the loser mentality. He was a guy that was having trouble at school, couldn’t get a girl to save his life and really needed to work hard to make ends meet. That’s not really something you can pull off considering that Peter Parker is married to a supermodel, has a successful job as a high school teacher, and is living in opulence at Stark Tower.  So why wouldn’t these stories be good? For good or ill, there is now more freedom and more toys to play with in the Spidey-verse than there has been for a very long time. And they have great writers and artists to back that up. Why should we have any doubt that these are just going to be some great stories? Why should we care that at the expense of these great stories, the great nebulous factor of “continuity” has been mussed up a bit? It all comes down to subjectivism. I don’t have the time or budget to truly afford a thrice monthly $3 book, so I’m not reading it. But I have a feeling that if I were, I’d probably be enjoying it mightily, mostly because I’m not going to let the worries of continuity get in the way of a good story.

There have been a lot of examples over the last year or so of things working out of sync without a precise timeline. The Post Civil War timeline with the events of Back in Black, World War Hulk, One More Day, and Secret Invasion aren’t exactly hammered out yet as pertains to which events comes before and after which other one. The most glaring example of this came out of DC, with Kyle Rayner showing up in Countdown looking absolutely normal, while issues of the Sinestro Corps War crossover coming out even after that with Kyle Rayner still affected by the Parallax entity. But at the end of the day, it’s all a bit pointless if the story is good. You can’t completely put them in a vacuum, but you can damn sure try.

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