For those who don’t know, Spider-Man: One More Day is a four-part story created by J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada that was released in 2007, following up the events of Marvel’s Civil War event. The story itself has received severe criticism over the years and is often considered the worst Spider-Man story ever written, which is really saying something significant. As a devout Spider-Man fan and critic of the story myself, I wanted to revisit One More Day to see if it has gotten better since its premiere almost 10 years ago. Hindsight is 20-20, right?
Well, my hindsight has revealed that the story is, indeed, a disaster from start to finish.
One More Day kicks off with Aunt May having recently been shot and basically in a coma; this is due to the fallout from Civil War in which Peter Parker reveals his identity to the world as Spider-Man. Sure enough, his enemies target his loved ones and track down his personal life, and an assassin hired by Kingpin attempts to kill Peter and MJ but misses, shooting Aunt May instead. This brings us to Part 1 of the storyline, in which Peter is in anguish over his aunt’s critical condition. His grief leads him to do a variety of extreme and uncharacteristically Spider-Man things in order to just have “one more day” with his aunt (oh, aren’t you self-aware, Quesada). Let’s look over the problems with this storyline piece by piece, shall we?
OK, yes, losing Aunt May is arguably the worst thing that could happen to Peter Parker. But good Lord, is the tragedy uncreative. Aunt May is shot as a result of Peter’s enemies knowing who he is. This gives Peter incredible guilt over the experience, because Lord knows self-blame over personal tragedy has been a successful trope for comic book writers over the years. However, with the talent that Straczynski has, fans were hoping for something with a little more meat. Why not something a bit more tangible for the rest of us? Spider-Man has always been one of the most relatable characters in all of comics, arguably in all of fiction, and while we have all experienced some self-loathing for tragedy in our lives, very few of us can really connect with having a mob boss order a hit on us resulting in an unintentional death. You know what is relatable? A loved one getting cancer, or being lost in a senseless automobile accident. If Straczynski and Quesada wanted to make a story that readers could connect with, they should have made the tragedy something that was truly out of Peter’s hands: give us three issues of Spider-Man fighting off droves of enemies to protect his family, and end it with Aunt May contracting cancer or being hit by a drunk driver to showcase the real futility of Peter’s efforts. Making her death a case of assassination-gone-wrong ruins the blow of the inciting incident.
Also, why was his spider-sense, a power that has been monumentally effective in the past, so unhelpful in this case? So his power can make him dodge a bullet in his sleep but can’t let him know that his Aunt May is right behind him? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Parker’s Reign of Terror
I’ve never been a big fan of the whole “symbiote suit makes Peter lose his character” idea; it feels contrived and gimmicky to me. You know what I’m also not a big fan of? Peter establishing a 24-hr reign of terror in his grief. During the course of One More Day, we see Peter Parker do a host of things that are definitely not par for the Peter Parker course. We see him physically and verbally threaten a doctor whose hands are administratively tied; let loose his full powers on Tony Stark (something he has repeatedly sworn to never do); intimidate, threaten, and shift blame onto Stark in order to get money from him; threaten to rob people and banks in order to pay for medical treatment; and verbally attack Dr. Strange and disobey him concerning the arcane arts. While we all can understand that tragedy can make us do things we normally would not, we see Peter transform right before our eyes into something he has never been. It is completely inconsistent of his character to even think of doing any of these things, especially when viewed in light of trying to save the very woman who raised him to always do what was right. It is ironic that while every effort is made to save Aunt May, not once is any thought given to her legacy, a trend in this story that is antithetical to everything Aunt May has ever stood for.
Avengers, BE USELESS!
I have no idea what kind of bullet that assassin shot Aunt May with, but it apparently was laced with special plot-juice that makes every character in the entire Marvel Universe completely incompetent and useless. Arguments have been made that Straczynski at least tried to explain why no one else could help heal Aunt May, but in all honestly, he really doesn’t. While Tony Stark argues that the government would come after him if he gave Peter any help, refusing to help an innocent bystander is not the type of hero Iron Man has ever been (the weird recent Extremis storyline excluded). His argument also falls apart literally one page later when Jarvis shows up with a new hefty bank account to help Aunt May. Apparently, the government stops caring about Tony Stark when he just wires 2 million dollars to an account which then covers hospital bills for May Parker (oh, I’m sorry, May Morgan. As if anyone in America didn’t know who they were after the events of Civil War). Peter does the next logical thing, asking Dr. Strange for mystical help. However, Dr. Strange proves even less helpful than Tony, simply saying the magical-spiritual equivalent of “Nah, sorry fam; ain’t gonna work.” This might be the biggest problem for me: Peter goes to Steven Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, a character who can travel the globe with the Speed of Thought, who can multiply himself with comparative sentience, who can phase in and out of the astral plane at will, who has defeated clone versions of the Hulk and Namor, and who has altered all of reality too many times to count. And Strange just says, “I’m sorry, I can’t help her.” WHY NOT?! At least try to give an explanation as to why one of the most powerful beings in the universe can defeat demons and exist in several different realities at once but can’t heal a bullet wound! Further, the creators don’t even try to explain why anyone else can’t help; they simply show Peter asking the richest, smartest, and most powerful characters in all of Marvel in unexplained futility. This is one of the worst examples of plot-convenience I have ever seen, and it is unacceptable. All of these things lead to…
- OK, Straczynski and Quesada. Peter Parker, one of the most morally upright and spotless characters in all of comics, a character who refuses to kill even his most dangerous foes because he believes some things are just too sacred, whose career has been spent stopping muggings just as much as saving the universe, who’s moral resolve has been tested and proven countless times, accepts help from Mephisto, Marvel’s version of Satan. OK. Sure.
Honestly, I hate everything about this sequence. I hate that Mephisto just randomly shows up, I hate that Peter is one of the most intelligent people in Marvel and he can’t figure out what’s going on as all these weird random things occur, I hate that we just saw Peter walk the astral plane in an attempt to find help for his dying aunt then immediately is having casual conversation with random people in the street, I hate that Quesada insults his readers’ intelligence by assuming that we don’t see the little girl’s identity a mile away, I hate that Straczynski goes out of his way to ridicule an entire group of readers by saying that people who play and program video games are wasting their lives in bitterness and social withdrawal, I hate that Mephisto, one of the most powerful and evil beings in the universe, has nothing better to do than break up a marriage. If there is a single issue of comic books that I hate more than The Sensational Spider-Man #41, I have no idea what it is. It’s a series of nonsense scenes and insults to the readers that make the story feel more like a bad melodramatic David Lynch project than anything else.
One More Day is a bad storyline. You can summarize its four parts as such: Part 1, Both Peter and Tony are Turds. Part 2, Dr. Strange is Vague and Useless. Part 3, Mephisto Finishes Binging Days of Our Lives. And Part 4, Really Drawn-Out Dialogue Leads to Retcon. But bad writing is really nothing new to Spider-Man fans; we’ve had to suffer through some really bad stories in the past, but nothing felt as personal as this. The reason why One More Day stands out is not that the writing is bad but rather that the writing is lazy.
Everything that happens in One More Day is convenient for the story. Yes, in order for any story to work, certain things have to fall into place. However, when things fall into place in such a way that nothing makes sense, e.g. everyone in the Marvel Universe suddenly becoming useless to heal a bullet wound, readers start to feel as if the creators are just phoning it in. One More Day was never meant to revolutionize Spider-Man comics; it was meant to do one thing—retcon Civil War because it was inconvenient. The fact that everyone knew Spider-Man’s identity made telling a traditional story really difficult; however, rather than embracing that difficulty and giving readers something new and exciting, we get a weird retconning that makes no sense and only serves to give Quesada a way out of the box that Marvel creators had written themselves into. Yes, Civil War was a great book, but it wreaked utter havoc on virtually every mainstream Marvel title that was not Captain America. So, what did Quesada do? Give Spider-Man fans a cheap, unimaginative and nonsensical four-part story that not only destroyed Peter and MJ’s marriage but also set a dangerous precedent: if things get tough, we can always phone it in and retcon. This is why One More Day stands out as the worst Spider-Man story, for it showed readers just how terrible comics can get when creators decide that they just don’t want to actually earn their paycheck with creativity and quality content anymore.
Which is why I say thank God for Dan Slott. Sure, the man killed Peter Parker, but you can never say he phoned an issue in.