Op/Ed: Spider-Man Brand New Day - Seven Months Later, II
Op/Ed: Brand New Day, 7 Months Later, II
As we noted yesterday, it's been about seven months since Marvel relaunched Amazing Spider-Man as a three times a month series, with its stories reflecting a host of changes under the larger title, "Brand New Day." The changes rocked long-time Spider-Man fans: Peter Parker and Mary Jane, married for over 20 years, now no longer remembered their marriage; Harry Osborn (formerly dead) was back from an extended trip to Europe; other changes rippled through the supporting cast, and perhaps the biggest change of all - no one know that Peter Parker was Spider-Man.Yes, the changes were controversial...which, given the volume of responses to the first overview of "Brand New Day" piece seems rather unnecessary to point out. Yesterday, Newsarama writer Mike San Giacomo gave his view of "Brand New Day" as a long-time Spider-Man fan who has now found the title unreadable. Today, regular Newsarama contributor Mike Avila offers up his view as a reader who now finds Amazing Spider-Man readable for the first time in years.
by Mike Avila For the first time in years, a Wednesday trip to my LCS is again part of my regular routine. Why is that? Well, for the same reason my colleague Mike San Giacomo has adjusted his pull list. “Brand New Day.” The retooling of Spider-Man has been like a breath of fresh – and lighthearted – air for this lapsed comics fan. Full disclosure: I haven’t regularly read any Spider-title (outside of Ultimate Spider-Man TPBs) in years. For most of the past decade I’ve been mainly a lurker at comic shops, browsing the racks while I picked up collections of older stories. Every time I’d flip through a copy of Amazing I was completely lost. What had I missed? MJ and Pete are separated? Totemic forces?? Aunt May knows Peter’s Spider-Man? What in the name of Flash Thompson is going on here?!?! It was too much. 40 years of compiled, convoluted continuity can be very intimidating. So I would always put the comic back and return to the friendly confines of a Marvel Masterworks edition. BND gave me a chance to jump back into the pool and not have to give myself a sidesplitting headache wondering about everything I’d missed. I could pick up an issue and enjoy a well-crafted comic without having to hit the message boards or buy a handful of back issues to feel caught up. Spidey’s fighting new villains, dealing with new characters (Carlie, cops Vin & Al, the hilariously obnoxious Dexter Bennett), familiar faces are back in the fold (welcome back Betty!) and still struggling with the good ‘ole Parker Luck. Spider-Man’s supporting cast has always been a highlight for me, when done right. Steve Wacker and Tom Brevoort seem to have their team focused on that goal, because watching the interaction at the DB or between Peter and Harry and Carlie has been a treat. I don’t get how these stories can feel like throwaways, or “What If?” tales to San Giacomo. And I couldn’t disagree more with his observation that the writing feels lazy. I’m actually shocked the stories have been as consistently funny and true to character with several different writers working on the book. Mike also mentioned the stories felt like the ‘80s to him. Considering Roger Stern’s on Amazing produced some incredible stories, as did David Michelinie’s, BND could do a lot worse than evoke memories of that era. Look, I understand the anger from longtime readers who feel cheated by “One More Day.” I wasn’t crazy with the Mephisto solution either. Joe Quesada knew the outrage was coming, too. When I asked him to tell me what MJ whispered to Mephisto, he joked, “This is really going to piss off the fanboys.” Turning serious, Quesada told me earlier this week that while he knew OMD would be controversial, but that the end ultimately justified the means. “…We knew that eventually it’s a subject matter that Marvel would have had to deal with somewhere down the road whether that be during my tenure or the next or the one after that,” Quesada said in an email exchange. The sad fact we all know is that comics readership is shrinking, which is bitterly ironic considering how popular comic book movies are these days. One reason publishers haven’t been able to take advantage of the mainstream media exposure to find new readers is no one likes to be late to the party. And with too many of the big-name heroes, there’s too much backstory to catch up, and as a result, potential new readers often say, ‘why bother?’ OMD wasn’t about Spidey this month or next. It’s about Spidey five years down the road and beyond. “We wouldn’t have gone through this if we didn’t feel this was the best track for the future and longevity of the character,” Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief explained. By taking a step back, Spider-Man has been given a new lease on life. It brought me back into the fold, and I’m not even who they were trying to hook with the new approach. As for the dissolution of Peter and MJ’s marriage, Joe Q.’s feelings about it are well known. And he’s right. Peter Parker is a more interesting character as a single guy. As a Marvel Zombie from the time I was five years old (I’m 37 now), I didn’t always feel that way. I remember reading Pete getting shot down by MJ the first time he proposed to her, and I remember when they were finally married in 1987, I was giddy as a schoolgirl reading that annual. But ever since then, I think Marvel has felt like Robert Redford at the end of The Candidate, when he asks, ‘What do we do now?’ No one at the House of Ideas had any idea where to take them from there. The romantic tension was gone, the flame of young love extinguished. The worst fate imaginable had befallen my favorite comics couple – they had become boring. It’s why TV shows like Moonlighting, Anything But Love, The O.C. and a hundred other shows always drag out relationships before consummation. Because once it happens…pffft. There goes the spark, as well as the audience’s interest because what’s kept them around all this time – will they or won’t they? – is gone. Same thing happened with Peter and MJ. You know what else happened? Peter Parker got old. At least he felt that way to me. Married, and a job as a teacher. A TEACHER?!? I’m getting older too, but I don’t want my heroes growing old with me. I want them forever young. Not running in place like the Archie gang, but aging more…patiently. Spider-Man is a character every generation’s youngsters should be able to identify with. And I know Ultimate and Marvel Adventures are out there, but Amazing is the mothership, the standard bearer. This is the title people should be able to turn to, if they want to meet the greatest character in comics. As to the continuity questions, specifically, what happened in-between OMD and BND? Like just about everyone else, I’m curious as to what happened. Marvel says a plan has been in place from the start to provide those answers, but they wanted time for the dust to settle before doing so. As Joe Q. put it, “we wanted to let the new status quo breathe for a while and not deal with the bookkeeping right off the bat.“ He added that most of the big questions would have answers this time next year in “Amazing.” And sorry Mike, Marvel has no Skrulls stashed in the closet to change course on this storyline, no shower scene planned where Peter pulls a Bobby Ewing and wakes up from a really wild, really detailed dream. This is Spidey’s road to travel, like it or not. I happen to like it.