Wednesday, September 22, 2010

David & Jason Go to the Comics

In the great tradition of people who imagine others will value their opinions, we will be starting a critic segment here at These Gentlemen. Since former Gentleman Adam Winer already has movies handled, it seems fitting that we should instead tackle that finest of literary mediums - the comic book. And few are better suited to handle the task than myself and former/founding Gentleman, Jason Heat.

A few years ago, Marvel Commander-in-Chief Joe Quesada decided that Spider-Man needed to return to his roots - being a the greatest super-hero of them all in his secret identity, and a lonely loser in his civilian one. The problem was that Peter Parker was married to Mary Jane Watson, a supermodel/actress wholly devoted to standing by her man. Peter and Mary Jane have been in love since the 70s, and were married in 1987. Some people were unhappy with this decision, saying that it was rushed in response to Stan Lee (writer of the Spider-Man newspaper comic) marrying them in his strip. However, even before this happened, Peter had already proposed to Mary Jane twice - he really wanted to marry this girl.

So Quesada decided that the kids of today were being robbed of the chance to experience Spider-Man as he was written from 1963 until 1987. An Amazing, Spectacular, sometimes Sensational super-hero with no luck whatsoever as a regular guy. So in making Spider-Man accessible, in his mind, to the kids of today, he took away the Spider-Man everyone who's been reading the comic for the last 20 years grew up or grew old with.

But to his credit, the stories which emerged from the storyline which split them apart, One More Day, were actually some of the best Spider-Man stories in years. Unfortunately, One More Day hinged on Peter and Mary Jane making a deal with the devil to erase their marriage in exchange for saving Aunt May's life. So, if you ever need a solid example of what the expression "pillars of salt" means, there you have it. Readers were just starting to get over the embarrassment to the characters and story-telling in general that was One More Day when Quesada had another great idea - let's show everyone exactly what happened that caused Peter and Mary Jane to never get married. We'll call the storyline O.M.I.T; One Moment in Time.

Below, I and my compatriot will critique this story - like Gentlemen.

Jason: What is this BULLSHIT.

David: So that ruins two characters in one story. Well done, Joe Quesada.

Jason: This whole thing is ridiculous for so many reasons. One, this whole story is just a giant justification for One More Day.

David: So it's more for making the writers - or writer, as the case may be - feel good about himself rather than actually tell a good story.

Jason: It's a terrible story! Why would Spider-Man make a deal with the devil? That doesn't make any sense! And this is how they resolve what happened? She's not strong enough to be with him.

David: Yeah, at which point one has to point out that Quesada has said that everything which has come before is still canon.

Still canon.

David: So if nothing has changed except for the fact that they weren't married, they still went through everything - including Mary Jane getting pregnant - together. All the toughest times they endured which proved time and time again Mary Jane was the perfect woman for him were all made moot by . . . what? That they weren't actually married? That makes her not strong enough suddenly?

Jason: No, of course not. It's stupid - it's the worst, most inept attempt at storytelling because there were so many ways to bring us to this point. If you really wanted to break up Mary Jane and Peter there are a dozen ways to do it, but to have him make a deal with the devil? How did that even get considered as an option? And this story was just told to try and put a spin on it; "oh, you see, they were both flawed the whole time, this marriage could never really survive."

The mask hides the loathing.

David: Which is just . . . I mean, come on, Quesada.

Jason: And here's the thing; Joe Quesada has obviously made some really good - even exceptional - moves as head of Marvel. The company is doing really well right now because of his choices. But he wanted to move Spider-Man back into the stories he knew growing up, of Peter Parker as a down-on-his-luck loser. So he's going to move him out of his marriage, because being married to a model is just too much luck for poor 'ol Peter . . . and have him sleep with a bunch of gorgeous women instead.

David: And how is Spider-Man dating around moving him back into his old persona? How old are we talking here, anyway? Mary Jane has been around since 1966. Between Mary Jane, Gwen Stacy, and the Black Cat the last 50 years have been a whole lot of committed relationships.

Jason: Exactly! This isn't even going back to anything! J. Jonah Jameson's the mayor? The Daily Bugle got blown up? Spidey's an Avenger now? How is any of this the same as before the wedding? How could none of these stories be told without Mary Jane and Peter still being married?

David: Alright, wait. Let's focus just on this as a story.

Jason: I'll try.

David: So - we're filling in the missing chunks of the story. One More Day breaks up Mary Jane and Peter, One Moment in Time fills in all the gaps.

Jason: Which didn't need to be filled.

David: Que?

Jason: Okay - One Moment in Time wasn't bad. Until the end - the ending was complete garbage. Like, the worst trite I have seen in a long time. "It feels like a Brand New Day?" Come on. Come on! You have to have the character say the title of the series? I hate that. It's so lazy, it's so trite. "Brand New Day" is the theme of all the post-One More Day stories. I get it. I'm not an idiot.

David: We're getting off-topic.

Jason: Right - okay, the story didn't need filling in. Most of the important stuff has already been talked about; how Harry Osborn came back, where Mary Jane has been, and so forth. Mephisto broke up the marriage, some things changed, that's really all we needed. We didn't need an essay describing why it all still makes sense. We're comic book fans - we're willing to accept a certain amount of story "just because."

David: Yes, I agree. This whole thing started out well enough; it shows exactly what happened at the wedding so they never got married. The thing that changed was a bird - whom I think we can assume was Mephisto - flew in to a cop car and hit the door latch, releasing a crook Spider-Man had just captured. That crook goes on to be in just the right place in just the right time to make Peter miss the wedding, and MJ leaves him.

Jason: I mean, stood up at your wedding - that's pretty big. I can agree with that justification. But then they KEEP GOING. And it doesn't make any sense. The whole story, operating on the premise that everything which came before it still happened - just gets worse as it goes along. And then the explanation of how they got rid of everyone's memories . . .

David: Yes, because the two most iron-clad excuses in comics; "it's science" or "a wizard did it."

A wizard did science - THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.

Jason: Ugh.

David: What really bothers me the most is that some really great stories came out of One More Day, whether or not we want to admit it. People were just about ready to forget about it and move on, and then they bring this up again.

Jason: And Quesada for some reason thinks this is brilliant.

David: He had broken them up earlier, too, and the very first thing J. Michael Straczynski did when he took over the title was put them back together: because Peter Parker NEEDS Mary Jane.

Jason: Clark Kent is married to Lois Lane, that doesn't seem to really make the character suffer.

David: Right, but Spider-Man being married ages the character.

Jason: Oh, I forgot young people never get married.

David: I'm happy you managed to contain your impressive rage through this.

Jason: Honestly? I'm not really mad anymore, I'm just really tired of all this. The only thing I was interested in finding out was what Mary Jane whispered to Mephisto, and it turned out to just be some unimportant line about her going along with it.

David: What would have REALLY been interesting is if she had agreed to remember everything and promised to make sure they never got married again.

Jason: That WOULD be interesting.

David: But that's not what they did.

Jason: Nope, Satan and magic science, that's where it's at. Now let's go watch Spider-Man's pathetic life of screwing girls in spandex.

David: And that's all for today folks. Join us again the next time we go to the comics.

Jason: I take it back - I AM still mad.

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