Does it matter if One More Day sucked?

Google results for "I like One More Day"

Much of the discussion about One More Day and its consequences, the actual quality of the story was mostly ignored. An indication of this was the review of the first three parts of OMD from Variety’s Bags and Boards blog which mostly dealt with dealt with fan reaction, and concerns over what may happen in the fourth part. Two sentences described the quality of the content, without going into specifics.

Quesada is undeniably a talented penciller, and the script from the departing J. Michael Straczynski tries very hard to execute a concept that’s a hugely difficult pill to swallow in just about every way.

Even the parts that mention what happened in the story focus more on consequences.

Aside from Mephisto not being the type of villain that works in Spider‑Man stories, this strains credulity and raises more questions than it answers about how Marvel intends to go forward with the character and his place in the entire Marvel Universe.

The rare reviewer willing to discuss the rest of the story actually liked it (He’s the source of the google screenshot on top of this entry.)

On message boards, comic book fans often seem more upset about what happens in a story rather than how it happens. Some fans sum up the clone saga as Peter slapping Mary Jane and Marvel revealing that the Spider‑Man most readers grew up with isn’t the real deal, ignoring that much of the clone saga was also atrociously told, which made it significantly worse than One More Day (or Sins Past or The Other) when reviewed in terms of craft. This seems to explain why many of the people complaining about One More Day were willing to buy every $4 issue, while vowing to ignore what came next. They’re concerned with the general status quo rather than the quality of specific stories.

If you disliked the notion of a retcon so much you were willing to drop the next creative teams, you weren’t going to care for a well written one. A poorly written retcon does add insult to injury, and an excellent storyline might have converted some undecided readers. Ties to Spider-Man’s history or at least earlier elements of JMS’s run could make such a dramatic change to the status quo more convincing as the logical payoff to years of set-up. The effects of either scenario were somewhat minimized as J Michael Straczynski was not writing Brand New Day, which began with a complete changing of the creative teams.

There is the argument that One More Day could come to define Spider-Man as a character. In a Mightygodking piece, John Seavey pondered why Henry Pym is defined as a wife-beater while Peter Parker is not. He suggests that the difference is that Spider-Man has more definitive arcs.

Because again, Spider-Man provides a clear alternative. As far as everyone who’s written the character since has been concerned, that happened when Peter was under a tremendous amount of mental strain and Mary Jane forgave him right away and there’s no need for anyone to even mention it again. Hank was under a tremendous amount of strain, Jan forgave him…well, eventually…but every story arc comes back to “Hank Pym redeems himself for being a wife-beater and puts it behind him for good! …until the next time he feels terrible about it.” Everyone wants to write the redemption arc, but nobody seems to want to write the post-redemption arcs.

I think the difference comes down, ultimately, to the fact that Hank Pym never really had a defining arc until his nervous breakdown. Peter has had several (the Master Planner, Spider-Man No More, the death of the Green Goblin) and writers can always go back to these big moments when they need an iconic Spidey story and they’re out of ideas. (…which is why it sometimes seems like Peter quits being Spider-Man “for good” every three weeks, but I digress.) Whereas Pym…his two big moments are his going insane and inventing a whole new identity, and his going insane and assaulting his wife and friends. And Number Three on the list is his going insane and creating a killer robot that’s committed genocide a few times. It’s hard not to think of this as the defining trait of the character, unless you want to go really far back and do an amped-up, iconic storyarc where his arch-nemesis tries to bribe his ants with sugar cubes to betray him.

As a result, Spider-Man is less likely to be defined by a poor storyline. Even if you hate One More Day with a passion, it won’t suddenly erase Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, or Spider-Man No More, any more than the last story you hated erased all that was good about the character and series.

spider-man-amazing-one-more-day-1-q-spidey

Personally, I enjoyed the first two parts of One More Day and I disagree with the oft-mentioned notion that nothing happened. The first issue tied up some key relationships (Peter/ Tony, Jarvis/ May) and resolved the immediate problem of getting Aunt May stable medical care, while the second established that no one Spider‑Man knew could help him and featured a nice mindbender with Doctor Strange. It wasn’t until the third part that we received a significant indication into how the likely retcon is going to occur.

The portrayal of the alternate versions of Peter Parker in the third issue and its implications hasn’t been discussed much. I like the billionaire’s comments about drinking, as it differs from the teetotaler we’re all familiar with. The girl the billionaire remembers from high school is meant to be Mary Jane, but continuity-wise can’t be anyone other than Liz Allen, the girl Peter was in love with in High School. In this case, Mary Jane’s not presented as particularly essential to Peter, if another woman can fill the void. The computer designer version of Peter Parker is painful, resembling what young comic fans definitely don’t want to become.

The two alternate versions of Peter do work in the context of JMS’s repeated theme that Peter Parker was always meant to be a hunter and always “angry.” The revelation that Peter Parker’s usually destined to end alone is unsettling, and a rather depressing set up to “Brand New Day.” My take (and I can’t fault JMS for having a different interpretation) is that Peter Parker will usually have a happy ending (wife, kids, etc) but the demands of serial fiction mean that the comics shouldn’t show him getting that. It is worth noting that Mephisto is a renowned liar and that Mary Jane’s deal with the devil in the last part gives Peter the possibility of happiness.

There was an unsatisfying element concerning the plotting of One More Day. Writers often spend less time than many readers prefer dealing with the ramifications of a story. They also sometimes spend significant real estate (every page is valuable) setting up major plot beats that readers know are coming.

One More Day was an example of that. The first two and a half issues of that storyline, the culmination of a 60+ issue run, were spent getting Peter Parker to the place where he would consider a deal that would bring his marriage to an end. Due to various promotional images, pretty much every reader who picked up the book knew that particular beat was coming. So they were more likely to be disappointed with the issues that were setting up that beat. What was expected to be the focus of the story was instead the final act.

There were some behind the scenes reasons for other flaws in the story, including a mad scramble after JMS delivered a script for the last two parts that was quite from what Joe Quesada, his artist and editor, expected. Though, the end result was still customers buying a book that wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

It is reasonable to hold One More Day to a higher standard than the typical comic book. Because it was so important to the characters, it’s going to be read more often than the typical four issue arc. And it was also the conclusion of a popular writer’s run on the series, so expectations were quite high. It’s a discouraging reminder for readers that a run they’re enjoying may not end well, which may cause a few to be less forgiving of weak periods in books they follow.

But the quality of the story was ultimately a minor concern.

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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