Month: January 2008

Ten Reasons "One More Day" Is the Worst Spider-Man Story Ever

#5 – What Would Aunt May Think Of All This?

May Parker, along with her husband Ben, took in young Peter Parker when his parents were killed in a plane crash. They raised him as their own and doted on the boy to the point of being overprotective. The three of them became a family, the only family that any of them had in the world. After Ben’s murder the bond between Peter and his Aunt May grew even stronger, despite his double life as Spider-Man. They were all they had, all they knew they could count on. When May’s health began to fail, Peter took it as his responsibility to take care of her. It was his fault that Uncle Ben had died, so it was his job to make sure she was okay.

May loved Peter, but her poor health made her realize that she wouldn’t be around forever and that he couldn’t stay with her for the rest of his life. She knew it was important for him to make his own way in the world. To get out on his own, make new friends, and meet girls. That’s why she was overjoyed when Peter finally conceded to meet Mary Jane Watson, and she saw the two of them get along so well.

So what would Aunt May think about the choice presented to Peter in “One More Day”? After all, this story does kind of revolve around her. And she doesn’t get a say in it, at all. If she knew that one thing had to end, either her life or the love between Peter and Mary Jane, which do you think she would pick? Read these pages from Sensational Spider-Man #39 and let me know what you think…

[Note: Sensational #39 is only two issues before the start of the OMD arc. After being shot, Aunt May is in a coma. With the help of Madame Web, Peter is able to go into May’s subconscious and converse with her. Once inside her mind, he finds himself in front of their old house on the night of Uncle Ben’s murder.]



If you said that Aunt May would gladly give up a chance to save her life in order to ensure Peter and Mary Jane’s happiness, you are correct. Even before reading that issue I knew that she would never, in a million years, accept the terms of Mephisto’s deal. In Aunt May’s own words, she’s old, tired, and ready to hang it up. Hell, she’s been trying to die for the better part of forty-five years. I can understand Peter not wanting to let her go. I can understand his feelings of guilt, that it would be his fault if she died this way. But to resort to ridiculously desperate means to save her (i.e. a deal with the devil) at the expense of his marriage when she, in not so many words, told him not to do that…to have Peter Parker violate what was basically Aunt May’s last request was a really, really bad move. What if Marvel ever decides to set continuity back and May finds out about this? Do you think she’ll be pleased with her nephew? How will Peter explain this?

Oh wait…it’s magic, he doesn’t have to explain it.

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Enough with the Fastest Family Alive

I usually read through the Cheers and Jeers column over on Comics Should Be Good! and one of his points this week really caught my eye:

JEERS to Flash’s kids. I’m sorry, Mr. Waid. I don’t mind Wally being married. I don’t mind him having kids, even. But the whole Incredibles riff, while a cute concept, just isn’t working for me.

This struck home with me because it was that very reason that I decided not to read Flash once it was relaunched at the start of the Countdown era. I briefly mentioned this back in August when I talked about dropping the title.

This is not about the classic comic debate whether a family-based character works. I definitely don’t want to fall into that hole. This isn’t about whether the character changes with the aspect of coming home to the wife and kids and the occasional story where a villain puts them at risk. With a mature character like Superman, it really works. With a character like Spider-Man, it (THIS SENTENCE REMOVED BY MEPHISTO).

But what’s going on with Flash is different. Here, the kids are actually in action with Flash. It’s a family-hero book in the spirit of, like the article said, the popular Disney/Pixar movie the Incredibles. The super-powered kids go into action with the hero and together they make a fantastic team. That may work in a stand-alone book, but it really doesn’t fit into modern DC (especially after all the death and destruction of Infinite Crisis/52/World War III/Countdown) and it doesn’t work with a mainstream hero like the Flash. The Flash – especially the Wally West one – should be hero-ing out on his own. With his collection of rogues (quite possibly the second-best in comics, only falling to Batman’s) and a well-populated supporting cast, there’s more than enough to tell with Wally doing it on his own. There is no need for the excess baggage of this idea, and I’m questioning how long the format will last now that Mark Waid will be gone from the book.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Mark Waid’s work, but I just couldn’t get into this format, and that’s why Flash left my list of monthly titles after one issue under the old numbering.

Messiah Complex – Almost there!

We’re a week and a day away from the finale of Messiah CompleX and one day from what is usually the climactic chapter of such a storyline. So where are we?

SPOILERS AHOY!

  • Killed by Layla Miller in the future, Madrox’s consciousness returns to his prime form and reveals to Cyclops’ group (Emma Frost, Iceman, X-Factor) that Bishop is the traitor.
  • Bishop, meanwhile, is with an unsuspecting X-Force (Wolverine, Wolfsbane, Warpath, X-23, Hepzibah) in assaulting the Marauders on Muir Island, trying to reclaim the baby.
  • An injured Cable has enlisted the aid of Professor X, and the two are also headed to Muir Island.
  • Predator X has come to the Institute and face-to-face with the remaining members of the New X-Men.
  • Mystique and Gambit have taken control of the baby and, apparently unbeknownst to the other Marauders, have seemingly done away with Sinister.

So there’s the present leading into tomorrow’s New X-Men #46. Knowing writers Chris Yost and Craig Kyle, I’d say at least one person will be dead and gone before the issue’s done. So who’s gone down so far? Here’s the casualty list:

  • Blockbuster (Marauders) – Killed by Purifiers on the initial move for the baby.
  • Prism (Marauders) – Killed with Blockbuster.
  • Hellion (New X-Men) – Skewered by Lady Deathstrike, in critical condition.
  • Pixie (New X-Men) – Injured in a blind teleport.
  • Nightcrawler (X-Men) – Shot by Scalphunter, in serious condition.
  • O*N*E Sentinel Pilots – Transformed into Sentinel-hybrids, apparently killed.
  • Elixir (New X-Men) – Injured by debris in the Sentinel attack, unconscious.
  • Peepers (unaffiliated) – Devoured by Predator X.
  • Caliban (X-Men) – Killed by shots from a Reaver.
  • Lady Deathstrike (Reavers) – Killed by X-23.
  • Forge (unaffiliated) – Injured by Bishop.
  • Sinister (Marauders) – Taken down by Mystique, possibly killed.
  • Lady Mastermind (Marauders) – Skewered by Wolverine, possibly killed.

That’s stacking up pretty nicely, huh? I was going to write a list of hits and misses thus far, but I think I’ll wait a week and give the final wrap-up after the last issue comes out. See you then!

Ten Reasons "One More Day" Is the Worst Spider-Man Story Ever


#6 – Even the Guy Writing It Didn’t Think It Was a Good Idea

The following are excerpts from postings by former Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski on Newsarama and his own site, JMSNews:

“Spider-Man belongs to Marvel, not to me, and at the end of the day, however much I may disagree with things, and however much I may make it very CLEAR to all parties that I disagree, I have to honor their position.”

***


“In the current storyline, there’s a lot that I don’t agree with, and I made this very clear to everybody within shouting distance at Marvel, especially Joe. I’ll be honest: there was a point where I made the decision, and told Joe, that I was going to take my name off the last two issues of the OMD arc. Eventually Joe talked me out of that decision because at the end of the day, I don’t want to sabotage Joe or Marvel, and I have a lot of respect for both of those. As an executive producer as well as a writer, I’ve sometimes had to insist that my writers make changes that they did not want to make, often loudly so. They were sure I was wrong. Mostly I was right. Sometimes I was wrong. But whoever sits in the editor’s chair, or the executive producer’s chair, wears the pointy hat of authority, and as Dave Sim once noted, you can’t argue with a pointy hat…So at the end of the day, all one can do is try to do the best one can with the notes one is given, and try to execute them in a professional way…because who knows, the other guy may be right.

***

“…the primary reason I finally threw up my hands on the book, which had mainly to do with how the resolution was handled.

To explain, here’s the conversation I had with Marvel, in sum:

“So what does Mephisto do?” I ask.

“He makes everybody forget Peter’s Spider-Man.”

“Uh, huh. So Aunt May’s still in the hospital –“

“No, he saves Aunt May.”

“But if all he does is save her life and make everybody forget he’s Spidey, she still has a scar on her midsection.”

“No, he makes that go away too.”

“Okay…:

“Then he wakes up in her house.”

“The house that was burned down?”

“Right.”

“But how –“

“Mephisto undoes that as well.”

“Okay. And the guys who shot at Peter and May and were killed, they’re alive too? Mephisto can bring guys back from the dead?”

“It’s all part of the spell.”

“And Doc Strange can’t tell?”

“No,”

“And the newspaper articles? News footage?”

“Joe, it’s been forgotten.”

“I’m just asking is that stuff there or not there?”

“Not there. And Peter’s web shooters are back.”

“Is this the same spell or a different spell?”

“Same spell.”

“How does making people forget he’s Spidey bring back his web shooters?”

“It’s magic, okay?”

“I see. And Harry’s back.”

“Right.”

“And Mephisto does this too.”

“Yep.”

“So is Harry back from the dead, or has he been alive? If they ask him, hey Harry, what did you do last summer, will he remember? And the year before? And the year before? If he says they all went on a picnic two years ago, will they remember it?”

“It’s –“

“Because if he now has a life he remembers, if he’s not back from the dead, then you’ve changed the continuity you said you didn’t want to change. Those are your only options: he was brought back from the dead, and there’s a grave, and people remember him dying –“

“Mephisto changes THEIR memories too.”

“– or he’s effectively been alive as far as our characters know, so he’s been alive all along, so either way as far as our characters are concerned, continuity’s been violated going back to 1971.

How do you explain that?”

“It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.”

And that’s the part I had a real problem with, maybe the single biggest problem. There’s this notion that magic fixes everything. It doesn’t. “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it.” Well, actually, yes, you do. Magic has to have rules. And this is clearly not just a case of one spell making everybody forget he’s Spidey…suddenly you’re bringing back the dead, undoing wounds, erasing records, reinstating web shooters, on and on and on.

***


[Note: Straczyniski’s original outline for the changes to Spider-Man in OMD involved changing one thing in Spidey’s history, that being Peter calling out Harry on his drug addiction and forcing him into rehab. Harry gets clean, he and MJ stay together. Thus, Harry never becomes the Green Goblin, never dies, and Peter and MJ never get married. Joe Quesada didn’t like this option because he thought it invalidated more than twenty years of Spider-Man continuity. Of course the plan he ultimately went with didn’t do that at all, did it? Ugh.]

What I wanted to do was to make one small change to history, a tiny thing, whose ripples we could control to only touch what editorial wanted to touch, making changes we could explain logically. I worked for weeks to come up with a timeline that would leave every other bit of continuity in place. It was rigorous, and as logical as I could make it. In the end of OMD as published, Harry is alive and he’s always been alive as far as the characters know…so how is that different than he was alive the whole time?

It made no sense to me.

Still doesn’t. It’s sloppy. It violates every rule of writing fiction of the fantastic that I and every other SF/Fantasy writer knows you can’t violate. It’s fantasy 101.”

***


Mainly, the book was rewritten in the editorial offices to a degree that the words weren’t mine any longer, to a certain degree in three, and massively in four. If the work represents me, I leave the name there and take the rap; if it doesn’t, then that’s a different situation. There’s just not much of my work there, especially once you get to the last dong of midnight…everything after that was written by editorial.

Whether my work is good or it sucks, it’s mine. What came out of the end of OMD wasn’t, hence my desire to omit the writing credit. Joe graciously offered to share it on the last issue. I think that helped. Credit where credit is due.”

‘Nuff said.

Ten Reasons "One More Day" Was the Worst Spider-Man Story Ever


#7 – Let’s Make A Deal

Joe Quesada doesn’t want characters to smoke in any Marvel comics because he feels it delivers a bad message to children. He also shot down the idea of Peter Parker being the father of Gwen Stacy’s twins in J. Michael Straczynski’s poorly received “Sins Past” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man because he didn’t like the idea that Spidey had had unprotected, premarital sex. He also insists that simply divorcing Peter and MJ would irrevocably taint the characters and once again send a bad message to children. But trading off your immortal soul in exchange for a favor from the Prince of Darkness? Have at the one kids!

Now, I don’t believe in the devil. I know you can’t realistically do that in the way you could do the other three things I mentioned. I also know Mephisto isn’t really Satan, but in the Marvel U he might as well be. But I also know that there are people do believe the devil is real. And if you’re the kind of person to consider all these things to be real possibilities and really bad things, which one do you think would be the worst?

And the fact that Spider-Man trusts Mephisto and accepts the deal? Hasn’t he seen or read any of the hundreds of stories where the devil promises someone something fantastic only to somehow screw them over? Spidey’s supposed to be smarter than that.

Status quo changes, good? Liar!

Change is not good in comics. Nobody wants change in comics. They’ll tell you they do, but believe me, they’re lying. People like the status quo, and they’ll raise hell if you try to change it.

There was a time when some guy named Grant Morrison took the X-Men franchise and turned it in a brand new direction. Gone were the costumes, the super-epic missions and in their place were a school-based setting with the team members functioning as teachers. It was different, edgier, and at first, people didn’t like it. Sure, no one will admit to it now, because the run turned into one of the greatest periods in X-Men history. Looking back, the complaints appear as what they actually are – hating change to the status quo.

Where were you when Captain America died? If you’re like a good number of fans, you were in front of your computer complaining about it onto any and every forum you could find. How could you kill such an iconic character? Surely he won’t stay dead! How could you have the title go on without him? Nevermind that since his death, the title has churned out quality issue after quality issue, showing the strengths of the supporting cast without the lead being present.

So of course, we get to One More Day, the Spider-Man storyline that completely changed the status quo of the character. While in my mind it’s not as tragic as people seem to think (read Joe Quesada’s five part interview closely), people seem unable to get past the fact that it happened, and do not look forward at all to future storylines. You have star teams of writers and artists taking on a character in a setting that really makes him shine. Personally, I would prefer a happy, wise-cracking Spider-Man with a colorful supporting cast mixing his two lives rather than the grim, no-nonsense, on-the-run Spider-Man that followed Civil War. Was this the best way of solving the solution? Perhaps not, but it was better than taking the years needed to get there, with brash mischaracterizations in every other place Spidey was appearing (why was he so happy in New Avengers?).

If the storylines of Brand New Day are good, which I say is a strong chance with the star power involved, people will quickly forget about One More Day. That’s how it works with status quo changes – about a month of complaining, then acceptance and moving on. The future may vindicate the story, like Morrison’s New X-Men did, or it may bury it like the Electro-Superman debacle did.

Either way, quit your bitching and try to enjoy the stories for what they are, rather than what you think they should be. If you don’t agree, feel free to write your own.

Ten Reasons "One More Day" Is the Worst Spider-Man Story Ever


#9 – Haven’t We Been Here Before?

Spider-Man made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August of 1962, celebrating his 45th anniversary last summer. The Web Head’s had a multitude of titles over the years as well: Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Unlimited, Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, Sensational Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and I’m sure there have been others. My point is that there’s a veritable cornucopia of Spidey stories out there for the reading. The vast majority of those stories featured the secret identity and the mechanical webshooters. Peter Parker was single until 1987 and those first twenty-five years featured plenty of stories about a down-on-his-luck Parker trying to pay the bills, get a date, keep his identity secret, and take care of dear old Aunt May, all the while fulfilling his responsibilities as Spider-Man. These aspects can be considered Spider-Man’s trademarks but they can also be considered Spider-Man’s cliches. After all the growth that the character has experienced in the last few years, the changes brought about by “One More Day” seem like a huge step backward. Do we really need to go back to stories that feature Aunt May’s poor health, running out of web fluid, and secret identity skulduggery as convenient plot devices? I’m not saying the stories would necessarily be bad, but why try to turn back the clock instead of moving forward? This leads right into my next item…

#8 – This “New” Version of Spider-Man is Readily Available In Other Places

The version of Spider-Man that Joe Quesada sought to establish in the regular Marvel Universe post-“One More Day” already existed, basically, in three other formats. The young, single Spidey not only existed in the first quarter century of Spider books, but relaunched in books like Marvel Age Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man. If this change , as Joe Quesada insists, is what’s needed to get more people reading Amazing, then these two books should be outselling the flagship title, right? They’re not. I didn’t research it extensively, but according to Diamond’s sales numbers to comic specialty stores throughout 2007 Amazing Spider-Man was consistently in the top 15 books sold for the month, Ultimate was usually somewhere around number 25, and Marvel Age Spider-Man was usually found somewhere in the low 200s.