Posted by: Jeff Lester on January 26, 2008
Not really a review or anything, just a bit of (very late) Monday morning quarterbacking: in finishing up the first three issues of “Brand New Day” and finally reading the last issue of “One More Day,” it struck me J. Michael Straczynski is either a far more gracious man–or a far more thick-skinned professional–than I could ever hope to be. Despite the last issue of “One More Day” being dedicated at the very end to JMS, and a back page filled with hosannas by fellow professionals, the two-page recap of Spidey’s status at the end of the first part of “Brand New Day” suggests a company eager to sweep eight years of the man’s stories under the rug.
I mean, I can’t imagine Grant Morrison co-writing a last issue story arc on New X-Men that would remove Xorn, the Midwich Cuckoos, Mutant Town, Cassandra Nova, and the destruction of Genosha. Yet JMS’s final story on ASM not only removes Mary Jane as Peter Parker’s wife, but retcons away anyone knowing Peter’s secret identity, and brings back the mechanical web-spinners. That last one in particular struck me: I wasn’t a big fan of the Spider-Totem idea, but if it’s waved away with some fancy-dan Mephisto hand magic, the bulk of JMS’s run is removed. No Ezekiel storyline; no mystical wasp queen; no “The Other.” Considering the emotional highpoint of JMS’s run–Peter revealing his identity to Aunt May–is mooted by the removal of anyone knowing Peter’s secret identity, and it’s hard to see what’s left. That 9/11 story; Norman Osborne’s “o” face; that gamma radiation gangster; and maybe the lame Molten Man impersonator who burnt down Aunt May’s house (except she’s back to having her house, so maybe not). It’s not “putting the toys back in the box,” so much as “throwing most of the toys into the fire and watching ’em shrivel up and blacken.”
(And not that it’s pertinent to this discussion, but is the end of “One More Day,” where Mephisto talks about the daughter Peter and Mary Jane could have had but will now never have and will never exist, some sort of swipe at the Spider-Girl title? If so, I only wish I had the chops to examine what might’ve been running through Editorial’s head when that went in.)
Mind you, I’m not upset that a lot of this material is taken off the board: I don’t think this retcon invalidates the enjoyment I got from the issues I read, and there was stuff (a lot of stuff) in JMS’s run I felt screwed pretty strongly with the iconic appeal of Spider-Man. But I find it all very strange. Maybe when Straczynski first came on and made it clear he wasn’t interested in having editorial vet his work, he and Marvel editorial had an explicit understanding that everything he did could (and probably would) be undone. And, of course, any savvy freelancer toiling for the big two is aware their work can be retconned, invalidated or turned on its head whenever Editorial sees fit. But as a way to handle a heavyweight creator with whom one would want (I would think) to continue a working relationship, it seems like very, very odd behavior: “Thanks for all the great work, Joe! It’d mean a lot to us if you’d put your name on this story that invalidates the vast majority of it! If not, we’re gonna do the story, anyway. Love ya!”
You know what? I’ll break my thoughts about “Brand New Day” into a different post, so as not to dilute my point: J. Michael Straczynski, you got what looks like a raw deal to me.