Today we will be taking a look at The Big Question in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #290-292 by David Micheline, John Romita Jr. and Alex Saviuk from 1987.
While writer David Micheline is best known for creating popular villains such as Venom and Carnage, there is one particular contribution of his that tends to get oddly overlooked: the marriage between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Jim Shooter and Stan Lee may have been the masterminds behind the marriage, but Micheline was the one who brought it to the page.
It probably goes without saying at this point that Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are one of the most famous and beloved comic book couples of all time; frequently appearing on (and even topping a few) “best comic couples” lists.
But hey, don’t simply take my word for it:
Stories that specifically focus on their relationship such as All My Pasts Remembered (AMAZING vol. 1 #259), The Wedding (AMAZING vol. 1 Annual #21), Doomed Affairs (AMAZING vol. 1 #49-50) and To Have and to Hold (SENSATIONAL vol. 2 Annual #1) are widely lauded by many fans with some even placing them among the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.
Even after the dissolution of their twenty year long marriage at the conclusion of the infamous One More Day story line in 2007, the couple’s popularity persisted with fans; so much so that a mini-series titled Renew Your Vows, which depicted them as a happily married couple with a young daughter, was published in 2015.
The mini-series was such a success both commercially and critically that it became an ongoing series (one that is still being published at the time of this article) the following year.
With the couple’s immense popularity and devoted fanbase, you would think the arc where the two finally decide to tie the knot would get more attention than it actually does. The lack of attention The Big Question receives is quite baffling to me considering how important this arc is continuity-wise, not to mention that it’s technically the beginning of their two decade marriage and just a really good, satisfying story in general. It’s the culmination of events that have been building in the comics for years and…well I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s take a look at the story first.
Our tale begins in the most romantic manner possible: Spidey sulking on a rooftop.
You see, Peter recently flirted with the idea of giving up his life as Spider-Man (for about the dozenth time), but ultimately decided that being Spider-Man is who he is meant to be and always will be (also for about the dozenth time; one could say Peter has some commitment issues). Yet for some reason that he can’t quite fathom, he still isn’t content.
Feeling his frustration rising, Spider-Man decides to head home (but not before stopping a gunman for good measure).
Once at home, Peter decides that he can’t keep his burdens to himself any longer and seeks out the one person he knows he can rely on for some friendly advice and comfort.
After explaining his woes to her, Mary Jane wisely deduces that whatever anguish Peter is currently struggling with might not be because of his Spider-Man persona. Despite being a little envious of sending him to someone else to discuss his problems, Mary Jane advises Peter to reach out to Aunt May.
Peter complies, but ends up deciding not to further burden May with further trouble. Feeling lost, Peter ends up deciding to take a stroll; doing some reminiscing in the process.
While Peter is taking a trip down memory lane, we cut back to Mary Jane who gives Aunt May a rather urgent call.
“What exactly did Mary Jane get herself mixed up in”, you ask?
“You really think I’m going to spoil it here?” I answer.
While strolling, Peter comes across a disturbance at a nearby auction.
Doing what comes naturally, Peter changes into Spider-Man and heads out to stop the thieves. However, he ends up coming across a much more serious danger:
Knowing that this takes precedent over some mangy, unarmed crooks, Spidey swings into action.
After that is taken care of, Spidey changes back into his civilian identity to continue his introspection. Except this time, he seems to reach some kind of decision.
Feeling a newfound fire and determination rising up in him, Peter heads back to Mary Jane’s apartment.
The question in…well, question:
Now as many of us are aware, Marvel editorial viewed the marriage as a disastrous mistake that tarnished the readers’ ability to “relate” to the character. They disliked the marriage so much that they eventually got rid of it two decades later (after a few failed attempts) in the aforementioned One More Day story arc.
Despite the massive fan backlash directed at the decision to split Peter and Mary Jane up (among other questionable choices), Marvel has continuously defended their decision over the years by claiming “youth” has always been the primary draw of the character. They’ve also claimed that the marriage was an inorganic development, coming off as “rushed”, “forced” and “out of nowhere” due to being an editorial mandate from then EIC Jim Shooter. And they’re completely right. I mean, it’s not like Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship had any kind of build up before this point, right?
Oh wait, yes it did. For years, Peter and Mary Jane had been growing closer and closer until marriage was an inevitability. How exactly Marvel (or anyone for that matter) can claim that the marriage “came out of nowhere” is completely beyond me as that sentiment is demonstrably false.
And that is ultimately what makes The Big Question so satisfying: it’s the culmination of an inevitable romance that has been building for years. The story also contains excellent character development for Mary Jane as she comes to terms with her dysfunctional past while finally accepting her love for Peter. There is even a surprising moment where Mary Jane actually stands up to Alistair Smythe’s Spider-Slayer robot by…well just read it for yourself. It’s great.
You can track down the individual issues or purchase the Spider-Man/Mary Jane TPB that collects the arc.
If you’re a Peter/Mary Jane fan of any kind, you owe it to yourself to read this arc. It deserves to be ranked alongside their best moments and stories.