Amazing Reviews: “One Moment in Time” (ASM 638-641)
Hot off the heels of the superb Gauntlet, Spidey fans are treated to, not just a filler issue, but an entire four-part filler arc. While there’s really only one more story arc following this one before Dan Slott takes over the book as the individual writer, and thus not enough time to set up another larger tale, this story seems to just come out of left field. Joe Quesada serves as both writer and supporting artist on this story, with the primary art coming from Paulo Rivera as well as illustrations lifted from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. That annual tells the story of the wedding between Peter Parker and Mary Jane, so knowing what we know about the whole One More Day retcon of their marriage, we should be prepared for what this story tackles.
I should get it off my chest right now that this will not be the happiest review of a comic book that you’ve ever read. Yes, I’ve been hard on some stories already—such as the Secret Invasion Spidey tie-in and the Morbius and Juggernaut portions of The Gauntlet—but this takes the cake, realizes that it’s allergic to cake, and throws it away. When I first read it, I don’t remember thinking it was all that bad. Rereading in preparation for this writing, with a more critical lens, I came to realize just how cornball and ridiculous this whole thing is. It borders on stupidity.
Put on your boots. We’ve got some mud to crawl through.
One Moment in Time, An Eternity of Retcons
But first, the necessary summation: thanks to everything going on with The Gauntlet, Peter has had little time for personal relationships, so now that everything with Kraven and his family is finished, Peter can focus on other things. Like the fact that he and Mary Jane briefly talked after the Chameleon incident but haven’t chatted since. Well, this story lays that all out. It’s their time to talk and settle what exactly went on between them, why their wedding didn’t work out.
So here’s the story: what Quesada does is return us to Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, where Spidey stops Electro and a bunch of crooks, webbing one guy named “Eddie” to a lamppost. However, whereas all the bad guys are hauled off to prison, Eddie gets away. How? A bird flies into a cop car and unlocks the doors.
That’s right—a bird.
To his credit, Eddie does express astonishment at this, but as I mentioned in the Secret Invasion tie-in post, just because your character or narrator comments on how ridiculous or inconceivable a plot point is, this doesn’t make your plot point automatically okay in the eyes of the readers.
Quesada follows this up with a couple of mish-mashed scenes of Paolo Rivera’s art combined with art from the annual, crafting this idea of doubt in both Mary Jane and Peter and taking cues from the original annual. For Peter, it’s the whole “last-girl-he-was-in-love-with-was-killed-by-his-arch-enemy” thing with Gwen, and for Mary Jane, it’s the problem of leaving high society and the partying life behind her. Peter thinks about Gwen and talks it up with Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson, and Mary Jane has her bachelorette party, one final shindig. Now, in the annual, it’s abundantly clear that this is supposed to be an internal conflict for both of them. Peter’s unsure if he can protect Mary Jane, especially after failing to protect Gwen, and he knows there are other challenges that come with marriage. Mary Jane wonders if leaving this lifestyle behind is the best decision for her. HOWEVER! However, however, however…both of them work through these struggles and decide that, yes, marriage is the best decision, that they can work this relationship and all the nuances out.
In his version, Quesada essentially beats the living tar out of this idea.
Beating the Living Tar Out of This Idea
Utilizing the art from the annual, Quesada considers this the jumping on point for why their relationship actually failed. Peter wasn’t sure if he could protect Mary Jane; Mary Jane didn’t want to leave the partying behind. It’s still conflict, but these doubts create cracks instead of reinforcing their love for one another. And then Eddie returns, battles Spidey, and both of them wind up unconscious, meaning Spidey misses the wedding.
Then we’re treated to this whole concept that Mary Jane, having been jilted at the altar, is going to call the whole thing off, primarily because Spidey got in the way of their love, once again. She also apparently reveals to Peter that the only reason—the only reason—she wanted to be married was to have kids, which, heck, doesn’t even require marriage to happen, right? But Peter doesn’t want that. If he’s going to love Mary Jane, he wants to take it all the way and be a married couple.
Break the Spell
Time passes. Events happen similarly to how they did pre-Mephisto, with Spidey unmasking and Aunt May being shot…but then what about his identity? How did Mephisto work that out? Simple. Peter plays the “magic whammy” card and has Dr. Strange perform a magical spell that, with the help of Tony Stark and Reed Richards, allows for the entire world to forget that Peter was Spider-Man. The whole time thing confused me for a little bit, but the way I saw it was like this: in the pre-Mephisto world, Peter still unmasked, Aunt May got shot, and so Spidey and Mary Jane made a pact with Mephisto to cause the world to forget who he was and erase their marriage. In the post-Mephisto world, therefore, everything happened as it did previously, with the exception of the wedding not happening, and Mephisto thus using Dr. Strange as the instrument for erasing the world’s memory of Spider-Man, unless Spidey unmasks in front of them. That’s one exception. The other is that Mary Jane still knows his identity, as revealed in the Mark Waid issue from a little bit ago, as desired by Peter.
MJ doesn’t like this. After Aunt May gets shot, a deceitful nurse at the hospital she’s at rats her out to the Kingpin, who was responsible for her near-death injury, and then Kingpin sends a hitman after Anna Watson, I suppose, to eliminate all those close to Spidey. The hitman? Eddie. He fails, of course, taken down by both Peter and MJ, and this is the decision that causes Spidey to go to Dr. Strange. MJ’s the exception, though, because he somehow thinks their love is strong enough—even after the failed wedding?—to get them through this. He’s wrong, though, and MJ leaves. She doesn’t want to remember what happened, it’s hard for her, so she gets the heck out.
The tale ends in the present, with Peter and MJ having worked out their differences and being fine with being friends. This leaves Peter the opportunity to pursue other relationships, which he will eventually do very soon. It also ends the whole “how the heck did everyone forget Peter was Spidey?” mystery that’s been teased periodically this whole time.
The second part of this story, admittedly, is not awful. Dr. Strange’s shenanigans are an interesting and, I guess, plausible way to get the world to forget Spidey is Peter. Charles Soule recently did something similar with Matt Murdock and Daredevil, but his method makes waaay more sense, but given that this is a comic book, I suppose an all-powerful magical incantation will work. It’s the first part that I think is absolutely ridiculous. Did anyone want to learn the exact reason MJ and Peter aren’t together anymore? Maybe a few, but it’s not necessary. In doing so, Quesada purposefully tears apart the annual; the implication of its nonexistence is bad enough, but Quesada targets specific panels to fit into his story, ruining their meaning completely.
Look at these two for an example, one from the annual, the other from Quesada’s story.
In the panels from the annual, we get Peter shouting MJ’s name before rushing in, apologizing for being late. All the worries about him being there are gone; the groom’s arrived, let the wedding commence. But for some inexplicable reason, Quesada changes it. Panel 1 is the same, save for the fact that the original Mary Jane is replaced by Paolo Rivera’s version (which, I’ll admit, is a cool idea, blending the old and the new), but Panel 2 now has…Anna Watson berating MJ? Was this a ploy to trick readers into thinking “Oh, here comes Peter,” when it wasn’t? It’s just dumb and feels hokey and forced.
Likewise, there are several problems with the rest of the story, even if the basic premise of it wasn’t as incredibly stupid as it already is and even if Quesada didn’t totally malign the original annual. Like I said already, a bird—a little bird—flies into the window of the cop car and lets Eddie get away. In his confrontation with Spidey, he and the hero are both knocked unconscious; Eddie wakes up first but, eh, decides not to kill Spidey. Nice coincidence there. MJ’s argument for calling off their relationship fits the whole “I can’t be with you so long as you’re a superhero” trope that was boring when Christopher Nolan did it in Batman Begins years earlier. At one point, Aunt May flatlines and is only revived by Peter doing chest compressions, not nearly as cool as when Daredevil does it to that Russian mobster in his Netflix show. The doctor’s explanation? “Love.” Uh…nice sentiment, doc, but hardly medically sound.
In other places, Spidey conveniently saves MJ before she’s shot in the head, MJ and Peter trade childish barbs about shaving Dr. Strange’s mustache (“Stop it, you did not!” must be the epitome of this exchange, with Quesada’s high schooler rendition of Mary Jane’s voice off-putting and a fantastic reminder of why he edits and doesn’t write on a regular basis), and there’s the whole “I just want kids” argument that really puts a damper on the love between these two characters. Mephisto’s involvement is teased in the story—through the fact the bird that saves Eddie is red, the traitorous nurse wears red, and Eddie later makes a deal with a man in a red tie—so that’s a nice touch, artistically, but this is really something I noticed, so I’m not 100% Quesada intended this. If he did, nice, I appreciate it, but that’s all the good I can say about it.
One More Day was a dumb idea, with Quesada ending Straczynski’s near-perfect run on a blubbery whimper that still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of fans. As I stated in that post, I don’t despise the change, I’ve learned to live with it. But for some reason, Quesada felt like he needed to defend himself and gave us this story. Granted, he did explain why nobody remembers that Peter is Spidey, but that’s where the good parts of the story end.
Did I really need to know how exactly Mephisto ended the relationship between MJ and Peter? No. Did I need to learn that it was through a series of random and illogical conveniences involving the luckiest thug on the planet and his dumb bird sidekick, Mary Jane’s stubborn personality, and her desire to only want children and thus not even need the process of matrimony to be with Peter? Heck, no. Character assassination all around! And did Joe Quesada, in his errant attempt to somehow make peace with readers in a story that’s actually worse than the tale he tried to defend, have to tell us all this in a four-part story that manages to rip another issue to shreds in the process? No, nope, nuh-uh, no way.
“No friggin’ way.” That’s what Eddie says when the bird unlocks the doors to the police cruiser, enabling him to escape police custody and screw up Peter’s life. It’s a similar sentiment to what I’ve thought about this story after reading it.
Amazing Spider-Man: One Moment in Time
© 2017 Nathan Kiehn