Like many, I had feelings when I read Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr.’s Amazing Spider-Man #26 Wednesday evening. The feelings were such that they generated a piece just a few days after the comic came out. However, I don’t think they were the feelings the creative team intended (though I have no way of knowing for sure). So I figured a li’l piece to unpack those feelings and explore what happened in this issue was in order. Billed as a “monumental story” which would be “the most shocking issue of Amazing Spider-Man in fifty years,” the death of someone close to Peter Parker/Spider-Man was teased. Fifty years after the death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121, it appeared another tragedy was on the horizon. This all came to a head as Spidey, Ms. Marvel, the Gold Goblin, and the Fantastic Four battled to protect Mary Jane, her partner Paul, and their two children, Owen and Stephanie, from Rabin, the mathematician-cum-zealot-cum-would-be vessel of the demonic deity Wayep.
As one would expect, SPOILERS for Amazing Spider-Man #26 follow.
Though this story has been widely reported already so maybe they aren’t SPOILERS? Still, you’ve been warned.
Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr. kicked off their Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Vol. 6) in April of 2022 with a six month time jump in the narrative. Mary Jane Watson and Peter Parker, reunited as a couple in Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man (starting in July 2018), had broken up. Peter was despondent and angry. Everyone was angry with Peter, too – Aunt May, Randy Robertson, even the Fantastic Four and Captain America. MJ wasn’t taking his calls. Creditors were hounding him. He was working for Norman Osborn! Most shocking of all, Mary Jane was living with her new partner, Paul…and their two kids. It was certainly a jaw-dropping reveal at the end of Wells and Romita’s first issue. Now, a year later, the gaps are being filled in with Amazing Spider-Man #21-25. Why did Peter and Mary Jane break-up? Who is Paul? Why is everyone angry with Peter? What happened in those six months? Will Mary Jane and Peter get back together?? For me, a bigger question has been on my mind since I first saw Stephanie and Owen run into her arms at the end of that issue: Should Mary Jane even be with Peter in the first place?
Note, this piece contains plot spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man #21-25.
A few weeks ago I wrote about how, as the X-Men were crossing over with Spider-Man in last December’s Dark Web event, I decided to go back and read four years worth of the Krakoa Era of X-Men comics. It’s the first time I’ve read X-Men comics regularly since the ‘90s and I’m following X-Force, Marauders, New Mutants, Excalibur-cum-Knights of X, and, of course, X-Men. Presently I’m up to August 2022 in all those titles so I’m almost ready to read Dark Web! To say I’ve encountered a few new characters along the way is to put it mildly. To say I’ve encountered so many new characters it’s given me whiplash and I sometimes wonder if authors are just making up names to mess with new/old readers like me because there is NO WAY this many new characters could’ve popped up in the twenty-five years since I last read X-Men comics feels closer to the truth. One of the (many) new characters was Laura Kinney/Wolverine. As she appeared in the pages of X-Men and New Mutants I felt a pull between what I’d’ve done as a kid and how I’ve learned to read comics now. So, how was I to meet Laura? How do I get to know Wolverine? I decided to take a breath, set aside those new habits, and read like a kid again. I kind of loved it! And it illuminated an interesting comparison for me about how we tend to consume narratives today.
One, a squirrel in Norse mythology who runs up and down Yggdrasil spreading slanderous gossip to stir things up and cause chaos. The other, an unbeatable squirrel-themed superhero. Ratatoskr and Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl seemed destined to meet. It was even predicted by two readers’ letters in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Vol. 1) #3’s “Letters From Nuts” page before Ratatoskr appeared in issues #6-8! While Doreen listens and offers empathy, compassion, and friendship to everyone she meets, she and Ratatoskr didn’t hit it off…mainly due to her turning everyone in New York City against each other by whispering mean gossip in their ears as they slept. With the War of the Realms raging, Doreen and Ratatoskr would meet again, this time in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43-46. Their second meeting offers a surprisingly brilliant examination of how healthy friendships work! For Squirrel Girl and the Norse God of Chaos, tensions lead to tentative alliances which lead to remarkably healthy relationships all while running afoul of Frost Giants conquering North America via Canada.
Here we are folks, the sixteenth installment in this series using only Spider-Man comics to talk about the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (mirroring the variety of romantic experiences we have in life). Who would’ve thought I’d be able to milk sixteen different articles out of this?? The series is old enough to drive now! (I mean, if each individual piece represented a year (but I do more than one a year (but I did start this back in 2017 so it’s been going for over five years (which is still pretty impressive!))).) Here we’re going to examine the intersection of some SERIOUS forces in the world of comic books. Spider-Man – Marvel’s most iconic character! Chris Claremont – one of the most iconic comic writers of all time! Cissy Ironwood – a love interest Chris Claremont created specifically for Peter Parker when he was writing Marvel Team-Up in 1979 which…uh, went nowhere. And that’s why I love Cissy and Peter as a couple! In our romantic exploits we all have those relationships which seemed to have so much potential but just never went anywhere. They inexplicably disappear and become someone friends may ask about, years later, wondering, “Hey, whatever happened to…”
I’m fascinated by utopias. Thomas More’s 1516 novel Utopia coined this term for a perfect society. In the book, More explores the politics, religion, and culture of an ideal island nation. I’ll never forget learning More created “utopia” from the Greek words eu-topos, which means “a good place,” and ou-topos, meaning “no place.” The text was satire and the name a pun. That blew my mind…and made me a little sad as it inherently implies such a good place may not be possible. Part of what fascinates me about utopias is how little (comparatively) we envision them in our art. Scores of dystopias fill our films, TV shows, comics, and novels. It feels like we’re always imagining our end. But what a perfect society looks like? How it functions? We don’t create those as often nor celebrate them when we do (remember George Clooney’s Tomorrowland? …that’s my point). When it comes to the Marvel Universe, Wakanda has always been the shining example of a perfect society. But when writer Jonathan Hickman was given the keys to the X-kingdom in 2019, Marvel’s mutants settled on the living island Krakoa (a mutant itself), creating an independent nation and new utopia in the MU. As Thomas More did 500 years before, Hickman’s Krakoa gives readers a good place which invites us to consider whether no place like this will ever exist…and it got me hooked on reading and thinking about the X-Men again for the first time in twenty-five years!
This week Kalie guest lectured for my MARVELous Justice course, my class which uses comic books and comic book movies to examine social justice issues and the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concerns in particular. Kalie is getting her PhD in literary criticism, with her focus on the mad monster. I’ve asked her to come in a few times to give my students an introduction to Monster Theory so they can add it to the avenues of analysis we use for the comics and films we explore. As part of her presentation, Kalie always asks my class what their favorite childhood monster was and why they liked it. The first time I heard her ask this question, I found myself lost in thought. What was my favorite monster as a kid? Did I even have one? I never liked being scared, that’s for sure. The answer hit in a bolt of clarity! What an easy question! It’s no contest! My favorite monster was Venom. As soon as Eddie Brock bonded with the symbiote, I was hooked. I love Venom! I adore Venom! Looking at my relationship with this monster as I followed along with Kalie’s lesson taught me a lot about myself, too.
Unexpectedly, I can’t stop thinking about Kieron Gillen (writer) and Valerio Schiti (artist)’s A.X.E.: Judgement Day. It’s unexpected because, while I love Gillen as a writer and adore Schiti’s art, of the three teams involved, I only regularly read Avengers. I often avoid team books (as they lead to lots of tie-ins) but I read Avengers because I’ll read anything Jason Aaron writes. However, I didn’t expect this story to connect to his run (and it didn’t). Then, while I feel Eternals is the most gorgeously shot Marvel movie yet, I’ve never read any Eternals comics – now or in my youth. Lastly, I LOVED the X-Men as a kid but I’ve really struggled to find a story to pull me back into the mutant world since returning to reading comics in 2015. I dropped X-Men: Gold (Vol. 2) by issue #6. I dug X-Men: Red (Vol. 1) but the run ended before I knew it existed. I’ve tried to read Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X twice but lost interest a few issues in each time. Maybe I can’t go home again with the X-Men :/. So, I was intrigued by the idea but didn’t expect this story to really grab me. OH MY GOSH WAS I WRONG. I’ve read it twice (once as it came out monthly and then all at once) and can’t stop thinking about what I’d do if I knew the world was going to end tomorrow. See?? How can a story with a hook like that not captivate me?!?
A few years ago, Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me” came on as I listened to Christmas carols while decorating. It led me to reflect (reflectin’ and decoratin’ and dancin’ to Christmas carols made for a great night!) which in turn led to a series where I ruminated on what Christmas means to me, using various Doctor Who Christmas specials as a frame for the reflection. It turns out – just like Stevie sings about, “All these things and more, darling (all these things and more)” – Christmas means a lot of things to me, too! ‘Tis the season for me to watch and read Christmas-y things and write about all Christmas means to me. First up this year is The Sensational She-Hulk #8. For many, writer/artist John Byrne’s quirky, eccentric, fourth-wall demolishing version of Jen Walters/She-Hulk is the definitive version of the character. Keeping in line with the wacky and unpredictable hijinks of the title, its eighth issue saw Shulkie literally team-up with Santa Claus to convict a serial killer. Nothing says “Christmas” like a ho-ho-homicide conviction!
Welcome to the fifteenth installment in my series using only Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life)! This time we’re looking at one of the most prominent themes around romantic love – how love heals, how the right person’s love can save us. When I began this series I made myself a promise. No alternate reality Peter Parkers. No movies. No TV shows. No other comic universes. I’d explore Peter Parker’s romantic exploits in Marvel’s main 616 universe and when I had exhausted those relationships, the series would end. Anna Maria Marconi will date Peter Parker in the 616 universe…but she dates “Peter” when he’s dead and his archenemy Otto Octavius/Dr. Octopus is controlling his body. So she dated Doc Ock even though she thought she was dating Peter. I’m including their relationship as a) it’s a significant one in the 616, b) the reader alone knows it isn’t Peter, and c) most important of all, their relationship illustrates something about love Peter Parker himself isn’t yet mature enough to find on his own. It’s a trope that can’t be ignored when writing about love so here we are. Otto’s time as the Superior Spider-Man is one of comics’ greatest redemption stories. Reflecting on the role romantic love plays in his salvation helps us consider the role such love plays in our own healing and growth, too.