To all those complaining about the shitty “Mephisto makes Peter give up his marriage to save Aunt May with devil-magic” storyline currently going on in Amazing Spider-Man – look, this one is so easy to fix it’s almost redundant to mention it, and by “fix” I don’t mean just retconning it away, but instead making it work on a larger scale.
Ready? Because it’s really easy.
The sniper’s bullet would have missed Aunt May if Mephisto hadn’t altered its course just so.
There. That is all you need. The problem with this story thus far is twofold:
1.) Splitting up Peter and MJ is dumb;
2.) Having Mephisto make this deal is dumber.
Now, #1 is easily dealt with because in a couple of years they’ll reunite, just watch. But #2? That’s why you need the twist I just mentioned. Because, instead of just opportunistically marching into the plot and saying “moo hoo ha ha, I am evil and will force you to make a cruel O. Henry sort of decision, Peter Parker,” Mephisto is now driving the action.
As a matter of fact, maybe Mephisto’s plan wouldn’t just be to get Peter to make the deal. I mean, come on, the endgame can’t just be “make Peter suffer,” because the Green Goblin does that all the time and you’d think Mephisto would be playing for higher stakes, right? He is, after all, the Debbil.
Indeed – if it were me writing, I’d say that Mephisto wants Peter to sacrifice his marriage so that Peter suffers – and then finds out about what Mephisto did. Easy enough to have Dr. Strange notice it at some point. And come on, we’ve all seen Spidey lose his shit when somebody targets his loved ones before, right? (Come to think, isn’t that what he just did?) And Peter is, unfortunately in this case, brave and prone to rash decisions at these moments.
Say, like, maybe he enters Hell – literally – to make things right. (Because he reads it somewhere in a magic book that of course Mephisto didn’t make sure he’d find.)
And maybe that’s what Mephisto wanted all along – because he can’t get Spidey’s soul while Spidey’s on Earth, it’s pure and untouchable, but if Spidey goes into Mephisto’s realm, he’s fair game. (Why yes, I did read Triumph and Torment, why do you ask?) Getting a shot at a pure soul like that suddenly justifies all the work Mephisto put into this – not just Spidey’s soul itself, but all the knockoff effects (imagine the despair in the hearts of all the Marvel heroes if Spidey has to rot in hell for all eternity; maybe one or two would even mount an ill-advised rescue attempt! Or even more, if Mephisto decided to, shall we say, subtly encourage things).
Just imagine a run of issues where Spidey goes through the nine levels of Hell. It could be horrific, to be sure, but done properly it could also become literal translation of the metaphysical anguish that encapsulates Spider-Man’s life: the ultimate iteration, if you will, of suffer-worse-worst-triumph-momentary burst of sheer happiness-repeat that is more or less the entire history of Spidey comics.
And there’s so much more you could do with it. Mary Jane-slash-Jackpot charging into Hell after him halfway through when she finds out the truth of what happens. Somebody finally calling in that boon Loki owes Spider-Man from about five years ago. And yes, I can already tell you how it ends: with Peter and MJ, bruised and beaten, staring up as Mephisto swells to a thousand feet high or more to confront the equally giant attacker who, at the last moment, has come to save people he loves, and who can take Mephisto on, even in Hell –
– but I’m not giving that away yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to write it.
(I believe the appropriate answer to that is “shyyyeeeah.”)