Grady Scraps, Peter Parker’s colleague at Horizon Labs, has built a ‘doorway to tomorrow’: a door that takes one into the Horizon Labs’ break room, but 24 hours into the future. Grady used it to retrieve a copy of tomorrow’s Daily Bugle, but when Peter used it, he stepped into the rubble of a destroyed New York City! Apparently, Peter’s absence from the world for one day causes New York to be destroyed. That possible future is now the one that will unfold... unless Peter, with Grady’s help, finds a way to avert it. The duo’s only tools are the copy of the Bugle, which the two are using as a checklist: if Spider-Man (Peter’s ‘friend’, as he put it to Grady) does everything that paper says he’s supposed to do, then maybe the good future (where New York is not destroyed) will unfold. The other tool is their boss Max’s broken watch, which Peter retrieved from the bad future, which broke at 3:10.
Unfortunately, it’s 3:10 right now, and Spider-Man and Grady have not yet averted apocalypse!
So where’s the explosion? It’s now 3:11, and still no disaster.
Oh, right: the watch is an analog time piece. So the disaster could have happened at 3:11 PM, or 3:11 AM. It seems it’s the latter.
Grady, his nerves shot, steps through the time door himself, in an effort to demonstrate to himself and Peter that his life, and hence his participation in this save-the-world effort, is immaterial in the grand scheme of things. He’s confident that if he, Grady, is absent from the world for one day, nothing will change.
He’s wrong, of course. On the other side of the doorway, Grady finds the same blasted cityscape as before... except it’s now graced with the shattered corpse of Spider-Man.
Knowing that he can still make a difference, and prevent Spider-Man’s death, Grady returns to the present and cajoles Spidey to get back into gear. But what should Spidey be doing? He’s already done everything that the Bugle says he’s ‘supposed’ to do. “What would you normally do?” asks Grady.
“I dunno. Go on patrol?”
“Well then do that!”
And he does, with good effect: he blunders into a confrontation between the forces of ULTIMATUM, led by Flag-Smasher, and Silver Sable. Flag-Smasher aims to disrupt the annual Symkarian Pride parade through NYC with a nuclear device, as foreshadowed last issue. A little rough-housing and the bad guys are summarily dispatched, leaving only the bomb. Sable moves to disable it, identifying that only one of two leads could be the right one to cut: the problem, of course, is that cutting the other one will set off the bomb. She’s made her choice when Spidey interrupts her.
“Oh really?” she says. Her mood is difficult to discern: might be icy, might be curious. “I think of the two of us, I have far more experience disarming explosives.”
“Yeah? Well if it is a fifty-fifty choice, I say you go with the guy with spider-sense!”
The wire is cut and the day is saved. Point for Spidey! And point for Slott, for finding a clever and novel use for spider-sense.
Hmm. So Spider-Man averted a terrorist nuclear strike in Manhattan? Why wasn’t that reported in the Bugle?
Because Hizzoner Mayor Jameson suppressed the story, that’s why. Showing up in Sable’s wake, he sputters that so long as he’s mayor, no one will know that a nuclear device was smuggled into NYC. So the only reward Spider-Man gets is a French kiss from Silver Sable. Not bad for a few minutes’ work.
Hey, Spidey is single now. Maybe there’s some future story potential there...
Too bad Grady isn’t as smooth with the ladies. When Bella Fishbach comes by the break room, he clumsily warns her off, and in so doing implies that he thinks she’s dumb. Bella storms off, but Grady can’t go after her; he’s got to continue to help Spider-Man. But help him to do what? As the shadows lengthen and the sky darkens (nice work on the art here, by the way) all of Spider-Man’s efforts to avert disaster are failing. He stops falling signs, captures escaped tigers, apprehends car-jackers, and nothing helps. Not even going to Joe Robertson and asking him to expand his coverage of Spider-Man’s activities helps. As Madame Web helpfully points out, he’s only got the one paper, and he can’t change it.
So what is he supposed to do? Maybe take this call from Mary Jane Watson? Perhaps she has earth-shattering news! It’s happened before, he notes. Remember that time Aunt May inherited a nuclear power station? (Yes, this really happened, in ASM #131.) No, MJ doesn’t have any news of that sort. She just wants a pie-and-coffee date. Unsure if this is the sign he’s been waiting for, Peter changes into his civvies and heads over. The date is pretty strained, and MJ is concerned her ex-lover is worried about their relationship.
“No,” Peter assures her, “we’re good. Really. This isn’t anything about the past. I’m worried about tomorrow.”
“I’m not,” says MJ winsomely. “I know you, Peter Parker. And I have faith that whatever you are supposed to do... you’ll figure it out.”
And the penny drops. Saving tomorrow isn’t something that Spider-Man has to do. It’s something Peter Parker has to do.
Saying a quick goodbye - “go get ‘em, Tiger,” says MJ - Peter rushes to Horizon while calling Grady on his mobile. What does he want Grady to do? Shut down the time door!
With MJ’s help, Peter has worked out that the bad future was caused when he, Peter, went into the future and was absent from New York for an entire day. And consequently, he didn’t check Grady’s math, and thus realize that the time door, left on too long, would blow up New York! And because Grady and Peter kept the door turned on, that future didn’t change.
So Grady shuts off the door. And wouldn’t you know it? The broken watch disappears! That future no longer exists.
And so, Peter and company have another day. Grady chooses to use it to mend his fences with Bella, and Peter to take MJ to breakfast - a proper date this time. And we end, appropriately, with Max Modell. Shaking his head at the odd behaviour of his staff, Max enters the break room and drops his newspaper, which past-Grady promptly steals.
A nice conclusion to the two-part arc. The story is clever, Humberto Ramos’ art is great as always, and the story finds a way to depend on the interactions of Peter Parker (not Spider-Man) and the supporting cast. Issues like this are always welcome - I love seeing the Horizon Gang, Madame Web, MJ, even Silver Sable - but they’re especially welcome after so many recent issues that depended on characters from the wider Marvel Universe.
A high-grade story from beginning to end. Kudos to Slott and Ramos!