Or – “Because YOU Demanded It. Repeatedly…“
Alright! I give up! I have finally reached the point where I can no longer make excuses not to cover Marvel’s heaviest hitter. I tried to argue that there was too much backstory to recap, but then I keep reading Captain America. I tried to argue that the timeframes were too convoluted, but I keep reading Avengers, Mighty Avengers and Avengers: The Initiative. I tried to fight my own best judgment, but the ‘One More Day’ storyline claims to be the biggest thing to happen to Spider-Man since non-bunching spandex, and it’s drawn by the freakin’ editor-in-chief! I give, already… It’s time to welcome Spidey to our midst. Peter Parker? Meet the Spoilerites. Spoilerites? This is Mr. Parker. His life sucks.
Previously, on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man: Peter Parker was finally getting it right. A high-profile PAYING gig with the Avengers. A job teaching school at his old alma mater. A happy family, with both Aunt May and Mary Jane aware of and supporting his secondary identity. Things were really looking up for the Web-Head, and of course, that means that the REAL suffering was just around the corner. At the behest of Iron Man, he gave up his secret identity on national television, then realized that he was on the WRONG side of the fight and crossed the proverbial picket lines. After nearly getting killed by a coalition of his old enemies, he (along with the other anti-registration members of the New Avengers) went underground. About the same time, Wilson Fisk put out a hit on Pete and his family, but his hired sniper only got Aunt May. Pete has shuttled her from hospital to hospital for care, burning up his entire savings, and still found no help. Last issue, he confronted his former friend Anthony Stark, asking him to help May. Tony initially said no, tried to take Spider-Man into custody, but Spidey surprised himself by taking the big man out with enough webbing to choke Godzilla. Peter got away, and Tony showed rare class in sending his majordomo, Jarvis to pay for May’s hospital. With her condition stabilized, Spidey has eschewed MEDICAL assistance for the help of a DIFFERENT doctor.
Of course, Stephen Strange felt Peter’s presence long before he arrives, and responds to his friend with hospitality… Peter explains the situation, and entreats the Sorcerer Supreme for assistance. Doctor Strange explains that even the Sorcerer Supreme has his limits, that sometimes things happen for a greater purpose. Spider-Man won’t accept that rationale, and Doctor Strange remarks that May IS, after all an old woman, and that people die all the time… What makes this different, asks the Doc, than if she died in her sleep? “IT’S DIFFERENT BECAUSE IT WON’T BE MY FAULT!” screams Parker, and Doc agrees to help him… sort of.
He can’t heal her, but he can use some of his mystic artifacts to let Peter go find help on his own. The Hands of the Dead allow Spider-Man to travel through space and time, literally being in more than one place at the same time (I’d wager Spidey’s been using them since roughly 1987) and beg literally EVERYONE for help. Reed Richards, Curt Connors, Black Panther, Michael Morbius, Yellowjacket, Night Nurse, Hank McCoy, Dead Girl, even DOCTOR DOOM cannot (or will not) help him.
When the Doc leaves the room to get Peter a drink after his harrowing journey, Spidey repeats the incantation himself, throwing himself back in time to try and save her from the sniper’s bullet, but he cannot save her, and ends up being forced to watch the shooting AGAIN from a different angle. Worse than that, he ends up being nearly torn apart by ‘Nightwalkers,’ guardians of the timestream. Doc has to come back and help him, and is forced to travel even further back in time (for some reason) to heal Spider-Man’s astral form before they can return to their bodies. In so doing, they apparently cross over into an issue of Amazing Spider-Man from several years ago. (I think during the series where he was fighting that gang-banger who had magic powers… His name was something like Wraith, I think.)
Once home, Doc tells Peter the most important bit. May is dying, yes, but she is NOT dead, and every moment that he’s gone is one more chance that she may pass away without him being able to hold her hand and say goodbye. With that thought pounding in his head, Spider-Man races back towards home, only to hear a voice speaking to him. “He was right. You cannot change that.” A pretty young red-haired girl about ten or so waves up at him. “But I… can.”
Who is she? I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. Maybe some of our Spider-lovin’ Spoilerites can enlighten me? Either way, I have to tell you, I’m not that impressed with this story so far. Last issue had the interestingly awesome moment of Spider-Man finally cutting loose with his webbing and entrapping Iron Man (and about a block and a half worth of alleyway) in webs. This issue has mostly whining. I know what they were trying for, but here’s my problem: Doctor Strange SHOULD be able to help. He has more power than he knows what to do with, and has used his abilities in the past to do things MUCH more difficult than repair a bullet wound in a 900-year-old woman. The whole “Some Things Are Meant To Happen” argument holds no water for me, either, as he healed the entire team of New Avengers a couple of months ago after being chopped up by ninja skrulls. I guess it just “Wasn’t Their Time.”
Straczynski does the best he can with these story point, but Strange’s reticence comes across less as a real limitation than as a plot device. Add to that the annoying tendency that Quesada has to give Spider-Man’s mask facial expressions, changing the size and shape of the eyes to suit his mood, and the whole issue just comes across as annoying. The current rumors (which may or may not be at all true, I might add) indicate that this series is shipping late NOT because Quesada’s art is taking too long, but because the leaked ending we’ve all heard about involving Mephisto WAS for real, but is now being retooled. If this is the case, then I applaud Marvel for taking the initiative (no pun intended) but I can’t give this middle-of-the-road offering more than 2.5 stars out of 5.