In the wake of Joe Quesada exposing the relationship of Peter and Mary Jane as a fraudulent means to garner sales, (despite the fact that it wasn’t) one might get the impression that the cries of foul play in the writing of “One More Day” might be as mis-informed as Quesada was about the three years of issues leading up to the marriage in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. After all, many readers have grown up knowing only a married Peter and Mary Jane. It makes sense that things can be missed in the moments of passion, anger or otherwise.
Take for instance the actual story “One More Day”. There are a number of reasons besides the obvious why fans detest this story. Many had predicted the ending months in advance, which they had plenty of time to do due to the aforementioned delays that was supposedly caused by JMS. Many also thought that the character of Spider-Man was acting grossly out of character, being portrayed as someone who was at the end of his rope in his desperation. Some thought the very idea of it was too illogical even from a creative writing’s standpoint dealing with characters like Spider-Man. Still, others hated the fact that Peter and Mary Jane were being split up at all, regardless of the means or reasons why.
UPON SECOND GLANCE
In it’s fictional history however, “One More Day” is almost about the saving of a life as it is the death of an iconic love. Despite the telegraphed ending, the story right up to the very last issue is about Spider-Man’s manic attempts to save Aunt May. No matter how badly Peter may have been acting in considering robbing banks to pay for May’s expenses, coming off as childish in his pleas for other people to help save some who serves as his mother, or his stubborn insistence to keep May alive to alleviate the nonsensical guilt from himself, Peter is still trying his damndest to save a life. It’s always an interesting story when readers can observe a hero’s desperation to do the impossible for the right reasons. The problem arises in the fact that Peter wasn’t acting for his Aunt, even if he thought he was. He was acting out of a false sense of responsibility. The parallels to the Amazing Fantasy origin were not so much windows into the subtexts of the characters and story as they were billboards strung up like yard sale signs. There was also the fact that perhaps it was Peter’s fault that his aunt got shot, as he could have easily left Mary Jane and May in Stark’s Tower and gone off to fight on his own. That as it may be, most people agree that it was still a choice Spider-Man needed to face and live with. It didn’t help his characterization when at one point Aunt May’s soul was brought out and told Peter and MJ to let her pass on in peace.
Which leads to the big plot point of no one in the Marvel Universe being able to heal Aunt May from her bullet wound. It serves as a comeuppance for Peter, who has to be made to suffer for his actions, even though this example is rather drastic compared to the simple idea of a guy letting go his uncle’s future killer due to his ego. In any case, it still doesn’t really excuse the plot contrivance of no one being able to heal a bullet wound. Quesada was quoted to say that in the world of comic book fiction, there’s always a strong suspension of disbelief. To quote the webmaster, “We’re talking about a comic where a guy can crawl up walls.” Even still, does that really excuse the concept of no one, least of all Doctor Strange being able to save a woman from a bullet wound?
Especially considering the fact that Doctor Octopus of all people can be seen in the Wall of “No”s, it’s interesting that none of these people even try to see if they can help May or not. They all immediately tell Peter that May is beyond saving. This is a serious detriment to the story because not only does it defy logic within the comic book’s own universe, (which is different than ours since people can’t stick to walls) but it’s not even treated believably. We’re told what happens, but we don’t see how the people Peter goes to come to the instant conclusion that May is a goner. Especially the people who apparently can literally regrow busted and wounded organs.
That is a serious reason why this story fails, because the conceit is too great and takes the reader out of the reading experience. Once that happens they can never come back, especially with no explanation. What’s nearly worse is what follows afterward, as Peter heads back to the hospital only to be lead on and confronted by a little girl. Long story short, she turns out to be Mephisto, and the rest is history, or used to be. But going back to Peter, why does a little girl make him completely forget about his dying Aunt? Strange convinces him to spend time with her as she dies, so why is Peter suddenly following this quirky talking girl around? True, she says she can save Aunt May, but she takes her sweet time getting to the point. At this point the book completely turns, and all of a sudden we don’t get Peter’s thoughts anymore, which was a definite highlight of the JMS era on Amazing Spider-Man. It’s clear here that this is the moment where either JMS became disenfranchised with the story or Quesada was writing it by himself, because it’s a hallmark of Quesada writing Spider-Man. Quesada’s Spider-Man is a passive character. One who tries to make change and push events forward but ultimately gets told what to and what not to do like a child. We don’t get any internal monologue from Peter for the rest of the story, which begs the question why since this is one of the most important moments of his life.
This serves as a callback referencing the manifesto that Executive Editor for Marvel Comics Tom Breevort wrote back in 2006, before any of this began. In preparation for the “Brand New Day” Spider-Man comics, Breevort wrote out a bible listing what makes a correct version of Spider-Man and how to write him for stories to come. One that was particularly creative was how Breevort saw the original villains having an large age discrepancy contrasted to Spider-Man being a subtext for the troubles of Peter Parker growing up. But that goes into a serious misinterpretation of the character. (The term “misinterpretation” does seem intense, but nevertheless warranted.) In the manifesto, Breevort argued that Peter Parker should never grow up, as Spider-Man is a character who is defined by his youth and his growing pains. This serves as a major contention with the fans of the character who always associated Spider-Man’s concept as that of responsibility. As previously stated, despite being a teenager Peter Parker was growing older continuously in Stan Lee’s inital run. He went through college in a much longer time than he did in high school, and yet the character still seemed to many to remain fresh and viable as opposed to someone to grow old with. It’s the concept of Spider-Man being about youth that has become a major sore spot with a number of fans, in particular when reading the issues of “Brand New Day”. While a large number of fans have been enjoying the issues, an equally large number of fans have been driven away from the character due to feelings of disingenuity concerning the growth of the character. Some could argue that the thesis of writing Peter Parker with his age in mind first and foremost began here.
With all that being said, there is a reason why “One More Day” pt.4 may not be as horridly disingenous to the characters of Peter and Mary Jane as people might think. The main brunt of Amazing Spider-Man #545 shows Peter and Mary Jane at their lowest point. They are desperate, downtrodden and defeated. Despite all this they are still very much in love. The issue reiterates the bond between the two and makes it a point of how despite what may happen in the future, they will always love each other no matter what.
In all honesty, this could potentially have been one of the all time great Spider-Man tragedies. The pain and despair felt by Peter and Mary Jane is palpable all throughout the four issues, and the climax does show a willingness for them to take the moral high road in order to give an innocent person one last chance at life, however small. Despite the messy characterization, despite the forced plot contrivances, despite the deus ex machina of using a villain who wasn’t anywhere near Spider-Man’s radar, this seriously could have been J. Michael Straczynski’s magnum opus.
The problem is that this story was never treated or intended to be a tragedy. This was a definte means to an end, and the fact that this story will likely never be brought up again is what heeps it a low point in Spider-Man’s history.
Think about the last few pages of the issue. It’s a complete gear shift save for the two panels of Mary Jane looking very solemn and mournful, but those two panels do indicate that this is a false reality; that this is something to be seen in terrible irony. Joe Quesada said himself that he altered his style between the heavy blacks of the OMD reality and the almost shadow-less new reality to correspond between moods. That’s a nice touch, and it’s appropriate. The story couldn’t have ended any better when you consider everything that has happened. Victory was won at a price, and the victory party held doesn’t realize what it relates to, or that it’s a pyrrhic victory. It’s certainly devilish in it’s design.
This is what is so frustrating about Joe Quesada’s intention concerning Peter and Mary Jane. He can think that the two were never meant to be married all he wants, that’s certainly his American right to do so. He can even write the marriage off as long as it was a good story and made sense. It didn’t, and wasn’t justified, however Quesada seems to think otherwise. So why write the marriage as a casuality and then have the comic book practically spit on its grave? Why not write the characters with full cognition and have them come to their own terms about it on their own? Why force the book’s hand in the worst, most editorally charged and intrusive way ever?
What proceeds to follow for the next hundred issues is a Spider-Man different in every way from the character in years previous. Not only was he single, but he was back to shooting photos of himself for chump change, moving from girl to girl to girl in terms of romantic relationships, and fighting villains old and new. The supporting cast got a revamp, and the issues were shipped three times a month. Overall, the new status quo was split down the middle. There are fans who claim that after years in the mud, “Spider-Man” was back on top as one of the best comic books. Conversely, fans on the other end of the spectrum claimed that “Spider-Man” was worse than it’s ever been, and refuse to buy the book in protest, or gave up after being continually dissatisfied with results. During all this, Mary Jane was briefly taken out of the books but eventually came back as the mysterious ex-girlfriend who left Peter for undisclosed reasons. Similarily, fans were wanting to know the in-continuity reasons why Peter and Mary Jane did not proceed with their wedding. For the longest time, the fans had to wait and see how all that would be explained.
But not for too long.