“One Last Stab through the Heart”

I love J. Michael Straczynski. I have to begin by making myself clear on that point. I’ve been a fanboy since his Babylon 5 days and have followed his comic book work from Strange to Squadron Supreme, Book of Lost Souls, Silver Surfer: Requiem, and Thor. And I’ve loved his work though I could see how some might find fault with some of his long-winded stylings. He sometimes takes a long time to get to the point, in the name of character development … I get that.

However, I even I must admit, his Spider-Man run was messed up. I’m talking nearly as bad as that overly drawn out “Am I really the clone?” business from a few years back. Maybe that’s not entirely fair (can you hear my inner fanboy still trying to spin things?). There was a lot of good work, quite a few stories that were excellent. But when I think back on the major developments of Spider-Man under Straczynski’s run, it boils down to three major events: “Sins Past”, “The Other”, and “One More Day”.

“Yours is the rarest love of all. Pure, unconditional and made holy in the eyes of He who I hate most.” –Mephisto

With “Sins Past” we have him revisiting the idea of Peter Parker’s long lost love, Gwen Stacy. The girlfriend whose life was tragically cut short by the Green Goblin, the life Spider-Man was unable to save. The memory of her loss has haunted him almost as badly as the death of his Uncle Ben who pushed him into becoming Spider-Man in the first place. But the idea of their relationship being desecrated, that she had kids via Norman Osborne … I still feel dirty over that entire episode.

Then came “The Other” storyline. Back in the mid-to-late 80s, after Alan Moore revealed the Swamp Thing to be a plant elemental, a lot of DC heroes were suddenly revealed to be elementals of some sort. It was a bit of a mini-fad. The Other felt like a weak, and late, jump on to that. That somehow Spider-Man derived his powers from some sort of spider totem and that he had to fully develop into the rest of his potential … I’d like to forget any of that happened.

Which brings us to “One More Day.” Apparently it was decided that we’d like to forget a lot of what had happened with Spider-Man. Aunt May, the woman who had raised Peter Parker, is near death and no one can save her. Desperate to save her, Peter Parker makes a pact with the devil (Mephisto) to trade her life for the love he shares with Mary Jane, his wife. In other words, because Peter Parker, an adult now, is so afraid of losing his parent (which mind you, not only do we all have to face that eventually, but it’s not like Aunt May hasn’t already died before), he’s willing to trade his entire relationship with Mary Jane, effectively erasing everything through their marriage.

“There will be a very small part of your soul that will remember, that will know what you lost.” –Mephisto

There are just some character re-boots that have left bad tastes in my mouth. Some done in the name of a company-wide edict to revamp characters after a reality altering event (think ever DC character after any of their “Crises”). Sometimes you can lay it at the feet of a writer wanting to take the character in a new direction/put his own stamp on the character (think John Byrne on … just about anything. I still haven’t forgiven him for taking over the Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, or Doom Patrol and “fixing” books that didn’t need to be fixed). Straczynski’s run feels like a bit of both (the stench of editorial mandate is all over this). And overall, just as bad. The word that comes to mind is disrespectful.

There. I said it. It’s taken me a long time to be able to finally say it, but it’s done.