In 2008 the fine folks at Marvel had decided that Spider-Man needed a change. Marriage to his sweetheart, Mary-Jane, had made the previously freewheeling, fun-loving Webslinger down, dour, and altogether too serious. Wedded bliss just wasn’t cutting it, so in one grandiose move, the duo’s marriage was wiped out by Mephisto, the Marvel Universe’s version of The Devil. The move was controversial, to say the least. Fans were angered that 20 years of stories were essentially wiped out of continuity (and for Marvel, continuity has always been a key part of their success). Long time Spidey scribe J. Michael Straczynski was also unimpressed with the editorial decision and very nearly took his name off his final story, One More Day.
The goal to make Peter Parker a swinging single again wasn’t as off the mark as many thought, though. In the wake of the magical dissolution of his marriage, the new story arc titled Brand New Day found Peter back to the essence of what made his character so beloved – bumbling and awkward, and when we first find him, living with his beloved Aunt May. For something that could have been so retro, Brand New Day felt remarkably fresh. Meanwhile, the previously dead Harry Osborn has returned, Mary-Jane Watson is nowhere to be found, and a whole new cast of supporting characters are introduced, some with more success than others.
The first year of the new/old Spider-Man saga recently came to a close with the publication of the new compilation Election Day, featuring Amazing Spider-Man #584-588, along with a few other choice tales. In it, the mystery of Menace, the new super-villain who had been plaguing Spidey for most of the year, is revealed and we finally discover who has been trying to frame our favourite wallcrawler for multiple murders.
As written by Marc Guggenheim, one of three writers entrusted with the creative vision of the character (along with Dan Slott and Bob Gale), the cap off to what’s referred to as “Season One” of Brand New Day answers questions and ties together many of the loose ends that have popped up throughout the year. Guggenheim has Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s voice down pat ,while the majority of art, handled by John Romita Jr., is, as always, simply amazing. While it’s been a while since I’ve read the Straczynski/Romita run from a few years ago, I just don’t recall JR JR’s work being so much fun. But that, no doubt, ties in to the fact that the story lines being presented are simply not as serious. Not that there’s anything wrong with a solemn Spider-Man, but as I said above, there’s a feeling of freshness that runs through Election Day.
A little more problematic though is the fact that if you haven’t been reading the series for the majority of the year, you’re likely to get lost with all the new characters and backstory. While the new status quo has brought the fun back to Spider-Man, it’s also established its own continuity that almost necessitates starting from the beginning of the year for anything to make much sense.
But for fun and frivolity, you don’t have to look much further than the ultimate team-up between Barak Obama and Spider-Man. Yes, Spidey Meets The President, the short story that sold out comic shops everywhere, is also part of the Election Day collection. It even features an appearance by Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain, and a respectful one at that. In just a few pages, the story gives you a good taste of what the new world order of Spider-Man is all about.
As a long-time Spider-Man freak, I had no problems with the decision to upset his world. The stories I loved will always be in my collection, and are still part of the Marvel Universe (except remembered slightly differently by the characters than by the readers). In the meantime, Brand New Day has brought back the storytelling and characterization that made Spidey an icon in the first place.
Now all the braintrust has to do is keep it going for “Season Two”.