The new Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer hints at an infamous comics storyline, so let’s look at that comic!
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski & Joe Quesada
Art by: Joe Quesada
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man #544-545, Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #24 & Sensational Spider-Man #41
While most will no doubt be focused on the fact that the newly released trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home does a lot to confirm the rumours about returning villains from previous Spider-Man series, and thus, infers the return of other Spider-Men, it’s notable how focused this trailer is on continuing the identity reveal thread from the last movie, and hinting at how that may be resolved.
A similar series of events took place in the comic books, but with some important differences. To be specific, the story where Spider-Man and Doctor Strange restore Spidey’s secret identity was called One Moment in Time. But to truly understand OMIT, you have to know about its precursor storyline, One More Day, as One Moment in Time is something of a sequel/retelling of One More Day from a new perspective (it’ll make sense once we’ve covered both comics) so we’ll go over that first.
This, of course, backfired spectacularly when Spider-Man realized he was fighting for the wrong side, and became a fugitive in a world where everyone knew his name.
Seeing an opportunity, the Kingpin put out a hit on him, but while Spider-Man was able to avoid the assassination attempt, his Aunt May was not so lucky.
Being a frail, eighty-year-old lady (as opposed to the younger Marisa Tomei), May didn’t handle being shot all that well (but then again, who does? Marisa Tomei or not), and her body quickly began to shut down, kept alive by hospital machines.
After getting his revenge on the Kingpin, Spider-Man was forced to face the fact that he was running out of time, and that May was going to die. One More Day is the story of the extreme lengths Peter will go to to save the ones he loves.
Unfortunately, outside of the story, there was a lot more to it than that. Then-editor-in-chief Joe Quesada had been looking for a way to ensure Spider-Man’s longevity as a character, namely by removing his marriage to Mary-Jane from the picture. Thus, he and the other writers and editors of Marvel began workshopping this story, which was then given to then-current Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Sense8, World War Z) to finish out his run. JMS, however, was less than thrilled with the concept.
The ‘why’ will become evident.
May Parker lies at death’s door, and her nephew, Peter Parker – the amazing Spider-Man, will do anything to save her.
As time runs short, Peter seeks out Iron Man, Doctor Strange and a host of other characters for some sort of miraculous cure.
But when each opportunity to save May falls short, what devilish bargain will Spider-Man make to save her life?
While yes, this storyline is mostly panned by the comic community, most of the comic itself isn’t that bad.
Writer JMS tries to uphold the same strong standard of writing he’s had throughout his run on Amazing Spider-Man, despite his disdain for the story he has to tell. His voices for Peter and MJ are great, and the love they share for one another is continually evident.
Similarly, then-Editor-in-Chief Joe Queseda’s art, while a rather jarring change from predecessor Ron Garney, is detailed and emotive, and compliments the themes and tone of the story well.
The first issue in particular is probably the highlight, as it gives us a look at Spider-Man unleashed, and features an interesting, albeit brief, battle between him and Iron Man. In some ways, it can be seen as an epilogue to the relationship they shared throughout the Civil War period, which, unlike that of their cinematic counterparts, ended with them on pretty rough terms.
The second issue becomes a tad more abstract, as Peter confers with Doctor Strange. It is similarly emotional and solemn. Weird, a bit messy at times, but poignant overall.
Unfortunately, there’s two more issues after that, and they house the fanbase’s major issue with this storyline.
After exhausting all other options, Spider-Man is confronted by a series of mysterious characters that force him to question his place in the world, and the paths he could have taken had he not become Spider-Man. These glimpses into other lives are revealed to be the work of Mephisto, based on the Faustian character Mephistopheles, who, while not technically Satan, Lucifer or whatever other name you want to call the Devil, is basically the Devil in Marvel’s comic continuity. The most prolific devil, at the very least, and the one usually calling the shots down in hell. Or in a hell. Marvel has a lot of different takes on the devil.
But yeah, Mephisto is the main one, basically.
Mephisto then offers Peter Parker and his wife Mary-Jane a choice; he’ll save May’s life, but he’ll also make it so that they were never married, his reward being he’ll get to gleefully listen to the part of their souls that remember what they’ve lost screaming for all eternity.
Pretty dark, and if we’re being honest, not the best deal.
But as you might have gathered from the fact that this story is looked down upon, it’s a deal they eventually take. Mary-Jane throws in the condition that Spider-Man’s secret identity must be restored, and Spider-Man continuity is reset at the end of the story.
Now, as I said, this comic, on a basic level isn’t a bad one. The script is good enough, there’s some solid dialogue, the art is well done.
But the concept is just so bizarre and poorly thought out. They want Spider-Man to regain his youthful goofyness and relatability, don’t want him to be a divorcee… But are fine with him making deals with the devil? That’s not relatable in the slightest, and it’s frankly lunacy that anyone thought this was the best course of action. It’s also not very heroic.
Do you really want Spider-Man to forever be known as someone who will make a literal deal with the devil to get what he wants? Sure, you could argue that recent storylines had backed them into a corner, but is this story, and it’s intended outcome really worth tainting the franchise in that way, and alienating much of their readership?
(I mean, I guess it was – Spider-Man still has plenty of fans, myself included, but it’s not hard to find people who claim to have stopped reading after One More Day in a topic about said storyline)
It also speaks to the rather disappointing aspect of mainstream superhero comics where everything is always reset, and characters can never have too much progress.
Here, we had a Spider-Man who was happily married to a woman who was an incredibly important part of his supporting cast. He’d matured considerably since Amazing Fantasy #15 and moved his way up the superhero community. There had been setbacks, but he’d grown. And then Marvel went and undid a whole chunk of that in the most ham-fisted way possible.
It’s been over a decade since it happened, and while, as I said, I am still a Spider-Man fan, this strange decision and seemingly callous disregard for what’s right for the character makes me very much understand why some people would drop the book over this. It’s a great example of when an editorially mandated decision isn’t necessarily what’s best, and while Spider-Man has survived, there will always be fans who long for what was lost.
It’s an important story in the saga of Spider-Man, but not one you should necessarily read for yourself (especially because of One Moment in Time, which we’ll cover shortly), and for that reason, I give Amazing Spider-Man: One More Day a…
Thanks for reading! Should Spider-Man be married or single? And should his identity be secret or public (comics or movies, whatever you prefer)? Let me know in the comments below!
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