Amazing Spider-Man #638 Review: One Moment in Time, Part 1

And now for the review I've been dreading all day. I put this one last of all of this week's reviews for two reasons: first, I needed more time to digest this than any of the other books I read this week and second, it has the lowest grade of any book I read this week.

Well, technically it has no grade. I'm giving the issue an "incomplete". I can't truly grade any individual piece of the "One Moment in Time" arc until I've read all of them. But let's just say this is a disappointing start to the set of issues that's supposed to finally answer all the questions from the "One More Day" fallout.

It's hard to believe that it's been two-and-a-half years since "OMD", but at the same time, it's also been 92 issues. Still, I'm not sure that this is quite the right time for OMIT. If Marvel had done it sooner, then maybe there wouldn't have been so much animosity toward what happened, and if Marvel had waited longer than this (say, putting OMIT around issue 700), the wounds wouldn't have been quite as fresh. Instead, here, it feels like they're taking a step back from what had been a pretty solid series of storylines (my personal feelings on "Grim Hunt" aside).

The very first pages of this issue directly answer the question of what Mary Jane Watson-Parker (accurate, because at the time they were still married) whispered to Mephisto before he did his evil magical reset. And the lines we've waited two-and-a-half years to hear were...
"I know Peter. He will never make this deal with you, never, EVER -- unless -- I ask him to. But if I do, this is the end of it -- -- you will leave him alone for the rest of his days."
OK, I may not have been an "Amazing Spider-Man" reader from way back in the day, but I know the storylines, and I know that Mephisto hasn't exactly been a thorn in Peter/Spidey's side... at any point. So "you will leave him alone for the rest of his days" isn't really much of a request on MJ's part AND it fails to pack the punch of any of the speculated possible things MJ could have said to Mephisto. Also, that text makes literally no sense following MJ's "because of what I can offer you" proclamation from ASM #545 (which is included in this issue on the first page of this issue). Peter had already said yes to Mephisto, and it appears the only thing she offered him was the ability to convince him to say yes... which he'd already done. So, in answering that, the issue has already failed.

From there, the issue goes into MJ showing up at Peter's door, only this must be happening in some alternate universe where instead of being a supermodel/actress, MJ is an average looking redhead who probably works at a vintage record store and instead of being a superhero/unemployed guy, Peter is a shapeshifter who can go from being fat to skinny with the mere turn of a page.

If you think I'm being too harsh on Joe Quesada's art, well, you're probably right, but only because I couldn't draw anything resembling a human being. Then again, no one's paying me to draw anything, much less one of the most anticipated story arcs of one of the most revered characters in comics. After a few pages of commiserating, the story shifts to a flashback, pulled directly from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (commonly known as "the Wedding issue"). Those pages are interspersed with new pages by Paolo Rivera, showing where the story "changed". Rivera does the best job he can with these pages, but the fact is even the slightest differences would have stood out, and his pages look noticeably darker than the ASM Annual 21 pages, which just pulls the reader out of the story unnecessarily.


The ripple of changing events starts with a bird flying into a cop car where one of Electro's thugs is being held. The bird -- which is red, in case you didn't get the Mephisto connection -- unlocks the doors and the thug gets away. While Peter and MJ are going through the events of ASM Annual 21 (the dueling parties), the thug is getting the address of the cop who arrested him. So at 3:30 a.m., when Peter's at the Brooklyn Bridge (or George Washington Bridge, depending on whether you want to believe the art or the text of ASM #121) brooding over a picture of Gwen, instead of just going home, he hears gunfire. It's the thug, chasing down the cop, and of course, Spider-Man gets involved.

During the fight, Spidey get nailed in the head with a cinder block (which, for some reason, didn't trigger his spider sense). Then the thug, while running away, trips over the edge of a building. Spider-Man catches him and tries to save them by shooting webbing, but falls short of the fire escape, so he has to brace their fall by taking the full brunt of the impact with the ground. This leads to Spider-Man being completely knocked out and missing his wedding day entirely.

Now, in ASM Annual 21, MJ arrived late for the wedding, but Peter was late too, arriving just after her. This issue keeps the MJ late arrival, but now Peter doesn't show up at all, which results in MJ trying to reach him... with a cellphone. Now, I understand that through reboots and such the timing of these events isn't quite right, but it's incredibly jarring to go from pages that were published in 1987 to a page where MJ is using what appears to be an iPhone -- especially when those pages are intentionally drawn in the same style.

In the end, we see the jilted MJ standing in the distance, with a lone rose in the foreground. It's a striking image in an issue that's sadly short on those, but it still doesn't explain why Peter missing his wedding day would have resulted in the complete dissolution of their relationship. MJ knew Peter was Spider-Man and knew what she was getting into by being married to Spider-Man, so unless that knock to the head gave Peter some kind of temporary amnesia which kept them apart for an extended period of time, I'm not nearly satisfied with this as the reason why they're not married.

While I wasn't a fan of the issue itself, both covers are actually really nice. The standard cover is done by Rivera, featuring a nice take on a classic pose, with a smiling MJ clinging to a swinging Spidey. There are two versions of the Quesada-drawn variant, a regular and a sketch cover. The image is an homage to the cover to ASM #50 (the "Spider-Man No More" issue), but instead of Peter walking away from his costume, it's MJ walking away from her wedding dress (with that rose in the foreground), as a huge Spidey mask looks on from the sky. As much as I disliked Quesada's interior art, I really liked this cover, but then again, I've always been more of an MJ fan than a Spidey fan, so I'm pretty much guaranteed to like a cover that's MJ-focused.

Wow, this got really long... so in case you forgot, from way back at the top: Grade: Incomplete.

The next issue in the OMIT arc doesn't come out for two weeks, which gives me plenty of time to regroup, and hopefully we'll get some more answers -- and better answers -- in that one.

Comments

  1. Great review. I pretty much agree with every point.

    I'm not a Quesada hater by any means, and before OMD I think he did a lot to improved Marvel from the train wreck it was, but I'm getting sick of him coming down from his lofty position as CEO and saying, "Let me show you how it is done boys" and then failing hard every single time.

    MJ's fat face on that first panel was enough for me to say, "Uh oh, I have a bad feeling about this." And like you said, there wasn't anything I down right hated about it, it just didn't live up to ANY of the speculation over the last 2 years. Of course it isn't finished yet, so we will have to wait, but MJ's whispered line was just a hug let down.

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