No Flies In This Superior
As Steven Wacker would have it, I’m one of ‘Them.’
I’ve been a Spidey fan since I can remember. through every event in my life, every week I was there to pick up my Spidey Fix. I endured Mark Bagley taking over Amazing Spidey. Spider-Hulk, the death of Harry Osborn I lived through the Clone Saga. Aunt May The Dead Actress, The 30th Anniversary. The return of Norman Osborn, Spider-Man:Chapter One The reboot, by the time we’d got to JMS taking over Amazing Spidey, I’d given up hope on ever reading a Spidey comic that had the magic of those early Hobgoblin/Black Cat issues that i fell in love with all those years ago.
With no hyperbole, JMS’s run TOTALLY rocked my world, aside from having top end John Romita JR art, it did something that no other Spidey writer had tried previously. It RESOLVED things. What would happen if Aunt May actually found out that Pete was Spider-Man? Turns out she’d be alright with it. How would Pete finally resolve his father figure issues that had been started with Richard Parker having to leave him as a child and then his shocking loss of Uncle Ben? He’d hook up with Tony Stark, who’d also encourage him to use his scientific acumen. Why was Spidey cursed to spend his life as a maligned loner? Turns out he didn’t. He could just join The Avengers, get a decent income, somewhere to live and a salary. Which would also solve the ‘Oh No, what if one of my enemies tries to get to me via Mary Jane?’ Well, she’s living with The Avengers. So probably ‘Not much.’
With the resolution of all these questions that had been run into the ground, it looked for a bit, like we could start heading into uncharted terrority for the ol Webhead. New pastures, a chance to see what he could do without the anchors of played out themes dragging him down for the umpeeenth time. When he unmasked during ‘Civil War’, I thought ‘Actually, this could be interesting.’
Well, it was. not for the reasons I was expecting.
Much has been written about the events of One More Day, so i won’t rehash them here. Suffice to say, that was the event where I didn’t think i understood who Pete really was anymore. Moreover, it struck me that Marvel editorial were quite happy to sacrifice years of characterization in order to deal with their problems with Pete’s marriage. Problems that not many other people seemed to have. Somehow, Peter making deals with Mephisto was acceptable because the stigma of Pete being a divorcee was too much to bear. Within a few issues, we were back to 1970’s era storytelling. harry’s back, Aunt May can never know Blah, blah, blah. i could have dealt with that, were it not for the editorial snark that bled through every issue.
At that point, about 2 or 3 issues into Brand New Day, I stopped dead. I had piles of issues of ‘My Pete’ I could read. I wasn’t sure who BND Spidey was meant to be selling to, because i saw lots of people cancel their standing orders for Spidey once they realised that this wasn’t a short-term thing. That Marvel had really just damaged the brand of Peter Parker forever to handle the ego of Joe Quesada (Who allegedly rewrote the final JMS issue of Amazing Spider-Man to fit in with his agenda.) and perceived problems with a superhero having a marriage. As though being happy in aspect of his life made him any less of a self sacrificing hero. Nope.
And then I just stopped paying attention. Like most of the other characters I’d grown up with, Spider-Man just became one more symptom of professional fan fiction gone too far.There was no reason to believe that anything that happened in Amazing Spidey wouldn’t just be reversed depending on the moods and neurosis of the editor in charge at the time. Norman Osborn could have turned out to have been a Skrull. J. Jonah Jameson could have become the new Green Goblin, Aunt May could have become the herald of Galactus (again.)
Me and Spidey. Done.
Then, somewhere along the line, I get the impression that Marvel realised that they might have gone too far, instead of a rotating team, they hired one of the biggest fans of Spidey working in comics to take over the book. one Mr Dan Slott. Who made me rethink my ‘No more Spidey’ stance. I’d enjoyed both his run on She-Hulk and his Batman mini immensely. Also, he’d be bringing back Phil Urich, the nephew of Ben who’d been The Green Goblin for 10 minutes in the 90s. A series I probably enjoyed more than anyone else. I didn’t feel compelled to buy the book, but I was willing to read it, taking the idea that it was Pete from Earth 2 or something like that.It was a pretty enjoyable series of Spidey stories. And somewhere along the line, things started getting interesting. Specifically with Madame Web.
Madame Web has always been one of those annoying vague characters like The Phantom Stranger or Uatu who shows up once in a while to say ‘Ooh, things are going to get bad.’ but without saying what it would be. I had the impression their appearances were get out clauses for writers who couldn’t organically create suspense. the literary equivalent of those covers that promise ‘THIS ISSUE! SOMEBODY DIES!’ because there wasn’t enough faith in the storytelling ability to sell the book on it;s own merits without guiding casual readers into thinking that this particular issue would be worth buying multiple copies .
So, Madame Web would show up during a story say ‘Pete, things are going to get bad.’ and my natural reaction would be ‘Well, D’OH!’
But it KEPT happening. With increasing frequency. Having gone back and read all of Slott’s run with the knowledge of what happens in Amazing Spidey 700, Dan was pretty much telling us via Madame Web ‘PETE’S GONNA DIE!’
So, when Dan started announcing on Twitter that Amazing Spidey 698 was going to be a big deal, I brushed it off. How many times had we had THAT chestnut thrown at us? Yeah, yeah, it’s gonna be a big deal, nothing will be the same again, like the Death of Johnny Storm, Thor, Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes, Janet Van Dyne, Captain America. the ‘No Remorse’ Tony Stark.Whatever. Fire up the Life Model Decoys, Their spirits being sent to the past, being shrunk into The Microverse, Deleting the bit of their brain that told them that cloning Thor was a good idea. Yadda yadda
I got revved up for the adventures of Pete. I totally dug all the way out rumours involving Norman Osborn, Miguel O Hara, Ben Reilly and everything else. So, now rereading Amazing Spidey 698 through to Superior Spidey 1 and Avenging Spidey 16 without the desperate ‘OMIGOD, WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN HERE?’ panic behind it. (I have to say, i read Amazing 700 a few days before Xmas and it totally floored me when i realised, finally, that Peter wasn’t going to win, and furthermore, this was the 1st time I rooted for him to win the day since hoping against everything I’d been told that Peter would find a way to save Aunt May from the gunshot wound that WOULDN’T involve Mephisto.)
And having reignited that link between Pete & me that had been dormant for years, through bitter cynicism and savvy knowledge of marketing tricks, Slott got me. As I realised, flipping through 700 that actually, Spidey was going to lose. But, this is the key thing, in those issues, Dan rather masterfully deals with all of the perceived problems with Spidey in one fell swoop.
One) Pete was a guy who had had some kind of marriage like relationship with Mary Jane. Neither One More Day or One Moment In Time solved that comics were published that stated that to be true.
Two) Aunt May was still about. I think THAT panel in 699 was Dan’s way of making sure we could never look at her in the same light again. I don’t know who’s going to pull the short straw when they finally have to bring Pete back (In a four issue, deluxe mini-series with LOTS of recaps.) but at SOME point, there’s going to be the awkward Otto/David face-off.
David:‘So, uh, did you wait until you tied the knot before….?’
Otto:’Octavius does not discuss such matters, Impudent Peasant!‘
Pete:‘PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS!’
Three) Pete was the guy who sold out his Love for Mary Jane. No way around that. No mentioning that Spidey had done deals with Venom previously, etc, could undo that. The ‘brand’ of Pete is forever tainted by that. As much as Marvel want to pretend that it seemed like a good idea, they’re obviously aware that it was as unpopular a move as The Clone Saga. (More so,in fact, as at least The Clone Saga could be resolved by saying ‘Actually, Ben was a Clone the whole time.’ There isn’t a way of saying ‘Ben Reilly made the deal with Mephisto.’ without directly contradicting interviews done with Joe Quesada, Steven Wacker and Axel Alsono at the time.)
Except, Otto doesn’t really win and Pete doesn’t really lose in Amazing Spidey 700. Pete both honours (Finally!) the memory and teachings of his Uncle Ben by passing them onto Otto, who equally DOES die in Amazing Spidey 700. Or at least Doctor Octopus does. I think this issue is the final redemption of Peter Parker.
Four) There are so many Pete-Spidey comics that every interaction he can possibly go through with nearly the entire Marvel universe is played out a billion times over. What ELSE is Pete going to say to Tony, to Norman, to Logan, to Reed, to Jonah, to Miles that hasn’t been said previously? How many times has he lost his Spidey-sense, got a new costume? Guilt-tripped about something he should have done and then realised that’s not what Uncle Ben taught him? Lifted up a Very Heavy Thing in tribute to Amazing Spidey 38?
Five) Equally, Good LORD, are Spidey’s villains played out? Yes, yes they are. Techno gadgets, Legacy versions (She’s the niece of the original’s brother. FROM THE FUTURE!), an all new attitude? Resurrected BUT NOW WITH CLAWS! Is anyone in Pete’s immediate social circle NOT linked with a super- villian now? Jonah? Nope Harry? Please. Flash? Nuh-uh. Betty? THREE TIMES OVER, at LEAST. May? Er..er…Let’s not think about that.
And now, finally, after several attempts over the last twenty years, Marvel finally have a revitalized, interesting Spidey. Free from the chains of 50 years of stale relationships and formulaic exchanges. ‘Spock’ is an interesting angle on something that opens up a realm of possibilities in well done comics. I don’t THINK I’ve seen the Antagonist as Lead done quite so well, and the genuine emotion that people expressed online as a result of all this makes me think that Marvel have finally achieved what they’ve been trying to do since The Clone Saga. Superior Spidey is what The Clone Saga should have been.
For those of you into their superhero comics being intriguing, fun, well done and brilliantly, UNPREDICTABLE. (Miguel O’Hara, Guys? REALLY you thought Miguel O’Hara.), then you are happily directed towards Amazing Spidey 700 & Superior Spidey 1 . Don’t worry, Pete’ll be back more than soon enough, by the look of things
Oh, and one last thing.
It’s funny again. Yep. Funny Spidey comics.
Welcome back to the future. We’ve been living in the past too long.