The Subtleties of One Moment in Time pt.3


Our final journey to learn the truth about Joe Quesada’s Spider-Man, without the use of love or Magic Science.

“One Moment in Time” was first announced in the winter of 2010, and further expanded upon by Joe Quesada at the C2E2 convention in April of 2010. Billed as the story which answers the questions the fans had been waiting for, the story was accompanied by a vague teaser image consisting of puzzle pieces which, when put together, revealed an unmasked Spider-Man reaching for Mary Jane in a wedding dress. It’s no stretch to say that this had become the most anticipated storyline in Spider-Man’s history in quite some time. In July the issues hit, and the fans responded with a lot of questions.

Right up front it has to be said that “One Moment in Time” is not a good story. In some ways it fails at being effective in what it sets out to do worse than it’s father story “One More Day”. What’s more is that this was meant to further retroactively remove the events of “OMD” out of continuity for certain, despite the fact that the deal’s ramifications were still in effect. In attempting to answer the questions “OMD” had set up, “OMIT” ended by leaving the readers with even more questions, least of all what exactly Joe Quesada meant to say when writing it.

The issue begins with Mary Jane visiting Peter and starting a conversation that has the two recalling their decision to not get married after their inital attempt was botched due to Peter having been knocked out as Spider-Man the night before. Scarred by the reality of Peter being Spider-Man, Mary Jane gives him an ultimatum, swearing him not to propose to her again as she sees marriage as an excuse to have children. The two agree to remain an unmarried couple, and the story then flash forwards to after Aunt May is shot. Through the power of love (yes, love) Peter manages to bring May back from the brink of death by administering chest compressions after she flatlines in her hospital bed. Subsequently, Aunt Anna is under attack by the very same crook that caused Peter to miss his wedding years ago. Mary Jane tries to save her on her own, but is nearly killed in the process. Peter saves her at the last second, then books it to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum and asks that he remove the world’s knowledge of his identity as Spider-Man. Through the help of Reed Richards and Tony Stark and the use of magic science, Strange places Peter in a bubble and begins the spell that will regain his secret identity. Peter pulls Mary Jane into the bubble at the last second, leaving the two of them alone in their knowledge of Peter’s secret identity. Mary Jane is horrifed when she realizes what Peter has done and leaves him for fear of her loved ones and herself due to his double identity. The scene shifts back to the present, where Mary Jane tells Peter he needs to move on with his life and find a woman stronger than she is.

 As said, this is bad story and a serious detriment on the character’s written history. It is rife with out of character moments, inconsistencies with power sets, and is generally an ugly story all around. Ugly in the sense that it does everything it can to tell the readers what to think and what to accept, but not once does it show. That is the number one thing to avoid when writing fiction, and the fact that the story doesn’t come off convincingly puts the story far below the worst that Spider-Man’s varied history has to offer.

There are several things to address, so let’s go chronologically. Starting with the first pages that explain the whisper, the “out” of “OMD” that was ommitted in it’s intial scene, Mary Jane tells Mephisto to leave Peter alone for the rest of his days. Mephisto agrees, saying that as far as he knows “This never happened.” This had some people react extremely negatively as the deal in “OMD” was now supposedly retconned out of existence. Ignoring the fact that she does not answer the simple question of what she can offer him, this makes no sense in the fact that Mephisto, who is a stand in for the devil, is never true to his word. Just ask Johnny Blaze. The fact that Mary Jane for a minute assumes this begs the question as to why. But to figure that the entire deal is now out of existence is a fallacy without peer in this story. Joe Quesada clearly wrote it as a way to fall back on the backlash from Peter and Mary Jane making their deal with “the devil”, but even as he explains it in the first part of his interview, it fails to act as a sufficient resolution to “OMD”.

Joe Quesada: “MJ unknowingly beat Mephisto at his own game. By agreeing to MJ’s terms, Mephisto has actually wiped himself from ever having been involved in their lives. In fact, looking at it linearly, those four issues never happened. Along with the wedding, “One More Day” and Mephisto have been wiped out of continuity and Peter and MJ never made that bargain.

Ooooooh, me hears something breaking.”

Which again, fails to hold any water in the fact that the marriage is still taken from continuity. Mary Jane did not beat anyone because she did not trick Mephisto into reneging on his deal. He got what he wanted. All this does is retcon the timing of the deal so that Mary Jane is the only one to put it into action and that Quesada is right in asserting so, despite the fact that the deal required both of their consent and Peter says “Do it!” in the actual issue.

Issue #638 continues with intercut pages from the original ASM #21 Annual, citing instances where Peter and Mary Jane were experiencing pre-marriage jitters as the day grew closer. Witholding the pages where the two actually overcome their natural cold feet, Quesada writes the story as if the two were realizing something they should have a long time ago. If we’re still going by “OMD” continuity, this would seem appropriate considering that this was the deal the two signed up for, despite evidence to the contrary. Conversely, if the deal never did happen due to Mary Jane’s whisper, then this entire issue wouldn’t exist.

A classic example of Spider-Man's agility, as well as determination.

Moving on to the first issue’s climax, in the manifesto Tom Breevort said that Marvel had become afraid to humiliate their heroes, and that a hallmark of the early Spider-Man stories was that Peter was constantly put in uncompromising situations by Stan and Steve. If that’s what this issue was going for, it honestly does not work. For one thing, it re-establishes the fact that Spider-Man is a character who makes stupid mistakes rather than learning from them as time goes by, but even that can’t refute the fact that his powers clearly aren’t working in the sequence. A hallmark of Spider-Man’s fighting style is his speed and agility, combined with the use of his Spider-Sense. He’s dodged lasers and gunfire this way, and it has helped him survive for years. To say that he can’t dodge a cinderblock somehow being tossed at him by a clearly out of shape street thug is so convinient for the plot that it turns into farce. Similarly, being knocked out by having a fat man fall on you through several stories is certainly plausible, but consider the situation. Spider-Man’s whole mind is on Mary Jane and the wedding. He mumbles “MJ…” as he blacks out. One would think he would try a little harder to stay awake, especially since he’s fought to stay concious during worse, more trying situations. 

It’s those types of contrivances that make it impossible for people to accept the story, which seems to  escapes Joe Quesada’s understanding. In an interview for the Spider-Man Crawlspace during the 2010 San Diego Comi-Con, Quesada was quoted as to say that “some fans have an agenda” when reading comic books. While not every fan is the same as another, it’s rather radical to say that fans have an agenda that is anything other than wanting to read a story which makes sense, much less entertains them. True, entertainment is objective, but that still does not make up for the lapse in judgement when writing how to make Spider-Man miss his wedding.

If the conceit in the first part was the utter failure of Spider-Man’s powers, then the conceit in the second part is the reason why Peter and Mary Jane decide not to marry. Again, none of Peter’s inner thoughts are ever portrayed or even hinted at. This is especially disconcerting because Peter is a person who has continuously fantasized about getting married, wether it be to Betty Brant, MJ or Felicia Hardy. He barely gets a word in edgewise when talking to Mary Jane, who takes up  the conversation (at least that’s what it should have been instead of an ultimatum) to explain how marriage equals children and how Peter being Spider-Man is the equivalent to an abusive father. Not being married, I can assume that there are some things between engaged/married couples that are left unsaid or secret. But as it was brought up on the Crawlspace Podcast, if Mary Jane wanted to have kids which is why she accepted Peter’s proposal, why didn’t she tell him that beforehand? What is it with Mary Jane keeping things from Peter? She does it in every issue of the story. Secondly, Mary Jane says her piece on what Peter being Spider-Man means towards her and a possible family, but the intent is completely screwed up. She says that the people who pay the price are the people who he loves the most. In what sense is she talking about? Does she mean that he won’t be around as much as he should? If that’s the case, why be with him at all? Secondly, this is used again when Mary Jane is attacked by the crook. It doesn’t add up, because not only does she start to flip out and beg for death rather quickly, but she does this after years of being kidnapped, threatened and nearly killed by the likes of many supervillains. In one issue, Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin took Mary Jane to the bridge from which Gwen Stacy fell from, and seeing this as a clear threat, Mary Jane said she wasn’t afraid to die. She said this to someone she knew who was psychotic, and superpowered. There were other instances where the villains who knew she was married to Spider-Man threatened her, and she kept her cool for the most part, showing how tough of a character she was. So why is the point of Peter’s loved ones paying the price brought up now? And if she really believes that, why stay with him at all? What difference does marriage make?

It’s at this point that the characterization of Mary Jane starts to become illuminated. Granted that in all four issues she experiences heartbreak, danger, and life changing shocks, she still comes off as an incredibly weak, selfish and cowardly woman throughout. Again, she has been through more than most people can say.  At the same time, she has been attacked by an alien killer, a serial killer posing as her husband, her ex boyfriend-turned lunatic, a clone of her husband, and general supervillains, some of which happened even before she started seriously dating Peter Parker. Why is she falling apart now? It’s not even that she falls apart, she topples over; there is no transitional period. It makes no sense that she goes through all of what she has, becoming stronger than she ever has been, and is totally strengthened in her resolve to stick with her husband/boyfriend only to lose it at the finish line. This is supposed to be the same character that gave away her one chance at happiness in “OMD” and did it with self-assured gusto that she and Peter would find each other again. It just goes back to the point that “OMD” made everything that would come after it out to be a sad fact of a tragic ending, so where is all of this change coming from? This can’t be the new reality, no matter what is explained outside of the actual story in interviews.

What is especially confusing is the very end of the fourth part where Mary Jane is confronted with the reality that she could have been spared knowing the identity of Spider-Man but wasn’t.  She, and by nature the story, acts as if Peter made the stupid choice to let her in on it. If we’re supposed to believe that everything in the comics happened except for the wedding, the Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship is still exactly that of a husband and wife just without the vows. They still have the mindset of “‘Til death do we part”. That is the consession Joe Quesada swore after “One More Day”, that everything was still the same except for “just a piece of paper” If that is the case, there’s no justification for Mary Jane fleeing from Peter in fear for herself and her family. Not only would she have resolved this a long time ago, but she would have no reason to worry about it since Peter’s identity was a secret to the world once again. The fact that Mary Jane does this is extremely telling of Joe Quesada’s personal vision of her. Whether it was the marriage or the fact that the first comic book he ever read was Amazing Spider-Man #98 in which Mary Jane openly flirted with Peter while stringing along her drug-induced boyfriend Harry, his interpretation of Mary Jane is one rife with distaste or just plain ignorance. The simple fact that she stayed with Peter after Harry Osborn was arrested and bragged that he knew who Spider-Man was but wasn’t going to tell until he felt like it completely contradicts the Mary Jane as she is written here. Similarily, certain things like Mary Jane bringing over wine to drink while Peter sticks with tea and the overemphasis on Mary Jane’s anger at Peter, who can’t think of anything to say paints Mary Jane in a perpetually bad light that would have been appropriate in the 1970s, before she and Peter grew closer as friends before lovers. Quesada may say she’s the hero of the story, but it would seem as though she’s the anti-hero.

Finally that leaves us back to Peter, who despite being the title character spends the story being portrayed as a weak and impotent figure in the larger narrative. This is a character who had his entire world up-ended three dozen times over, and still came out standing. Foregoing personal tragedies like the deaths of friends, Peter has literally grown six arms, had the power of a cosmic being, been bitten by a vampire, poisoned by a werewolf, shot, stabbed, falled through buildings, punched through buildings, cloned, killed, eye yanked out and eaten, and turned into a spider which birthed himself. He’s been through it all. That being said, the fact that his loved ones tend to suffer is an aspect of life he can’t ever seem to get past. So I can appreciate his desperation in the latter half of the story. But the problem remains in the fact that the sequence of events don’t match up with the reality of his character any more than it did Mary Jane. For starters, it goes without saying how incredibly illogical Spider-Man administering chest compressions to a dead woman’s corpse would save her life and lead her to a full recovery from a bullet wound. Especially when given the fact that the search across the globe still occured and that no one could save May’s life but Peter, that aspect begs to be explained. Explained or just re-written entirely. But at the end of “OMIT” we get Peter Parker as he’s ever been seen before.

 

The hero of the book is being portrayed as a whiny, gurning little milksop as worse as he’s ever been written. True, his Aunt nearly died. True, his identity is no longer a secret. True, his wife/girlfriend has been attacked. But he’s been in these situations before from one variation to another. Several villains knew his identity, he believed his Aunt to have died once, and his wife/girlfriend is used to danger. So why this? Is it a sum of parts? If so, why use the same parts? It doesn’t make any sense, which goes back to the main question.

Aside from attempting to answer questions concerning “OMD”, why was this written? Why try justify what was already set up to be a false reality? Joe Quesada was behind the writing of both stories, and both stories should be interconnected. Why do they contradict each other so strongly?

It goes beyond personal story preferences or actual quality. It all comes back to the question that many philosophers find themselves asking day-by-day. “What is reality?” What is meant to be taken as real and what isn’t? If this was how the story of the marriage was to end, why does it contradict the characters and their histories so strongly? It can’t just be because Joe Quesada hasn’t read every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. It certainly isn’t because he has any antipathy towards the fans of the character. He truly believes that these were the stories to tell. He’s maintained that he worked and researched and did the absolute best with what he came up with. Joe Quesada is not an unintelligent person. He knows what makes fans tick, and he knows what makes for good storytelling. If he truly believes in the justification of his ridding the Spider-Marriage, why make it a tragedy? And If you make it a tragedy, why go back on it with such positivity in your actions? Why not address it with honesty?

What was the goal of “One Moment in Time”? It can’t have been solely to explain things from “One More Day” because it didn’t. There must be an answer to all of this, but I do not think we’ve found it. Unfortunately this leaves the entire story and possibly the near-future of Spider-Man with, once again, more questions than when we began.

 

 

                                                                                                                                      

 

 

With acknowledgements to Gerard DeLatour, George Berryman, Jon Wilson, Denmark Grant, Joshua Bertone, and Brad Douglas. 

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