The Fifth Color | Omit Everything
I guess it’s all we could talk about. Over and over and over, Joe Quesada had to bear the unbelievable weight of his “One More Day” storyline. Fans would not stop their onslaught of questions and demands at each and every convention since, shaking their fists and arming themselves with pitchforks and torches at panels and demanding to know the whole story.
Just imagine how the editor-in-chief would toss and turn at night, staring up at the ceiling as sad indie rock would play, the camera panning away from him. What can I do, he might think to himself. How can I lay my burden down?
And here is that burden: The Nixon Tapes of Amazing Spider-Man as released this week in The Amazing Spider-Man #638, starting the storyline “One Moment in Time.” And while you may think this is only the humble chart-topping hit of Whitney Houston for the 1988 Summer Olympics, you’d be right. AND WRONG! For “One Moment in Time” takes us back to that fateful day where Mephisto got up all in Spidey’s business and destroyed the one thing that was holding his life together — what might seem like, in the aftermath of its destruction, the holiest of holy bonds.
Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane.
I know! I can almost hear the teeth grind at the very sight of those words, the fury unleashed at remembering that infamous “deal with the Devil.” Oh, sweet merciful God, why hast thou taken away my hot red-headed wife?
Quesada has finally had enough of the hiding and evasion. He wants “One Moment in Time” — when I’m more than I thought I could be — to explain the truth behind what happened to MJ and Peter so we might be let in on the secrets of an audacious editorial stunt.
No one needs to read this. Some secrets are better taken to the grave, and just because “we demand it” doesn’t mean you should print it.
This can only end in tears.
WARNING: Spoilers for “One More Day,” Redwing’s secret past and how many lumps of super Peter Parker takes in his coffee. SHOCK!
This can only end in tears? Yep, that is a little harsh. After all, just one issue has come out and he’s supplying the reader’s demand to know what happened in the last story he wrote. What could Mary Jane have possibly whispered in Mephisto’s ear to force them apart? What was the one thing that snowballed into so much change?
From the looks of The Amazing Spider-Man #638, you got answers. Mary Jane says she’ll make the deal with Mephisto under the condition that the devil leaves Peter alone. Oh. No secret message to make this reversible? No “but meet us in a couple years and then we’ll defeat you”? No “Just wait until I go above your head and fix all of this”?
Having Mephisto leave Spider-Man alone after all of this is honestly kind of a given. The whole point of the bargain — I apologize for dredging this all up — was that Peter Parker’s marriage was the best marriage in the whole wide world, so Mephisto wanted it. He didn’t add anything about liking anything else about Peter Parker or that, hey, the dinette set looks nice, too. He wasn’t window shopping: He came for one thing and one thing only, and that was the marriage. So why would he come back if the most beautiful thing in Peter Parker’s life already belonged to him? Yes, he is the devil and he could think up something to come back for, maybe one of those double deals, but really. Mary Jane is honestly not a superhero or a secret mastermind, so maybe the lackluster “leave him alone” is true to character. But why make it a secret? Wouldn’t that have made better sense, and perhaps impacted the story, to reveal it back in “One More Day,” adding a little extra to the theme? Only one more day of Mephisto …?
Back to the issue for less speculating, more answers! MJ comes with a bottle of wine to unemployed Peter Parker’s shared apartment. And Peter makes tea. Oh, that’s Aunt May’s little boy! Peter tries to apologize, and Mary Jane seems to sort of poke at the idea of what could have been. Then they reminisce right into Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. Panels have been flipped, dialogue adjusted and all-new artwork included to show how one thug who gets away (with help from … Redwing?) ends up, well, squishing Spider-Man the night before his wedding, causing him to be late and feelings to be crushed.
We’re no strangers to retcons, but you know the rules and so do I: If you’re going to retroactively change continuity, there’s ways to do so that don’t change the general silhouette of the story or character. Take, for example, The Immortal Iron Fist. Seeing a lack of information on Danny Rand’s past, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction kept the essentials of his family murder trail to K’un-L’un but added depth to K’un-L’un itself and a legacy to Danny Rand. Bucky just used to be a boy sidekick for an American hero until Brubaker added in a dark element to having a teenage boy amongst the soldiers of World War II, then used the time he was never seen again to give him a terrible trial and rebirth as the Winter Soldier. You can change history all you like, just leave the bones of what you started with.
Taking an established issue, one that honestly got a lot of press and a good many people should have tucked away in their basements, and rewriting the actual book seems a little off to me. Like there’s a certain amount of respect missing. And it doesn’t go as smoothly as Quesada might believe: “If you’re not an astute comic book reader, you may not be able to tell the difference,” he told Comic Book Resources back in April. And maybe I’m not the astutest, but there is a major coloring problem as we go from “original work” to “never-before-seen footage.” Instead of recoloring the original work or returning to those tones used before, we get a hodgepodge that goes from Peter Parker starkly alone in a small bed, surrounded by white to him in the darkness of his apartment. Nitpicking? Why, yes! But it does show that every element of the comic is there to tell a story. Even empty white space.
The original story was written in 1987, so it has a very dated feel. Characters are drawn a certain way with certain fashions that let you know it was a long time ago when Peter Parker and Mary Jane were going to get married. Does this date or age them? Not really, since I remember Parker’s white disco leisure suit fondly but know that he still appears in his mid- to late 20s because this is comics. If you can have two Darrens on Bewitched, you can have Spider-Man remain youthful through the decades. So enjoy the dated feel! Put on that old black costume, shoulder-padded dresses and … a cell phone? Yeah, MJ borrows a cell phone from ol’ J. Jonah Jameson on the steps of the courthouse to try to find out whether Peter is home. Again, nitpicking at its finest, but if there is a visual that shakes me out of the narrative, it’s probably not a good idea. Take this and, say, the colors, the switch in styles when Harry Osborn is around, the fact that the now-infamous thug goes from being a blond muscle dude to being a dark-haired sadsack, and this whole idea doesn’t seem to be worth it.
Some secrets are better left kept, and if this continues, Quesada may have unburdened himself from his magnum opus, but left us with a lot more retconned baggage to carry.