In the ever-evolving landscape of comics, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved characters’ sordid histories.
When Aunt May took a slug to her wrinkled gut, it was the shot heard around the world, at least as far as fandom was concerned. The ultimate consequence of Spider-Man’s public unmasking during Civil War led to the incredibly controversial “One More Day” before Spidey went thrice monthly in his “Brand New Day.” In case you were living under a rock, “One More Day” was the story of Peter frantically scouring the Marvel universe in hopes of finding someone to help him save Aunt May’s life as she lay dying in a hospital bed. Not even the great mind of Reed Richards (who has a dimension gateway to God’s backyard in his pocket), Hank McCoy (who lives in a house with a kid whose mutant power allowed him to literally rebuild a teammates exploded heart) or the Doctors Strange and Doom could help her. She was old and had gotten shot, after all. It’s not like Galactus was snacking on the planet. This was serious.
And so the story goes that a deal was made with Mephisto that would restore May’s health in exchange for Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage with one super secret condition that MJ whispered to the not-Devil before it all went down. Smash cut to some time later as Peter wakes up at May’s house, single and aloof (secret identity intact) with his good buddy Harry Osborn and once again working as a photographer. Fans tore it apart, and with good reason. It was a major regression of the character and the story was told in a way that was completely antithetical to how a story should be told, especially at Marvel. That kind of sweeping continuity change is fairly typical for the Distinguished Competition, but for the most part, the House of Ideas has steered clear of such devices. Fans called for the heads of Marvel EIC for the change, especially considering the very public statements from Amazing Spider-Man writer J. Michael Straczynski about the story and the editorial mandate behind it.
One of the main beefs with the new direction of Brand New Day was the time jump. The page turned and suddenly everything was different with no explanation. For months, fans cried foul and complained and went on and on about how much they hated it (all the while sales remained as strong as ever, if not better). Eventually, though, the crying stopped and folks moved on. Then along came O.M.I.T., One Moment in Time, the story that promised to show what happened on the day Peter and MJ were meant to be married. Because the official line all along was that nothing had been retconned beyond the marriage. All the stories we read before had happened. The only difference is that they weren’t married. O.M.I.T. was meant to fill in the holes of the story (and there were a LOT of holes). Two years later, Quesada and co. were going to fill us in on the new continuity.
The problem is threefold. First off, it had been two years! It’s safe to say that most of the readers who were so up in arms originally had moved on. Either they quit complaining or they stopped reading. At best, telling this story is salt in a nearly-healed wound just to remind us of the pain. So right off the bat, this is a story few people wanted.
The story itself isn’t awful, but it isn’t good, either. Quesada frames the story around Paolo Rivera’s interiors and the first issue brilliantly uses pages (some reworked) of the original Amazing Spider-Man Annual issue where the wedding took place. In a nutshell, Pete misses the wedding because he was off being Spider-Man and MJ takes it like any rational person would and calls off the wedding claiming she’ll always love him, but they can never be married because she’ll never bring a child into this crazy Spider-Man world (except, of course, for that one time they totally brought a baby into this crazy Spider-Man world).Her motivation is completely justified and to give credit where it’s due, that part of the story totally works.
The rest of the story revolves around the “One More Day” time and shows just how Peter got his secret identity back (Strange did it). It’s serviceable, albeit convoluted. Regardless, this is the story they decided to tell, so why not just tell it organically in the first place? Why not show the weird Strange/Richards/Stark business at the beginning and let the story flow naturally and organically? Sure, you can’t please everyone and there would have of course been people screaming until they were blue in the face about how this ultimately went down, but at least it would have flowed in SOME way. But instead we got in all in “flashback,” two years after the fact. It’s poor form, plain and simple.
The last and perhaps biggest problem is that after all the dust has settled, none of it really makes sense. For a story that was supposed to set the record straight and explain away the lingering questions surround OMD, it really didn’t do much. We finally learned the super secret deal MJ made with Mephisto. It essentially boiled down to “Leave him alone after this.” Fail. That’s nothing. Why not just put that on the page two years ago? The rest of the Brand New Day status quo gets no acknowledgment whatsoever. How is Harry back from the dead? What happened to the organic web shooters? Why isn’t Peter a teacher anymore? Why is he living at May’s house? These are big gaping holes in the plot that are STILL THERE.
What’s more, Mephisto’s deal was based on the notion that Peter and Mary Jane’s love was so strong that he simply had to have it in exchange for May’s life. But they were together the whole time! They split in this new version of the story in what was One More Day. Even then, MJ carried a torch for him. What did he really get out of this? He could have just tossed the marriage silence in the shredder for all the good his little deal did for him. The secret identity was a big one. I’ll absolutely give them that. Putting that to rest is a big step, though this story still does nothing to explain the whole “Once they see me, they remember everything about our old lives together” thing. At least they did SOMETHING. Even so, it’s too little, too late. Are we expected to wait another two years for ANOTHER look back at the past we never knew? Or is Joe and co. going to leave well enough alone and move on so that we can, too?
This is a story that could have been told two years ago (save the wedding day bit). It should have been told two years ago. “One Moment in Time” is a needless retcon and given the nature of the story, it makes “One More Day” seem that much more unnecessary since OBVIOUSLY the story could have gotten where it did without all the magic and devilry. Let the sleeping dog lie next time, Mr. Quesada,unless you’ve got a steak waiting for it.