Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Plot: (ASMA#21) Jim Shooter
Writer: (ASM#290-292, ASMA#21) David Michelinie, (PPTSSMA#7) James C Owsley
Pencils / Layouts: (ASM#290-291) John Romita, JR., (ASM#292) Alex Savilik, (ASMA#21) Paul Ryan, (PPTSSMA#7) Alan C Kupperberg
Inks / Finishes: (ASM#290-292, ASMA#21) Vince Colletta, (PPTSSMA#7) Jim C Fern & Al C Milgrom

Over the last 50 years, there have been just three really pivotal Spider-Man comics:

1. The first one - Amazing Fantasy #15. Pivotal because of the amount of money that Marvel has since saved by reprinting it through the decades.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man #121 - the death of Gwen Stacy. I don't think I've ever actually read that one, but boy do I know how it all goes down. Well, most of the way.

3. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 - Peter Parker's wedding to Mary Jane Watson.

Of the three, the turkey is the one that should have been the most polished.

It's probably not the creative team of the day's fault though.

The preceding couple of years had seen regular author Tom DeFalco building so much trust into Peter and MJ's closening friendship, that their relationship had been naturally chugging along and developing at its own pace. Sure, things like love, engagement and marriage were easy to foresee for these two somewhere down the road, but I don't think anyone expected those three things to all happen to them within the space of the same fortnight.

Had these life-events been explored over a longer term, then not only would we have had the chance to root for Peter and MJ, but we might also have had the opportunity to savour and enjoy this happy period in their lives. As it is, even they didn't get much chance to enjoy it.

Alas, in 1987 the word had came through that the Spider-Man comic-strip running in the newspapers would be featuring the webslinger getting wedded that year. Suddenly, to keep the Spider-canon intact, the comicbooks had to do some very, very quick catching-up...

It didn't help that DeFalco's tenure on the magazine had concluded shortly before this rather major plot-development. Incoming author David Michelinie is a fine writer, and here continues his successful ploy from his run on Web. That of isolating Spider-Man from his natural NY habitat, in this instance by packing him off to Pittsburgh for two issues to meet MJ's estranged family. Good call.

However there's just no masking that with someone else now scripting their speech-balloons, the traditional rapport between Peter and MJ rather suddenly flattens, giving way to dialogue that makes them sound more like just any old generic young couple. With that emotional distance replacing the warm banter that we've come to expect of Pete and MJ, their impending rush-wedding feels like a huge mistake, and a hard one to fathom the motivation for.

Thanks to some confused plotting, poor Aunt May only learns of her beloved nephew's engagement after Pete's colleagues at the Daily Bugle have all thrown a party for him. Talk about being the last to find out.

Having earlier been denied seeing Peter's reaction to MJ's acceptance of his proposal, even the street-ceremony itself only enables us to witness a mere four panels of the actual service, while the reception also lets us attend for just another four. I'd argue that this series' main strength lies in its huge and well-realised cast of supporting characters, however most of them are just not present here, or even mentioned.

What of all those other girls who Peter could potentially have got something going with? His sunset-sharing neighbour Bambi, his challenging colleague Joy Mercado, and of course his ex Felicia Hardy - how did this go down with any of them?

For the final issue - The Honeymoon - James C Owsley takes over the scripting reins, and we finally get a good chance to pause and soak-up the newlyweds' 36-page French holiday.

The comedy and the characterisation are back in evidence here, particularly with Pete's simmering anger throughout. When, in the restaurant at the end, he finally loses his temper with would-be employer Thomas Fireheart, while all of Mary Jane's friends are cheering him on, there's a real sense that everything is going to be all right from now on after all.

Which, debatably, for about 20 years it was.

Still, I'll say this for the newspaper strip that indirectly caused this enormous five-issue fumble back in 1987:

At least in that series they're still married!



2 comment(s):

At 7:19 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah-hah-hah, I hope you have enjoyed your blogging, Goble. For now I, Mephisto, shall wipe your blog and any memory that it ever existed from the world.

Warmest regards,

- Mephisto

At 10:30 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Thank you Mephisto, and thank you for your analysis.


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