After 20 odd years of marriage, Peter Parker is finally back on the street looking for action. All he had to do was make a deal with the devil (Mephisto) to make it so. You can say what you like about the way the comic has been for the past few years, but it was certainly introducing a character that had become crusty with the inability to develop to new (if extremely unpleasant) experiences.
After new writer J Michael Straczynski arrived, Spider-Man met his new menace Morlun who was hunting Parker down. This storyline stood the idea of the series on its head by explaining that Spider-Man is more than just a super hero, he’s a kind of ‘totem’ between man and beast. It’s a hokey idea, but it’s told very well (remember that, the same mistake comes up years later). With John Romita Jr. on art chores, it’s also a beautiful run on the title. The journey of discovery that Peter embarks upon and the battle with Morlun are amongst some of the best moments of the series as a whole. Yet… it alienated die-hard fans.
JMS also introduced other ideas, like the ‘organic web-shooters’ and Peter’s first love Gwen Stacy having evil mutant children with Norman Osborn before she died. It’s a toss up as to which is less appealing.
In the lead-in to Civil War, Spider-Man joined the Avengers and soon found himself stuck in the middle between a war that seemed waged between his two heroes Iron Man and Captain America. His family was living in the Avengers’ tower, protected by Tony Stark (Iron Man), leading Parker to side with him in the ensuing war. When Spider-Man decided to turn sides, he made the world he had fought to protect his whole life his enemy. Hunted by all, he had nowhere to turn.
Then Aunt May took a bullet meant for him shot by an assassin hired to rub him out by the Kingpin. This lead to a cataclysmic battle between Spider-Man and the Kingpin and Parker making other similar hard decisions to try and save his ailing Aunt from an inevitable death. Time and again the story informs Peter that death has a purpose and a time. It is May’s time. But he refuses to stop looking for a way and eventually finds himself facing the devil with a convenient proposal.
The story is well told, but the result is just lousy. It’s not the loss of continuity or even the trust of the readers that bugs me. It’s the fact that Marvel Comics was placing their character in a tight spot with no way out. Marvel always appealed to me for this approach of treating their characters with cruel storylines and dangerous villains. But this time there was a way out. An editorial magic wand wiped away the problem, creating a ‘Brand New Day‘ for the series.
Incoming creative teams will be swapped in and out of the title as it switches to a three-times a month release schedule. The first team of Dan Slott and Steve McNiven are very good. However… the end result is lousy. Parker’s life has taken a step waaaaaay back in time and now he is living a simple life with his Aunt May, penniless and awkward. In other words, a perfect jumping on point for new readers.
Marvel Comics has come under fire for making the wrong decision here and for yet again turning fans that have supported their franchise for decades (they did this in the 90′s when they ‘revealed’ that Parker was actually a clone of the real Spider-Man and introduced a new character Ben Reilly as the ‘Scarlet Spider.’).
It’s a dumb idea.
I can understand why it was done, but if Marvel was concerned about attracting new readers, they should have considered the Ultimate Spider-Man line or a release of well done graphic novels for the jet-setting crew that casually read comics. You just cannot sell the casual guy on the street to buy a monthly comic. It’s not continuity that presents a problem, it’s content.
If Marvel wanted to make a product that would appeal to readers who like the unmarried Spider-Man of the 70′s, they should have just created a glamor series with top talent packaged as a deluxe product. DC Comics saw this work with Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil. Before that title, few really cared about Shazam.
It’s too late now, in any case. The decision has been made and we have to sit with the consequences… until another magic wand undoes this terrible idea.
Anyone want to wager how long this will last?