Though he’s probably one of the easiest characters to use when introducing new readers to comic-books, Spider-Man has been around long enough now (since 1962) that he’s had pleeeeeennnnty of time to develop mind-achingly dense continuity. Like any good soap opera, it can be a bit much to follow sometimes. Over the years he’s:
-Become a superhero
-Had a girlfriend get killed
-Encountered hundreds of supervillains–including his best friend as one of many in the Goblin legacy of baddies
-Threw in the towel and stopped being a superhero
-Revealed his identity
-Lost his and MJ’s Spidey Baby
-Separated from MJ
-Been the victim of possession by an alien symbiote in the form of a costume
-Had his Aunt May killed/resurrected.
-Had his powers altered by a mythic spider-entity
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But, that’s what you get isn’t it? A character around for that long HAS to go through changes lest he/she become stale, right? Right?! Well–maybe not, most recently, in a storyline called “One More Day”, he was faced with the choice of whether to save Aunt May’s life (again!) or sacrifice the existence of his marriage. MJ convinced him that saving his Aunt May was the right thing to do. So, in making a pact with Mephisto, Peter Parker essentially wiped the continuity-slate clean. He’s not married to MJ anymore, he’s back to having mechanical web-shooters, Harry Osborn is his buddy again, and no one even really remembers that he un-masked himself during the “Civil War” storyline anymore. Understandably, readers were kind of pissed off at this giant Deus Ex Machina. As a fan, I wondered why had I bothered to collect and read Spidey books for over fifteen years if they were going to just pull the rug out from under his continuity? Even worse, there were rumors that J.M. Straczynski, the writer at the time–was being bullied into shaping this story against his will. Marvel EIC Joe Quesada reputedly hated the idea that Spider-Man was married and it was his intention to reverse the decades old plot development.
It’s the result of this controversial storyline “One More Day”, that–much to my amazement–led to today’s great thing:
98. Brand New Day storyline from Amazing Spider-Man
As I’ve stated, when it was first announced that Marvel and Spidey editorial staff planned to put what amounts essentially to a ‘reset’ button on the web-slinger, I felt more than skeptical, I felt gypped and betrayed.
But, now that the smoke has cleared. I feel I have to admit that I’d suffered through one of my favorite characters having to undergo several unsuitable shifts in tone throughout the years. One thing about Spider-Man that his fans seem to value above all else is his ‘everyman’ appeal. Yes, he may have the proportionate strength of a spider and be able to stick to walls but when he’s not slugging it out with supertools, he’s dealing with the same daily rigmarole that we are. He’s got relationship troubles, money troubles, family issues, and his boss is out to get him. When you read a Spidey book, you know that it’s possible to be a complete and total loser but also a hero at the same time. Plus, no one is better with a quip.
But, what had been the adventures of a sass-mouthed, every-day guy from Queens who gained superpowers and tried to do the best he could with them had, over time and in the hands of a multitude of writers, become other things. He’d suffered through changes of direction that would make him sometimes too angst-ridden, sometimes too supernatural, too cosmic, too mournful, and not so funny anymore.
What I had to cop to, as a Spidey reader, is that Marvel was right to want to take the reigns in this way. Because at least they recognized that they had finally put the guy through the wringer and needed to fix it. Spider-man is Spider-Man and when you open his book you should feel like that’s the world that you’re entering. It’s not a Hulk book (he shouldn’t be sulking all the time). He’s not in the Fantastic Four and he shouldn’t be jetting off to the stars every other day and he’s not Dr. Strange (he shouldn’t be too enmeshed in magic and myth).
I would say, however, that there are other ways that this could have been achieved. Did we really have to give a retcon this extreme? No. Unfortunately neither of the big two comic publishers, both Marvel and DC, are know for handling continuity changes with grace or aplomb. Final Crisis, anyone? Character reboots are seldom appreciated at the time.
But, comics can be more difficult to follow than the most complicated of soap operas and sometimes you need the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and regardless of HOW “One More Day” did it, the subsequent story-lines under the “Brand New Day” banner have been pretty good. It kind of feels like how Spidey must have felt to readers in the sixties–simple and fun in spite of all his day to day trials.
In addition to the continuity-cleaning exercise, “BND” has also the eliminated extraneous Spider-Man titles. Where we used to have “Sensational Spider-Man”, “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man”, and plain old “Spider-Man”, which sometimes intersected and other times didn’t, we now have the one flagship title “Amazing Spider-Man” and it ships for three weeks out of the month. So, it doesn’t feel like we’re getting LESS Spidey, just more consistent Spidey.
I’m not saying that all story-lines since this re-boot have been world class. I find new supervillain “Freak” to be uninspired. I also thought the unmasking of new Goblin-type villain “Menace” to be a bit of a cheat.
But, overall, I’ve been hugely satisfied not only with MOST of the story-lines but also with the general tone of Spidey’s world again.
Plus, Black Cat is popping up soon. I’ve always liked the sexy threat that Felicia Hardy posed (even if she is a thinly veiled copy of another more famous cat lady…).
What are other Spidey readers feeling now that the worst is over?