“Once upon a time,” the intro page reads “Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson gave up their marriage to save Aunt May’s life. Now the story of what really happened on their wedding day can be told..”
BONG! The tolling of a bell, a dramatic black page, taking place “Someplace. Sometime”. This is actually the events near the end of Amazing Spider-man (Vol. 1) #545, with MJ demanding of Mephisto that he put Peter’s life back just as it was, giving him a chance at happiness. When Mephisto asks why he would do that, MJ says because of what she can offer him but never says what, and tells M to leave Pete alone the rest of his days. Mephisto agrees, saying as far as he’s concerned “this never happened.” BONG! (after that kind of cold open, I could sure use one).
Time jumps to present day New York—MJ’s all up in our faces offering Pete a bottle of wine. Pete says he doesn’t drink, MJ says she knows, except for when he does at weddings (zing!). MJ asks where Michelle, Pete’s roommate is—he responds that she’s out at “some crazy lawyer convention”. MJ says she knows Pete’s been having a rough time of it lately, and says they should talk, and Peter agrees. MJ says she wants to be part of his life again, that it can’t be what it was, but that she sure as hell doesn’t like the way things are now, of which Pete also concedes.
Out of the blue, Peter asks MJ if she ever regrets not getting married—she says “regrets” may not be the best word, but that she does wonder what could have been..
Cue another time jump, and we are now in the relatively uncomplicated world of Amazing Spider-man (Vol. 1) Annual #21, the wedding issue—literally, reprinted in the comic as Marvel has been want to do lately. Spidey’s swinging in the black costume, intercepting some squad cars out on the street during the day. Someone’s escaped from the back of a police paddywagon and holed up in a clothes store. That someone starts throwing lightning bolts at the SWAT team that’s assembled outside—Electro, who’s goons have just helped break him out of police custody. After getting changed into costume, he goes out to face off against the cops, blasts one with an electric charge, but leaves him alive..one of Electro’s goons, Eddie, goes to finish him off, but gets webbed up by Spidey, dragged up into the air and left webbed up to a lamppost.
Spidey swings in and takes everyone out (this is where the artwork reverts back to modern-day, Rivera-penciled stuff). A cop has collected Eddie and is shoving him in the back of a squad car, calling him a dirtbag. Eddie gets the cops name, “Hepburn, huh?”. The cop tells him to memorize it and to come find him when Eddie gets out in twenty years. Eddie’s left to his own devices in the back of the squad car, when a red wild bird appears, materializes through the squad car windshield, and unlocks the cop car doors via the unlock switch. The bird flies off, the door locks all pop open, and Eddie finds himself free of the squad car, kicking his way out and escaping as the police are taking away Electro in the background.
Cut back to the wedding issue—Pete drops MJ off at her apartment after their talk on the Empire State Building. She reminds him they’re getting their marriage license tomorrow. Peter goes back to his own apartment, and broods on the picture of Gwen he found at Aunt May’s house, until morning. MJ calls, saying she has her dress, and they’re to get a permit to be married on the steps of City Hall.
Meanwhile, at Josie’s bar, Eddie Muerte, Electro’s thug from earlier, is getting the name and address of the arresting officer he promised to drop in on---from an unnamed stranger in a suit. Eddie thanks him profusely--the suit says consider it “a retainer on future services”. When Eddie goes to shake the man’s hand, the stranger has somehow quickly exited the booth, saying he and his employer will be in touch.
Next, more scenes from the wedding issue—MJ showing Peter a picture of her wedding dress, Peter telling MJ about the bachelor party Flash & Harry are throwing for him. At the party, Peter expresses doubts about the prospect of marriage. Harry opines that being married to Liz is the best thing that ever happened to him. Mary Jane partying it up with her crowd, getting a telegram from an old suitor, and having her own doubts about settling down.
Next, a newer scene, with Flash and Harry after the bachelor party. Flash points out that Peter sure seems to have a lot of doubts for someone about to get married. Harry says Pete’s about to marry the craziest party girl Harry’s ever met, that “she’s going to chew him up and spit him out”.
Another page in current time, Pete and MJ in the apartment—Pete saying that he never meant to hurt MJ but that there are times his life seems like one nightmare after another—cue the nightmare scene from Annual #21. Pete’s dreaming the night before his wedding—he and MJ are at the alter, he in his Spider-man suit. In attendance are heroes from the Marvel U as well as Spidey’s villains (Hobgoblin: “Die.”) Uncle Ben turns up, as well as Gwen. The villains all attack and capture the heroes—they overwhelm Spidey and then turn on MJ. Peter awakes screaming.
Back to Rivera art—Peter wonders what he’s getting MJ into, thinking of Gwen. He goes out for a late-night web-swing, at the Brooklyn Bridge. He hears gunfire nearby, and swings to investigate. At the apartment building rooftop of the officer Hepburn from earlier, the officer is running away from the machine gunfire of Eddie Muerte. Hepburns wife Jill runs out to see what’s going on, and Eddie points the gun at her. Spider-man drops him with a webline and takes Eddie’s gun, recognizing him from before. Spidey gets momentarily distracted by Hepburn and his wife, long enough for Eddie to throw a cinderblock at Spidey’s head, nailing him.
Eddie runs and a dazed Spidey gives chase—until a loose ledge gives way under Eddie’s feet, sending him sprawling off the rooftop. Spidey catches him in midair, but is unable to land a webline on anything. They crash to an adjoining rooftop, Spidey breaking Muerte’s fall.
The next morning recaps the Annual’s wedding day—several of Pete and MJ’s friends and relatives gathered at the steps of City Hall, wondering if either will actually make it. MJ pulls up in her friend Bruce’s Ferrari, to find Pete hasn’t made it yet. Reverting to Rivera art--JJJ gets a call on his cell from Ben Urich, who’s at the scene of the attempted murder of the cop and his wife. MJ tries to get Pete on her cell phone, but he doesn’t answer. She then overhears Harry and Flash talking how they’re not surprised Peter didn’t show up, how he had a lot of doubts. MJ tells him to go to hell.
Eddie Muerte wakes up; he tells an unconscious Spidey that Spidey saved his life, therefore he won’t kill him this time. He gives Spidey a swift kick in the head for good measure. Back in current time, Peter’s saying he’s going to need to make more tea. MJ tells him to go ahead, as she’s pouring herself a bottle of wine.
I can say some positive things about this story: the crosscutting between the Annual issue, what was added by Rivera, and Joe Queseda’s pencils on the ‘current-time’, is generally effective—the artwork meshes well, and thematically the issue is well balanced. I like how MJ’s drawn this issue, I like how she acts—I just liked revisiting MJ altogether, since they’ve done very little with her after bringing her back. On the art side of things, Paolo Rivera’s art is great—and his attention to detail in picking up the story from the Annual is inspired. Queseda’s art is fairly good here too—his potato-faced Pete this issue is a bit better than his muppet-faced Pete from One More Day. Regarding the supposed current-time that Pete and MJ are talking in—it doesn’t seem as if it’s taking place right after the events of “Grim Hunt” at all, but it’s hard to tell—is there a little story twist on the horizon about when or where this conversation is actually taking place?
What’s not so good is Queseda choosing to reprint bits from the Annual issue that emphasize Pete and MJ’s differences, (partying MJ, Gwen-mourning Pete)--allowing Queseda to cherry pick his own version and justify his editorial decisions. He then inserted new scenes altogether, like Flash and Harry expressing their own doubts over Peter’s commitment to MJ prior to their marriage—allowing him a “director’s cut” approach to his rewriting of Spidey history.
ASM Annual #21, while a fairly bizarre issue, was about Pete and MJ overcoming their fears and finally deciding to commit to each other, for better and worse, radical personality differences and all.
And for a guy who’s taken on Doc Ock, Firelord, and various Goblins, to see Spidey get bested by a mope like Eddie Duerte seems a big shame. Some could say that’s part of the character’s appeal—that Spidey is ultimately human and could get bested at any time, but I think it’s just bad writing. There’s seriously no reason for a chain of events—not reacting fast enough and taking a brick to the head and not being able to catch a webline during their fall—to cause someone like Spider-man, who’s quicker than any average person, to be caught off guard. That just seems unfathomable. And this is why he misses his wedding?
I could go into a rant about how Eddie Muerte in this story is really Quesada, locked in the police car (trapped with the constraint of a married Spider-man), escapes, and drops on Spidey like a ton of bricks (to better enforce his editorial mandate), but it seems too obvious.
Off to an okay, not-terrible start, but it doesn’t get better the more you think about it, trust me.