Friday, December 21, 2007

Hopes and Fears (Marvel comics)
Marvel Holiday Special (1993) When: 1994
Why: Steven Grant How: Pat Broderick

The story so far...
A night of lugging presents turns sour when Peter Parker takes leave of his beloved wife, Mary-Jane, and is forced to jettison their Christmas goods to take up the great responsibility of the amazing Spider-man!

A shooting star proves to be something far more extraordinary as an angel falls from the heavens, burning a hole through the New York streets, subway, and under crust!

After saving a subway car full of citizens, Spidey finds himself in a tumble that leads him to a destination most infernal -- no! Not Jersey! -- HELL!
With the holidays in full swing, Spider-man finds himself face-to-face with the devil Mephisto, who has plans to destroy the angellic spirit of Christmas once and for all. Spidey's making a wager for his soul in a battle for one more day -- of cheer!

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Mephisto 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Mephisto 7 (Infinite Wisdom)
Speed: Mephisto 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Mephisto 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Mephisto 7 (Solar Power)

- Often confused for the devil; Mephistopheles, (better known to friend and foe as Mephisto), is in actual fact an entirely different infernal demon intent on corrupting and collecting souls. Even so, Mephisto is often seen to cultivate the misconception, using Satan, among other names, as an occasional alias when tormenting humans.

Coming into regular conflict with magic and cosmic entities such as the Silver Surfer, Thor, Dr. Doom, and Dr. Strange; Mephisto is begrudgingly regarded as an important part of the natural cosmic balance between good and evil.

As a demon of the highest level, Mephisto has powers to manipulate reality, summon deamonite spawn, steal souls, and generally cause of a lot of mystical mischief.
Despite these awesome powers, Mephisto often plays by an obscure ruleset, valuable in curbing the interferences of other powers, but often coming with deceits and manipulations.

- A bite from a radioactive spider should have killed highschool nerd, Peter Parker, but instead it would irradiate his own blood, granting him extraordinary powers.

Spider-man possesses the enhanced strength, speed, and agility of a spider. Adding to his arsenal, a precognitive spider-sense that warns him of pending danger, and self-made webshooters, which have since been replaced by a further mutation.
Unlike his previous mechanical build, Spidey's organic web-shooting ability has been shown to be nearly endless, likely reliant upon biological factors.

The Math: Mephisto Ranking: Spider-man (#1)

What went down...
Mistaking, at first, a flaming angel falling from heaven for a shooting star, Spidey leaps into action to save whatever portion of Manhattan is in the firing line.
He of course soon realises his error and after saving a subway full of passangers, falls through into the bottomless pit made by the angel's descent, falling into the infernal pits of Hell. Mmm, because it just isn't Christmas without a hero's journey into the inferno!

Spidey comes face to face with Mephisto, who is pleased to have the company of a witness, despite his incessant mockery. The quipping Spider-man soon takes a more dramatic tone when Mephisto reveals the angel to be the living embodiment of the spirit of Christmas, which he intends to crush in the jaws of a medieval torture device to which the Spirit is strapped by demons.

Some objection is noted from the Spider-man, leading to a wager. (Uh-oh!)
Never one to pass up a good soul, Mephisto offers Peter Parker the opportunity to rescue the Spirit of Christmas unopposed, with the catch being, if he fails, Mephisto not only obliterates holiday cheer, but also claims his soul.

Unable to turn his back on hope for all humanity, Spidey agrees, but suffers the first twist in Mephisto's ploy, forced to leap into action without warning!

Oh snap!
Spider-man leaps into the maw of the trap just in time, wresting control from it's iron clamp with the use of the proportionate strength of a spider.

Mmm, harsh but fair!Spidey mocks the ancient design of the torture device, but Mephisto proves just as apt in dialogue, undermining Spidey with every strain and twitch of his superhuman muscles.

Despite his best efforts, Spidey fails, and the Spirit of Christmas is chrushed in a shower of feathers, and the crush of the spiked trap.

Mephisto summons Peter Parker's soul, leaving the visage of his alter-ego limp in the hellacious dirt. Spidey's soul howls in terror, prompting an unlikely act of restitution from Mephisto - the granting of Peter Parker's soul - key to his escape from the infernal landscape of Hell.

Mephisto, content with the destruction of hope and merriment, ascends to observe the misery he has inflicted upon humanity, only to get a nasty shock. All across the land New Yorkers are united in carol.

To Mephisto's chagrin, the angel Spirit appears alive and well and reveals that his powers draw from the humans' hope and joy, and not the reverse, as the demon had callously believed. Thus, despite his defeat, Spider-man is left to swing again, and enjoy the holidays with an unwitting wife, who very nearly lost her husband for Christmas. (Cue ominous music!)

Look at that hairline, and tell me you couldn't imagine PETER FONDA painted red... Seriously... That really could've worked!...The hammer...
Despite the happy ending, it's the uncharacteristic mercy of Mephisto that make such a conclusion possible. Within the confines of their opposition, it is he who is victorious!
Merry Christmas, indeed.

By now you can probably imagine the synergy behind this week's classic Friday entry, drawing upon events in belated issues of Amazing Spider-man. One More Day is the storyline already infamous for it's alleged intent to fullfil Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada's well publicized whims to dissolve the spider-marriage once and for all.

Quesada has famously grappled with the situation for most of his duration as EIC. Regularly has he voiced a desire to keep the character's good nature intact; (thus ruling out the once dangled prospect of divorce); but never the less remove the so-assumed baggage of a wife who has apparently sucked the life out of the character. It would be at this junction I would lodge the point that I'm not even inflecting greater emphasis here, but in fact accurately reflecting sentiments.

Like many longterm readers, I'm very comfortable with Mary-Jane's role as the Parker wife, and actually quite enjoy her presence. I would argue, if anything, there's a diversity of character to be explored on an on-going basis, drawing upon the same realistic beats that are supposedly to be reinstated by the removal of the character.

ONE MORE DAY brings SPIDER-MAN to the feet of MEPHISTO once again -- this time with a wish to fulfill!The reputation of a 'juvenile boys club' has been represented of Marvel's current guard of chummy acquaintances.

As figure head; Quesada's general distain for the marriage no doubt contributes greatly to this image. Dialogues regarding motivation for the shift - that include granting Parker the fantastic ability to browse for online porn - while ultimately overblown jokes, probably don't help much on the juvenile front.

Popular speculation currently predicts Quesada's apparent ultimate solution is the intervention of Mephisto, who proposes an obscure choice to Peter Parker: Leave his beloved Aunt May to die, or sacrifice his marriage in exchange for a second-chance.

In our own way we may present a bizarre sense of synergy, depicting just one instance where Mephisto may have come to enjoy the notion of inflicting pain on Peter Parker. No doubt there are far more ingrained examples to be found, but it should be noted, that that flimsy point is there to be made.

On the other hand, such intervention is absurd, and far from a brilliant solution to what has been a delicate problem. Of course, here and now, there's nothing yet set in stone. J Straczynski has publicly lodged a distaste for what he has been asked to write in OMD, but there's every chance this is little more than subterfuge to disguise what is yet to come, because there's an undeniable truth to come from all of this.

Love or hate Quesada and his methods, he has created a mythology outside the comics that can move as many units as any A-list creative team. The simple notion that this might finally be the straw that breaks the back is enough to have the internet aflame with Spidey chatter, and bated anticipation.

Never one to value a much desired career in writing superhero comics [comedy!] -- we lodge an opinion in the resounding negative.
If this is to be the end of the Spider-marriage, then there's every liklihood our promotion of the character as the biggest name of 2007, will be critically reversed by some form of a boycott in 2008.

However, the point remains, there's odds still predicting massive amounts of egg on the faces of rabid fans everywhere. We're on the fence enough to defend ourselves from such an outcome, with the life of a character who has already died, and should arguably remain that way, on the line.
Aunt May was resurrected in one of many strokes of absurdity that have coloured the Spider-man universe as a discombobulated mess. Restoring the situation would be a late, but acceptable gesture to restore that reality, and project the character into a logical stage of forward momentum. The apron strings have to be cut eventually, and with movie roles a large factor in today's comics, Aunt May's reduced role in Spidey 3 makes for a better argument than lead romantic interest, Mary-Jane, even with Kirsten Dunst's shakey commitment.

The will they/won't they of One More Day will make it an undeniable checkpoint for early 2008, but whether or not the character will prosper beyond, remains to be seen. Online voices have a way of distracting from actual outcomes, making sales figures arguably more intriguing than the prospects of the stories themselves, and in that respect, the Infinite Wars will be very interested!

On the other hand, having MJ throw herself on the coals for an apparently immortal Aunt would be an act of tedium far more offensive than May's resurrection, and quietly restored youth. So here's hoping, folks.

With no irony and in the face of solicitations describing a swinging and fancy-free Spidey, I'm going to make the prediction: Mary-Jane Parker remains.
On Aunt May I'm going to cop out and wait and see. ;-p

Happy Holidays!

The Fight: 1 The Story: 3.5

Bringing Spider-man into a battle between heaven and hell never seems like a good idea, contributing an extra layer of vitriol to an already volatile story in One More Day. Of course, a disposable twelve page Christmas tale suffers far greater than even the most offensive Spider-crossover. Go figure!

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