Medication for Mister Parker
Spider-Man: House of M #1-2
The first problem with this series is that it breaks what I like to call Harras' Law. This law states that
"No mutant should ever appear in a superhero book"
The Marvel 616 Universe, which in my idle moments I like to think of as having a Stan Lee-esque unity, is in fact anything but a coherent whole. The sheer number and power level of Marvel's mutants mean that their world is in a state of low level civil war, where riots, uprisings and atrocities have become commonplace. Peter Parker is supposed to be still slugging it out with gangsters on the riverside while the entire city has been occupied by Magneto and his gang of teenage sycophants. While one isolated city occupation could be forgiven, the sheer number of major mutant operations means it is impossible to think that mutants and superheroes exist in the same world.
Mutants carry so much baggage around with them (Xavier's alleged dream, humanity's desire to castrate all mutants and lock them up in concentration camps) that the moment one of the buggers appears in the non-mutant book, then with a bang, that book becomes momentarily part of the monstrously huge, overworked and tediously self-important X-Men franchise. Spider-Man only becomes a non-mutant the moment an X-Person appears. Before that, he's just Spider-Man. The mutant element warps superhero books.
Why Harras' Law? Well, Bob Harras was the editor-in-chief under whom the most flagrant breaches of this law occurred. My favourite example is in the Clone Saga, when there was a mysterious-yet-powerful supernatural dude called "Judas Traveller", mysterious to the point that none of the editorial staff actually knew who he was. Harras, using his years of X-editing and beautiful reductionism, solved all the problems about Traveller just by saying, "Ah, fuck it, let's make him an emotionally unhinged mutant".
Brilliant, but totally, undeniably daft.
Now mutants weren't always this pompous and some mutants had innocuously spread to the superhero titles long ago, so we have to include the Exception to Harras' Law
"Except Wanda, Pietro and the Beast, cause they don't count"
They are allowed to appear in superhero comics without them instantly becoming mutant titles. The utterly overexposed Wolverine may also count, but I try not to think about him.
And that is one reason why Wanda is the mad, universe endangering uber-enemy she is today. Pietro and the Beast couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding, so it had to be her. She provides a bridge between the mutant and superhero universes.
The prima faciae problem with all House of M titles is that they flaunt Harras' Law. The whole world (a wish-fulfillment made by Wanda for Magneto, the Avengers and X-Men) is being run by Magneto, the superannuated crypto-fascist buckethead who was unforgivably resurrected by Chris Claremont. And Marvel's heroes, rather than saying "hey, there's a crypto-fascist buckethead running our world, let's go and kick his intestines up his throat", have inexplicably decided to live with the system (basically apartheid South Africa).
Which is my way of saying that writer Mark Waid has a huge dollop of shite to deal with, none of which is remotely compatible with a Spider-Man comic. He copes rather well, actually. Peter's a successful shaven-headed (surely a nod to notorious slaphead Brian Michael Bendis?) businessman who would be shamed if it came out that he was not a mutant, just a high school geek who got lucky with his choice of spider. Waid struggles manfully not to get involved in all the mutant cobblers.
This being Peter's dream world, Uncle Ben's alive. And so is Gwen. She's back! Praise the Lord, I've waited so long for this moment...
...just kidding. Let's keep her dead. But this is a "what if" story, so we'll soldier on.
Anyway, the point where it gets really creepy is when Mary Jane Watson appears. She and Peter are interviewed on TV about the film she's just made where she plays Gwen, who is married to Peter. This is Peter's dream world? Now I know that we all carry a candle for the soul of our cruelly butchered first love (that's just one of the hazards of everyday teenage life), but do we actually fantasise our real world spouse playing them in a movie?
Can't he have a fantasy world like mine? Lynda Carter. Wearing her Wonder Woman outfit. In a hot tub. Carrying a near mint copy of Fantastic Four #1 and a bucket of drugged custard. That's normal, right? And my wife could hardly complain, cause she's given me two "Celebrity Shag Amnesty" cards (matrimonial law in the United Kingdom and Dependent Territories makes it clear that all sexual activity from idle daydreaming right through to fully-fledged rumpy pumpy with these named individuals is not admissable as evidence in a divorce court). One card for our Lynda, and one for Gwen Stacy lookalike Natasha Bedingfield. Though it does all make me wonder if my ability to tell the difference between comics and reality is as acute as I like to imagine...
And there's a poster of Gwen's wedding to Peter: she's wearing Mary Jane's wedding dress. God almighty, you don't need a psychoanalyst to see that this is wrong, wrong, wrong. If Peter had any friends left who hadn't been slaughtered, wouldn't one take him down the pub, slurp a few pints and say, "Look, Peter, this whole fucking Gwen thing, mate - you're just fucking bang out of order"? And what about Watson - shouldn't she notice that she is just a rebound shag gone horribly wrong? Isn't she in need of a big fat woman with over-ornate fingernails who'll shove her hand right up MJ's nose and say, "You should kick him to the curb, sister"?
Has Waid noticed that he's making Peter out to be a mental case? Rather like the oddly-behaving cousin who has little incidents the family never talks about, Peter has a bit of history in the mental disturbance department. I could do without the improvised ju jitsu moves on Mary Jane's face, but I do hope Peter will soon again be swinging around the skyline shouting, "Parker is dead, long live the Spider". Cause that was fantastic entertainment.
Best case scenario that can come out of this story? Marvel are getting set to ditch comicdom's most tedious, destructive marriage (beating the Kents by a short nose), as Peter realises his love for his wife is actually just horrific self-delusion. Now I know you may be a Mary Jane fan, and you may be thinking, "but, but, my Mary Jane, is she not beautiful, is she not love?" But just consider how many really good Spider-Man stories there have been during this marriage: I could count them on the fingers of one finger. And haven't you noticed that most of their conversations go something like
Peter: I love you, schnibbles
Mary Jane: I love you too, floppsy
This is because they have absolutely nothing in common, him being a hyper-intelligent guilt ridden geek superhero and her being, well, less than generously endowed in the brain department. This is how their conversations should go
Peter: So, anyway, MJ, I'm thinking of heading down to the lab to do a gene crossmatch to see if we can fit the Schemer into that triple gangland killing...
Mary Jane: That's great, Tiger. And I'm off to the Hoboken Playhouse to audition for the part of Molly the Chambermaid in "Is That Your Banana, Vicar?"
Peter: I love you, flossie-woo
Mary Jane: I love you too, blumpy-tupple
No, Watson's got to go. I'm hoping for an affair with Tony Stark and a bitter divorce.