I have probably bought about three non-Ultimate universe Spider-Man comics in the past 10 years (although I do own that Spider-Man DVD comic collection thing, which I haven't looked at hardly at all--someday I'll read every issue of Amazing Spider-Man in order, so I, too, can be pissed when Pete and MJ get married, and pissed when they get unmarried).
I was really tempted to buy Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man when that launched, but before the first issue hit the stands, I read that the series would soon crossover as part of "The Other" storyline, and that sounded like bad news (and I assume I was right--didn't One More Day erase anything "Other" related?). Honestly, Ultimate Spider-Man has been the only Spidey comic I've been reading regularly, since, probably Erik Larsen took over for Todd McFarlane on Amazing, and that was 15 years ago. I've written a bit about why I like Ultimate Spider-Man, and I guess this whole One More Day/Brand New Day stuff is intended for readers like me.
I don't necessarily have a problem with the Peter/MJ marriage. I thought Matt Fraction's annual from last year was a great defense of their relationship, and gave direction on how it could be written well. Yet, I've certainly gravitated toward the non-married Spider-Man stories, even though I hadn't thought of it that way. I wasn't thinking, "Yes! ULTIMATE Spider-Man, because I totally don't want to read about a married dude. That's lame." In fact, I would love to read well-written comics about married dudes. I'm a happily married dude, and I have been for 10 years, and as much as I love the coming-of-age stuff in a series like Blue Beetle, a nice, mature married couple could make for great stories too. They usually don't though, or they haven't in the past. Other than Ralph and Sue Dinby (and look what was done to THEM), what other married couples in comics have worked? I don't even think Reed and Sue work, completely, as a married couple. Clark Kent and Lois Lane don't become more interesting as a married couple. Not that they're less interesting, but it's just kind of a wash. Because the fact is that drama is built on conflict, and a happily married couple is not the foundation of great drama. I'm not talking just about comics here--I'm talking any sort of dramatic narrative. Look at Nora and Torvald Helmer; look at Anna and Alexei Karenin; look at Susan Alexander and Charles Foster Kane. Great drama often derives from UNHAPPY marriages, but you don't want your super-heroes being jackasses to their wives, and you don't want their wives throwing themselves under trains. So, Spider-Man is stuck with Mephisto.
I didn't read One More Day, I probably never will. I'm about 10% curious, but not enough to pay for the issues or the trades. But, I, like everyone else, knows what happened. I've seen the highlights everywhere. And I do have a MAJOR issue with Peter Parker willingly giving up his marriage and all knowledge of the marriage to save his elderly aunt. No happily married person would ever do that. It's just inconsistent with the character--inconsistent drama. It's bad writing.
BUT, goddamn if Quesada's plan hasn't worked. I am a perfect example. By removing the marriage AND (and this is a key AND) bringing on some excellent creative teams to basically relauch Amazing Spider-Man, I'm now buying it, and based on what I saw in the first issue of Brand New Day, I intend to buy it regularly for a while. Quesada's evil, inconsistent plan has suckered me into becoming a regular reader, and that was clearly his goal. Well, not to sucker me, personally, but all of the clones of me running around, not buying Amazing.
I didn't want to buy it, you know. I actually didn't buy it on Wednesday. I intentionally avoided it, picked up 15 other comics, and refused to get Amazing Spider-Man #546. I was too annoyed at what I had read about the way they got rid of the marriage and the stupid mind-wipe plot which is no different that House of M, except "permanent." Primarily, though, I am making a concerted effort to cut back on weekly purchases, and spend more money on trades and hardcovers. So, I figured I would wait and maybe, MAYBE get the Dan Slott/Steve McNiven arc in trade paperback.
But as I read my comics Wednesday night, I kept thinking about that Spider-Man issue. Slott and McNiven are always worth a look, I thought to myself. Why didn't I pick it up? And then, I was listening to some podcasts on the way to work, some stuff I'd downloaded a day or two before, and on Fanboy Radio, Dan Slott spends 45 minutes geeking out about Brand New Day, and his enthusiasm makes me even more impatient.
How can you wait for the trade, people?!?! You are stronger than I.
Because on my way home Thursday, I had to swing by the comic shop and buy Amazing Spider-Man #546. And I'm glad I did.
I think it's still too close to One More Day to be a great comic, and the stuff about Peter's age is weird. Slott goes overboard trying to establish that he's a young guy, even though he's gotta be early 30s at least, based on any sort of "established" continuity, such as it is. But, Pete keeps saying, "hey, I'm young. I'm hip. I've got my cellphone and my iPod." It's more than a bit awkward.
YET, the art is fantastic. The fact that Spider-Man has some serious struggles to deal with, financial, personal, super-villainy--that's all great. And I'm going to give Brand New Day a chance to make me enjoy Spider-Man in the Marvel universe. It's going to take some getting used to, even for a guy who hadn't been reading the series in years, but I think Slott, Wells, Guggenheim, and (sigh) Gale can make Spider-Man worth reading again. The artists scheduled to work on the series helps, as does the three-times a month release plan, but for me, it's all about the potential for interesting stories, and damn it, this Brand New Day stuff is interesting. I'm curious to see where it goes.
(The back-up stories in Amazing Spider-Man #546, which give a taste of the rest of the writing team, are far weaker than the main story. Bob Gale's short is especially cringe-worthy, and he looks to be the real weak link in keeping me as a long-term reader. I just think he's a poor comic book writer, based on this little story, and the work he did on Daredevil. He's got that Steve Gerber kind of weird, street-level grunginess going on, but without any ideas behind it. I really hope Gale proves me wrong when he writes his full arc.)