Shiny Shelf

Amazing Spider-Man #545

By Jim Smith on 01 January 2008

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

I’ve been a big fan of JMS’ ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ since it began and one of the things I liked, no loved, about it was his portrayal of the real and enduring love between Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane.

It was one of the series great strengths and I, and anyone else old enough to have a resonable grasp on adult emotions, understood that the rantings on messageboards about not liking the married Spider-Man came from people who hated the idea that their hero had grown up and married the right girl because, deep down, they knew – and know – that they never will. (Note to all comics creators, ignore message boards, ignore the opinions of keyboard heroes who hide their own names when dealing with the innately trivial sphere of entertainment, they are beneath listening to because the cliché of their existence in basements is entirely true.)

As a sign off to the book which he was steered for many years and over a hundred issues (with never a bad one along the way) JMS pens a tale ‘One More Day’ which undoes that marriage, indeed that whole relationship. It is drawn by Joe Quesada, Marvel’s EIC and a man who has in that role turned the company into a creative powerhouse unimagined by those of use who were buying comics a decade ago. I assume that this means that the story is not merely officially sanctioned, it is ‘blessed’ from the highest level.

A demon (it doesn’t matter which one) offers Peter and Mary Jane the chance to save the life of Peter’s ancient Aunt May, they can do this by letting him create some magical incident that will erase their love from history. The Demon will gain sustenance for all eternity from the suffering that the splitting apart of these two (who are meant to be together forever) will achieve.

This is a clever idea and I admire the skill used in implementing it. It’s the only way of ‘dissolving the Spider-Marriage’ (something that Marvel inexplicably seemed to believe they needed to do) that anyone has ever suggested that didn’t devalue it. As such this story, moving and beautifully drawn though it is, is ultimately an amazingly well realised version of something pointless.

That its seeming moral is the very opposite of the normal pattern of human life (you are born, brought up, you procreate yourself, you parental figures die off, you die off yourself, leaving you own genetic successors here in your place) is an indication of how much this story is about ‘ideology’ (an institutionalised hatred of Peter and MJ’s marriage or a fear of a widespread fan hatred of it) rather than the characters or the story.

There is one chance. One hope. It’s that this story is like ‘Knightfall’ – this was the Batman epic that demonstrated that, despite what they thought – the Dark Knight’s fans didn’t want a murderous Image Comics style Batman, who fired bullets and whose cape ran red with the blood of his slaughtered enemies, but I don’t hold out much real hope for that. The final pages that establish the new (read: old) status quo, seem to redolent of, even exulting in, “victory” for that to be the case.

Marvel seem massively pleased with what they’ve done here, but the only thing this is a victory over is sense.

In perspective, this is possibly the best imaginable version of this story but that will never take away the simple fact that it’s a story that should never have been told, thought of, or even considered. Never has so much skill and time been lavished on something so pointless and unworthy. A dreadful, downbeat and actually quite upsetting end to what has been one of the great runs of modern superhero comics.

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that despite the credits JMS did not write much of this issue. I don’t know how much of it he did write or whether he is happy with the final version, but I thought this review should note this. The comments above are unchanged from when the review was originally posted.

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