The Infinite Spider-Man Part 5.8: Minor Complaints About OMD

Posted by Mister Mets 02 November 2011

Last time, I suggested that whether One More Day was a good story or now was ultimately minor concern. So it seems like an appropriate time to address other minor complaints about the storyline, and the changes to the characters.

It Happened in The Flash

When One More Day came out, one common criticism was about how similar it is to something which occurred during Geoff Johns’s run on The Flash. In the two hundredth issue of that title, Wally West begged the Spectre to erase the world’s knowledge of his secret identity and the Spectre changed the world so that no one knew that West or Barry Allen had ever been the Flash. Of course, Marvel had done some similar stories years before that. Decades ago, in Captain America, the Space Phantom made the world forget that Steve Rogers was Captain America. Doctor Strange also had a role in making the world forget that the Sentry ever existed in that mini-series. House of M was another example of reality warps playing a significant role in the Marvel Universe.

I haven't seen this complaint in a few years, probably because the status quo of the Flash books has been rather crazy, and because there have been more of these types of retcons since OMD, notably DC's Flashpoint mini-series. When DC follows in the footsteps of OMD, the argument that the earlier incident was derivative seems kinda weak.

If the new DCU is determined to have been a bad decision in the long term, I'm sure there will be some new arguments about how anyone responsible for OMD should also be blamed for that one.

The Simpsons Analogy

I've seen this particular argument a few times. Some compared retconning the marriage in the Spider-Man books to hypothetical Simpsons writers deciding to shake-up the series by retconning away Homer’s marriage to Marge and making him single. It's a poorly-thought comparison. While Homer is a popular character, he’s not the sole protagonist of The Simpsons, which has always been about one nuclear family, with very limited changes to the dynamics. Making Homer single wouldn't bring the show back to its most popular period, or any earlier era. It would create a status quo the show has never seen before, at the cost of great and popular characters (IE- Bart, Lisa and their friends.)

The Simpsons as a show is unlikely to last as long as the Spider‑Man comics, so there's less concern about the quality of episodes twenty‑five years from now. If the show's still around then, one big reason will be that it has never really changed from its initial status quo (dim‑witted father, loving yet exasperated wife, troublesome son, brainy daughter, baby, dog, cat.) A more appropriate application of the Spider-Man to Simpsons comparison is noting the success of a series which hasn’t noticeably changed from its roots.

Real Life

Some fans of the marriage want to know why those who think the book is better with a single Peter Parker think he can’t get a girl like Mary Jane. Personally, I'm pretty sure he could. He’s handsome, witty, intelligent, kind and in great shape. He’s the type of guy who could and should marry the babe.

Whether Peter would get married and become a father (like the vast majority of men in the world) is a meaningless argument that has nothing to do with the narrative weaknesses of the marriage or storytelling benefits of keeping Peter Parker single. The things that are great in real life (loving wife, stable job, happy family) just don’t make for compelling fiction, especially since there are likely hundreds if not thousands of stories left for the Marvel Universe Spider-Man.

To beat the comparison to death, nearly 95-percent of police officers have never fired a gun during their entire careers. All things being equal, I would rather watch a movie about a cop who gets into a shoot-out. This should be not be interpreted as a desire to put actual police officers in danger.

The Healer Question

One of the complaints about One More Day that I see most often is that Peter Parker should never have been in a position to make a deal with Mephisto, as a magical healer should have been able to save Aunt May. Personally, I wasn't bothered by this. There was a scene in which Spider-Man visited various superheroes and supervillains to ask for help. Presumably if the New Mutant Elixir had been able to help Aunt May, Beast would have told him so in his brief cameo.

Plus, anyone complaining that someone like Iron Fist should be able to heal a gunshot wound forgets that Aunt May's condition was stabilized in Back in Black. The gunshot wound wasn't the problem anymore; it was the coma. And considering how doctors are often unable to revive the comatose, it seems too much to expect a magical healer to be able to solve that problem. Presumably the use of healing powers requires the guy to know what he's doing. An irony is that the people most likely to complain about this are also pretty likely to have a low opinion of the logic of "It's magic, we don't have to explain it."

It also restricts the writers to insist that in these types of situations, they should introduce plot points from other titles and then explain why it hasn't affected the main narrative. It brings the story to a standstill, for something that concerns a small number of readers.

Straczynski Nearly Disowned the Story

Some detractors have used comments by writer J. Michael Straczynski for ammunition to criticize OMD. Shortly before the final part of One More Day was to come out, JMS revealed that he had considered taking his name off the final two parts of the story. Some asked whether or not his actions were disrespectful to Marvel, although I didn’t see how. He didn't explicitly insult the story or anyone at Marvel. He didn't raise the issue, but responded to a question. He told the truth as he saw it. He made sure to mention that he was convinced that Joe Quesada was doing what he believed was best for Spider‑Man. He had every reason to correct the erroneous assumptions.

If JMS really wanted to trash the story, there was more he could have done. He didn't have to write the story, and could have insisted to have his name taken off. I'm sure Marvel could've found a last minute replacement. Someone like Mark Millar would probably have taken the job, and there were all sorts of excuses Marvel could use to explain away Straczynski’s departure (for example, the Clint Eastwood Directed Angelina Jolie film he was writing.) For all the claims that Marvel could sue him for breach of contract, I can’t think of a single instance in which they’ve done that. His comments even increased the buzz for the final chapter of the story.

Presumably, if you disliked One More Day, JMS's comments will only reinforce that opinion. If you somehow liked the story, I doubt that you'd change your mind upon learning that he considered taking his name off of it. Especially since his concerns were quite specific, and differed from those of many of the readers.

How Did One More Day Affect Other Stories?

Some complained that One More Day should have affected many of the great Spider‑Man stories of the past, which hinged on other people learning Spider‑Man’s identity (“The Kid Who Collects Spider‑Man,” “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” and any Venom or Harry Osborn Green Goblin story came to mind.) There was no suggestion that the spell from OMIT would retroactively affect the actions of individuals who learned Spider‑Man's identity and then died or somehow forgot it, as that had nothing to do with Spider‑Man's Civil War problems, and would have ruined classic stories in an unnecessary manner, as opposed to undoing the marriage, which would ruin significantly less classic stories in what I believe to be a necessary manner.

Of course, there's a more aggressive version of the argument.

The Last Twenty years Never Happened! (Circa 2007)

The suggestion that the twenty years of Spider-Man comics in which Peter and MJ were together no longer mattered ignores the care Quesada took to preserve most elements of the backstory. While what's on the page is a little different from what the characters experienced after the retcon, in most cases, it’s a minor change in par with anachronisms.

The changes to continuity aren't that complicated. Instead of Peter being married to MJ, they lived together. MJ wasn't pregnant during the Clone Saga. Flash Thompson volunteered to join the military; he was not drafted. Peter Parker did not go on Johnny Carson to promote his book Webs. And most of those details aren't relevant in the typical fight between Spider-Man and the Spider Slayers. It can also be said that if you enjoyed the stories, they mattered, something for some DC fans to remember when complaining about changes to that universe Post-Flashpoint.

The Reference to “No One Knowing Spider-Man’s identity”

The first Brand New Day issue included a two page primer on the new status quo by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. Some have argued that a mistake in those pages demonstrates that the rules in flux. It was explicitly said that no one knew Spider-Man's identity. Expect it later turned out that Mary Jane did know. So, this was one unambiguous mistake from the Brand New Day era (101 issues, two annuals, three extras, various mini-series and other projects). And it happened in the first issue, which is usually when stuff is the least defined for the writers and editors. Suggesting that this represented all subsequent Spider-Man comics represents a level of scrutiny most books can't withstand.

Does Something Feel “Off” with Peter Parker?

At CBR, there was a 1000+ post discussion about the intangible question of whether Peter Parker seems like a different character since One More Day. This is something that bothered several readers, and some speculated that it may be intentional, a soon to be dealt with ramification of One More Day.

I think it's the result of three things happening at the same time. Peter Parker was suddenly single again in 2008, when the standards for what you can do with a flagship comic book character were different than in the late 1980s. And he was written by slightly younger writers, which results in a different take on the character. J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote Amazing Spider-Man from 2001-2007 was just two years younger than Gerry Conway, who followed Stan Lee on the title in 1972! The majority of the major Spider-Man writers were close in age to these guys (Bill Mantlo, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, David Micheline, Peter David, Tom Defalco, Howard Mackie, Roger Stern.) A few other prominent writers were British (Mark Millar, Paul Jenkins) so the Brand New Day era marked the first time the character was written mostly by younger (even if some were born in the 1960s) Americans, which can result in a different feel for the characters.

There was also a marked change in the philosophical approach regarding the direction of the Spider-Man comics.


Much of the discussion about One More Day and its consequences, the actual quality of the story was mostly ignored. An indication of this was the review of the first three parts of OMD from Variety’s Bags and Boards blog which mostly dealt with dealt with fan reaction, and concerns over what may happen in the fourth part. Two sentences described the quality of the content, without going into specifics.
Quesada is undeniably a talented penciller, and the script from the departing J. Michael Straczynski tries very hard to execute a concept that’s a hugely difficult pill to swallow in just about every way.
Even the parts that mention what happened in the story focus more on consequences.
Aside from Mephisto not being the type of villain that works in Spider‑Man stories, this strains credulity and raises more questions than it answers about how Marvel intends to go forward with the character and his place in the entire Marvel Universe.
At least on message boards, comic book fans seem more upset about what happens in a story rather than how ts told. Some fans sum up the clone saga as Peter hitting Mary Jane and Marvel revealing that the Spider‑Man most readers grew up with isn't the real deal, ignoring that much of the clone saga was also atrociously told, which made it significantly worse than One More Day (or Sins Past or The Other) when reviewed in terms of craft. This seems to explain why many of the people complaining about One More Day were willing to buy every $4 issue, while vowing to ignore what came next. They’re concerned with the general status quo rather than the quality of specific stories.

If you disliked the notion of a retcon so much you were willing to drop the next creative teams, you weren’t going to care for a well written one. A poorly written retcon does add insult to injury
and an excellent storyline might have converted some undecided readers, with ties to Spider-Man’s history or at least earlier elements of JMS’s run to make such a dramatic change to the status quo more convincing as the payoff to his run. The effects of either scenario were somewhat minimized as J Michael Straczynski was not writing Brand New Day, which began with a complete changing of the creative teams.

Personally, I enjoyed the first two parts of "One More Day" and I disagree with the oft-mentioned notion that nothing happened. The first issue tied up some key relationships (Peter/ Tony, Jarvis/ May) and resolved the immediate problem of getting Aunt May stable medical care, while the second established that no one Spider‑Man knew could help him and featured a nice mindbender with Doctor Strange. It wasn’t until the third part that we received a significant indication into how the likely retcon is going to occur.

The portrayal of the alternate versions of Peter Parker in the third issue and its implications hasn’t been discussed much. I like the billionaire's comments about drinking, as it nicely compliments the teetotaler we’re all familiar with. The girl the billionaire remembers from high school is meant to be Mary Jane, but can't be anyone other than Liz Allen. In this case, Mary Jane's not presented as particularly essential to Peter, if another woman can fill the void. The computer designer version of Peter Parker is painful, resembling what young comic fans definitely don't want to become.

The two alternate versions of Peter do work in the context of JMS's repeated theme that Peter Parker was always meant to be a hunter and always "angry.” The revelation that Peter Parker's usually destined to end alone is unsettling, and a rather depressing set up to “Brand New Day." My take (and I can't fault JMS for having a different interpretation) is that Peter Parker will usually have a happy ending (wife, kids, etc) but the demands of serial fiction mean that the comics shouldn't show him getting that. It is worth noting that Mephisto is a renowned liar and that Mary Jane’s deal with the devil in the last part gives Peter the possibility of happiness.

There was an unsatisfying element concerning the plotting of One More Day. Writers may spend less time than many readers prefer dealing with the ramifications of a story. They also sometimes spend significant real estate (every page is valuable) setting up major plot beats that readers know are coming.

One More Day would be an example of that. The first two and a half issues of that storyline, which was the culmination of a 60+ issue run, were spent getting Peter Parker to the place where he would consider a deal that would bring his marriage to an end. Due to various promotional images, pretty much every reader who picked up the book knew that particular beat was coming. So they were more likely to be disappointed with the issues that were setting up that beat. What was expected to be the focus of the story was instead the final act.

There were some behind the scenes reasons for other flaws in the story, including a mad scramble after JMS delivered a script for the last two parts that was quite from what Joe Quesada, his artist and editor, expected. Though, the end result was still customers buying a book that wasn't as strong as it could have been.

It is reasonable to hold One More Day to a higher standard than the typical comic book. Because it was so important to the characters, it's going to be read more often than the typical four issue arc. And it was also the conclusion of a popular writer's run on the series, so expectations were quite high. It's a discouraging reminder for readers that a run they're enjoying may not end well, which may cause a few to be less forgiving of weak periods in books they follow.

But the quality of the story was ultimately a minor concern.


Venom # 8

Posted by bulletproofsponge

Venom # 8 - the issue that takes place just before the start of Amazing Spider-Man 672.  Overall a pretty good issue, although story wise, not too much took place.

The Story
It starts with Reed Richards confirming with those at Project: Rebirth that a cure has been found using Anti-Venom's antibodies. The Spider-King, aka Captain America is then injected with a whole lot of fluids that should heal him.

Back at the hospital, Flash and Betty have just witnessed Flash's father's death. Flash appears to be zoned out a little. Betty eventually gets his attention and passes him a letter his father wrote, just in case he never made it to the hospital. Before Flash can read the letter, (well, it isn't stated in black and white that Flash never read it) he gets a call from "work." He has been ordered to terminate The Queen.

Once again, Flash leaves Betty alone at the hospital. He gives her a gun to protect herself in case any "spiders" come in.

Throughout the rest of the issue, we pretty much see Venom getting his ass kicked around by the Queen. As readers we also find out what was written in the letter from Flash's dad. He essentially tells his son sorry for being a lousy father, and that how Flash is a greater man than he was. Most notably, he tells Flash to marry Betty, have a family since love is all that matters. Whether Flash ever read the letter we don't know, but the letter got burnt in a fire during the fight.

Flash is about to be killed when Capt America Steve Rogers appears to save him. Capt doesn't do too well either, who is then saved by Venom who sticks Capt's shield through the Queen. As we see in ASM 672, she dies, but then morphs into a 28-floor high spider.

It's a really simple story, that can really be summed up in a lot less words that I've just written. Once again we see Flash, struggling to juggle between work and his personal life - much like a certain web slinger we know.  Flash's father has noticed this and tried to give some good advice to his son. Unfortunately, I have a gut feeling that Flash never read the letter. As the title continues we'll see what will become of Flash and whether or not he will be able to control his inner demons like his father said he could.


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