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Friday, January 04, 2008

Comics That Have Pissed Me Off, Issue 2: The Conclusion to Spider-man's "One More Day" Series

Ahh, The Amazing Spider-man #545 - how many angry blog entries have you inspired so far? How many fatwas have been called on the head of Joe Quesada in response to your birth? How does the comics blogsophere hate thee? Let me count the ways...

Perhaps because the Marvel universe attempts to shoe-horn Superheroes into "real life," their comics seem to have the biggest and most annoying logical flaws for me. The last "comic that pissed me off" was Fantastic Four #244, and, oddly enough, was written by fan-favorite writer John Byrne. I say "oddly," because the next comic that pissed me off enough to write about was The Amazing Spider-man #545, which was also written by a fan-favorite - in this case, J. Michael Straczynski.

Just for full disclosure, I'm going to tell you that I'm not a big fan of JMS. His apparent "star power," though, did not have any effect on my opinion of the comic, so it's really a moot point. Really.

Oh, yeah - and I'm not going to dwell on continuity issues. I couldn't care less about them, really. I'm going to be focusing on the spirit of this comic, the black hole where Spider-man's soul used to reside. So grab your own copy of The Amazing Spider-man #545 and follow along!

I'm sure you guys all know the score by now: the latest story arc for Spider-man, "One More Day" has Peter Parker and a now pregnant Mary Jane Parker making a literal deal with the devil so that Peter can bring his dead aunt, that stalwart Aunt May, back to the realm of the living.

Well, that just pissed me off right there. Spider-man's greatest contribution to the world has always been the line "With great power, comes great responsibility." Now, whether it was Steve Ditko who coined the phrase, or the ever incorrigible Stan Lee, it doesn't matter for the moment (but it will, oh yes it will, matter in the future). What matters is that this maxim has always guided Peter Parker, you friendly neighbourhood Spider-man, through all of his adventures. It drove him to become Spider-man, to use his powers to ensure that criminals did not get away without justice being served, and it was probably the impetus for his unmasking during Civil War, as well. For Peter Parker to suddenly believe that he doesn't have to live with the consequences of his unmasking - that is, to be responsible for his actions - is completely out of character, in as far as I understand our arachnid-inspired hero.

But, I'll give Marvel the benefit of the doubt on this one - Peter's been through a lot of shit recently. He might not be thinking straight due to all the stress put on him in the last two years of weird spider-cocoons, bone-spikes, organic webshooters, and a gaudy-as-all-hell costume designed for him by the architect of the most mis-guided act of congress the world has ever seen.

Okay, so the whole regretful Spider-man story can be attributed to the need for character conflict. Granted, it's a conflict that Spider-man should be able to resolve fairly quickly if he's consistent in any way with his principles, but it might have made for an interesting story.

It's just too bad that it didn't.

Peter doesn't win this conflict: he loses to his new-found ability to completely ignore reality. Rather than deal with the consequences of his decision, he chooses to erase it from history. What the fuck kind of character is this? s this a guy we can look up to at all, anymore? Whine whine whine, actions actually have consequences, but I don't want to deal with them right now, I want to live in a fantasy world where my 250-year-old Aunt never ever dies.

It could have been very interesting to see how Peter dealt with the death (the real, absolutely final death) of Aunt May. You could have explored the character even further than he has been, and you didn't need to give him any "human/spider totem" connections to do it. And if your goal was really to dissolve the marriage between Mary Jane and Peter, for whatever whimsical reason that you profess to have about people not relating to a married superhero despite the fact that the majority of your readers are between the ages of 20 and 30, then you could have continued from there: have Peter dwell on whether or not he really was responsible for May's death. Have him realize, eventually, that he can't control every psychotic sniper in existence. But between those two events, have his brooding take it's toll on MJ - maybe Peter becomes over-protective, which would definitely chafe against her. Then you can have MJ leave and never come back. Or you could stop pussy-footing around and kill MJ, and accept the fact that people are going to be sending you email filled copiously with the phrase "women in refrigerators." Even FUCKING MIND-CONTROL OR A CLONE would have made for a better story than this bullshit.

Real people either get over their problems or dwell on them, they do not have them magically dissolved. For Marvel Comics to even pretend that their heroes are different from other companies because they're more "real" is a vile fraud.

JMS is as guilty as Quesada on this one, I'm afraid. In a post over at Newsarama, he states quite plainly that he wanted to undo continuity all the way back to 1971 - which is essentially what was done anyway. He has absolutely no concern for the fact that this would be Peter Parker completely avoiding dealing with the consequences for his actions. What the hell, Joe? I saw a couple episodes of Babylon 5, I know you're big on things "mattering" in the universe, that actions have consequences that resonate years down the road and aren't simply forgotten, like on Star Trek TNG. Heck, that fifth season episode of The Real Ghostbusters that you wrote even dealt with repairing continuity issues! Why would you wuss out now?

And the most hilarious part of all of this is that it's being done with motherfucking Spider-man, a creation of the legendarily uncompromising Steve Ditko! Steve never would have agreed to this bullshit. If Aunt May gets shot and dies because Spider-man unmasks, you know what Steve says? Good, it'll teach him something.

First of all, it's not Spider-man's fault that some retard with a sniper rifle wanted to take him out and someone else got in the way. Aunt May was killed because someone didn't like that Spider-man was a hero, that he wouldn't let those who want to ignore reality and take it easy in life get ahead by parasitically sucking off of the lives of the honourable. He knew it was a possibility that someone might strike back against his family (that's why he wore the mask, after all), he weighed the options, and he knew that Spider-man giving up and conceding that the super-villains of the Marvel Universe could have run of the place was a much worse outcome. If Spider-man stopped being Spider-man just to keep his family safe, even then they wouldn't have been - how many crazies run around New York on any given day in the Marvel Universe? What are the odds that Aunt May was going to be taken out by one of them just by whim? You can't ignore evil; when it is finished with its current victim, it's coming after someone else.

Speaking of crazies killing Spider-man's family members: what about Gwen Stacy? Killed directly because of the actions of Spider-man by the Green Goblin, Spider-man did not give up the pursuit of justice as a result. Spider-man did not wallow in his pain and attempt to undo the past. Yes, he mourned. But it only strengthened his resolve. Spider-man didn't kill Gwen Stacy by being good - Green Goblin killed Gwen Stacy, and no one forced him to become evil. No matter what anyone tells you, good can exist without evil, and vice versa. Each can exist in a vacuum, and no one's actions necessitates a response from another - it is all a choice. Spider-man made his. The Green Goblin made his. And Joeseph Michael Straczynski made his.

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