Rave : 2008 : Spider-Man Unmasked... A Missed Opportunity

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You'll have heard by now that, in the wake of "One More Day", Peter Parker's secret identity is a secret once more. Mephisto has pushed the cosmic reset button, and everyone has forgotten that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. With this move, the era that began in Civil War #2 draws to a close. The end of that issue, which showed Peter Parker unmasking before the world, was a shocker, because it made the fans ask how the world would react when it learned that Spider-Man was, and always had been, Peter Parker.

We knew it couldn't last, of course, and that eventually the genie would be put back in the bottle. But I, at least, welcomed the move, because it would allow Marvel to tell all sorts of stories it had never been able to tell before, where Spider-Man's extensive supporting cast could reflect on Parker's dual identity. How would each of them react? Would they be angry? Shocked? Pleased? Would it confirm their suspicions? How would their relationship to Peter change? How would their attitude toward Spider-Man change? Beyond the cast, there was scope to tell all sorts of new stories: Peter could finally be thanked by the people he'd saved, cursed or sued by those whose property he'd damaged, assaulted by old foes in his civilian identity, and so on. Late 2006 looked like it would be an exciting time to be a SpiderFan.

But the payoff never came. There was a quick round of stories under the rubric "Spider-Man Unmasked": one revolving around some nerd in Peter's class coming to terms with his teacher's identity; two revolving around some second- or third-tier villains attacking Peter in his civilian life; and one, arguably the best, where Peter's old flame Deb Whitman wrote a tell-all book about him (that also featured a second-tier villain attacking Peter in his civilian life). After that, the merry-go-round of "Civil War", "Back in Black", "One More Day", etc. etc. took over. With Peter a fugitive from the Registration Act, the circle of the supporting cast shrunk to include only MJ and Aunt May, and the space to tell interesting stories that ramified Peter's decision to go public with his identity closed up. And now, it seems, that space is gone entirely.

I, for one, am disappointed. There were so many moments I wanted to see, and we got none of them, or at least got them in such a minor or secondhand way that they made no impression on me. Did we ever see, for example:

  1. Betty Brant realize why her relationship with Peter when they were teenagers didn't work out;
  2. Anyone at all put the pieces together around Norman Osborn, Peter Parker, and Gwen Stacy's death, and realize what sort of burden Peter has been carrying;
  3. Anyone in the Sinister Six realize they had their butts kicked by a mere child;
  4. Doc Ock realize that he almost married his greatest foe's mother; or
  5. J. Jonah Jameson confront Peter, in any serious way, about the years of deceit Peter practiced on him?

For my money the last omission is the worst. Sure we saw Jonah rant and rave, but a serious encounter between Peter and JJJ would have made a great read, and would be the most interesting thing anyone's done with JJJ in years. Not since Amazing Spider-Man volume 1: #10, I think, has Jonah's antipathy to Spider-Man been probed in any serious way, and discovering that Spider-Man was someone that he, Jameson, knew well would have made for a great story. And there were seeds of such a story: didn't JJJ sue Peter for fraud, or something? The very fact that I'm foggy on the details suggests that the story didn't get the play it deserved.

Anyone else feel that the past year was one gigantic missed opportunity? What would you like to have seen that you didn't?