Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #639

Background

During the events of Marvel’s Civil War, Peter Parker decided to share his secret identity with the world. The fallout from that act included the Kingpin targeting Peter—a sniper’s bullet meant for Pete caught Aunt May instead. With May at death’s door, a distraught Pete, willing to do anything save May, made a pact with Mephisto who saved Aunt May’s life. In return, Mephisto undid Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane.

Last issue, Mephisto granting Peter’s (or was it MJ's now?) wish altered the timeline of history—a thug Spidey helped take down, Eddie Muerte, escaped police custody with Mephisto’s help. Spidey intervened on Eddie’s later attack on his arresting officer, and ended up getting waylayed by Eddie, causing Peter to miss his morning wedding to Mary Jane as a result.

Story 'Something New'

  Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #639 (Story 1)
Arc: Part 2 of 'One Moment In Time' (1-2-3-4)
Editor: Steven Wacker
Writer/Artist: Joe Quesada (addt. art pgs 1, 11, 21 - 24)
Artist: Paolo Rivera
Inker: Danny Miki
Cover Art: Paolo Rivera
Lettering: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Richard Isanove
Articles: Watson, Anna

Peter and Mary Jane are talking in present time—discussing their shared past. Mary Jane claims she never knew the story of why Peter missed their wedding day told last issue—when Peter retorts that she never asked, she asks in return whether knowing would’ve even mattered?

Flashback to the wedding day morning—an impressive splash page detailing a black-costumed Spidey holding his aching head on the roof of the courthouse. The wedding party below has dispersed, voices of the stragglers below damn Peter for being a loser, for leaving MJ at the altar, and Aunt Ana apologizes to Aunt May for introducing Peter and MJ in the first place.

Spidey tries to reach MJ via his cell phone—the answering message is all he gets, “Hi, this is the future Mrs. Peter Parker..”. Spidey smashes his cell phone in rage. In desperation, he swings over to her apartment, finding it empty. He arrives at his own apartment later, going unconscious. He finds Mary Jane there on his couch, crying in her wedding dress. She asks if he got cold feet, and if she really means that little to him. He tries to explain, but she cuts him off, telling Pete to “take that damn thing off if you want to speak to me”, meaning the mask.

As Peter removes his mask to reveal his bruised face, MJ recoils and says she can’t take it anymore. She says she has her own reservations, about his alter-ego coming between them, that she doesn’t want to be Spidey’s wife, but Peter’s. She stops just short of asking him to give up the life, before Pete cuts her off saying “I can’t.”

She calls him a bastard, throws the mask in his face and storms out. In present time, Peter says he thought he would never see her again after that. MJ says she thought the same, and goes into her own version of events after their fight. In flashback, Mary Jane’s having an outdoor lunch with Aunt Ana, indeterminately later. Ana sticks up for Peter, saying that what Peter did was terrible, but doesn’t change the fact that he’s a good man. She asks Mary Jane to think about what made her want to marry Peter in the first place.

Later, MJ is outside Peter’s apartment door, saying she didn’t realize until the wedding mishap how much Spider-man comes between them (who talks that long to a closed door?). He lets her in, his place is a mess. She says she needs to say something—she wants kids with Pete. She says she always imagined them having kids since she first fell for him, “Boy or girl?” asks Peter—followed by a panel snapshot of the little redheaded girl from One More Day. Mary Jane responds that it doesn’t matter now, and says she’s come to realize that she would never bring a child into a life like theirs, mentioning her own abusive father and the abuse that Peter’s duties in the suit bring down on her now. She says she doesn’t need to be married to him if they’re not considering kids, and that he can never ask her to marry him again—not unless he’s prepared to give up the heroics. They decide to at least rekindle their romance.

Back in the present, Peter pinpoints where it went wrong—his unmasking, and Aunt May getting shot. Peter’s walking back from Doctor Strange’s (in a flashback to the One More Day era), to the hospital where May is. He tells MJ he failed, that Strange couldn’t do anything magical to undo what happened. MJ tells him he has to be ready, that he has to face his Aunt dying—when suddenly they hear the “eeeeeee” of her life monitor reading zero. They rush in to her hospital room where the doctors try to save May, but can’t, and begin to call her time of death. Peter rushes in and administers CPR—nothing, but then a faint blip, and May’s vitals are back to normal. An astounded MJ, looking on, asks how he did it?

General Comments

Let’s forget for a moment that Mary Jane is a woman who knows she’s dating one of the most endangered superheroes around—let’s forget that, because not only is she willing to marry him, but is fantasizing about a family with him. Spidey taking a brick to the head last issue causes him to miss their wedding--that plus MJ wanting to have kids and knowing they can’t—these things are the catalyst for altering time and history? It doesn’t compute, even though MJ says herself she “didn’t think it through”.

Mary Jane is basically the doormat of the year with this story. While the carefree-partygirl-image-masking-vulnerability thing is the key to MJ’s character and all, how she’s portrayed here borders on pathetic, making her seem a bit one-dimensional and weak. There was no heretofore indication that her character was baby-hungry and marrying Pete to start a family—if anything, doubts about them having kids was always the norm (check out Spider-man Vol. 1 #15 if you don’t believe me). This sort of sexist stereotyping of MJ is what made her such an ineffective character during the marriage years—she always seemed sassier and tougher than that to me. This development is a huge step backward for MJ. And by the end of this issue, they decide to get them together again and everything between then and post-Back In Black, One More Day-era Spider-man is glossed over, at least for now. Huh?

Is it mere humiliation, of being left alone at the alter, that forces MJ to rethink her being wed to Peter? It seems too simplistic. This is a woman who knew of the dangers she faced being a part of Spider-man’s life—dangers she’s discussed at length with Peter long before the 1987 wedding issue.

Fred Van Lente’s explanation (in Amazing Spider-man Vol. 1 #605 ) of why MJ and Peter split sometime around the start of Brand New Day—with MJ comparing her life to Peter’s heroic achievements and coming up short—is far better thought-out and more progressive for MJ than this.

There’s also the matter of the creepy redheaded girl from OMD—the implication being that she is MJ and Peter’s daughter who never existed due to the alteration of the timeline—and what role she may play in this story.

Moreover, Peter acknowledges here that outside of letting Gwen die, his unmasking was the biggest mistake he ever made—I find that statement very telling. Marvel essentially painted themselves into a corner with the identity reveal, and it led the way to stories like this. We have now seen how the marriage didn’t happen; what remains to be seen is how Peter made the world (and many of his friends and foes, besides Mary Jane) forget his identity, and how this “psychic blindspot” that keeps people from knowing who Spidey is under the mask works.

At least Rivera’s artwork continues to be a thing of awe here—never too over the top or over stylized, but still insanely detailed. His panel spreads of MJ seeing Peter everywhere as Spidey, on video screens and news stations while she’s walking down the street or while she’s being pampered for a modeling shoot, are perfectly rendered—with his take on Mary Jane being a very modern and appealing variation on artist John Romita’s MJ. It’s a great thing having Mary Jane back in these issues--she needs to be a regular part of the cast again.

Fantastic art doesn’t make a perfect story of course, and many aspects of OMIT are starting to grate—particularly the frame story showing Peter and MJ talking in the present. Also now Peter has revived the dying Aunt May by his own hands—not sure what plot development will come out of this, but it was an odd hook of an ending to be sure.

Overall Rating

I don’t want to fully judge this storyline until all four parts are in hand, but this issue doesn’t bode well for things to come. Last issue showed writer / Marvel EIC Joe Quesdeda wasn’t shy about altering existing story lines, now he shows he’s willing to butcher character motivation in service of his vision of a single Spider-man.

I don’t think I’m overstating it by saying that so far, much like OMD, OMIT is a needlessly regressive storyline that is quickly sliding off the tracks the longer it goes, gobbling up established continuity while smacking longtime readers in the face. I for one never considered myself pro or anti-marriage when it comes to Peter and MJ (I just want good Spider-man stories)—but I do like when creators find ways to work within the existing continuity. Changing the continuity in this manner just comes off as the worst sort of cop-out.

As stated, the art is nice, so 1.5 webs mainly for that.