The enmity between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson runs all the way back to 1963. We were introduced to Jolly Jonah as the man in charge of the Daily Bugle, a newspaper that dedicated itself to persuading the wall-crawler was nothing but a menace.
The years have passed, and both characters have changed radically. Peter Parker is no longer a shy college kid who depends on snapshots of Spider-Man to pay Aunt Mill's bills. Jameson is no longer involved with the Daily Bugle, instead positioned as a disgraced ex-mayor of New York who's trying to rebuild his life as a news blogger.
What nobody could have predicted was for this week's Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #6 to come to a head with Spider-Man unmasking himself before Jameson.
Wait, What's Going On?
Chip Zdarsky's Spectacular Spider-Man is a fun comic that's facing the wall-crawler against the unexpected threat of the terrible Tinkerer. You may scoff, but Zdarsky's woven an entertaining narrative in which the Tinkerer has stolen secret S.H.I.E.L.D. files outlining the powers and weaknesses of countless superheroes. He's became a challenge on a whole different scale, and as part of that Spider-Man is currently wrestling with a number of tricky questions. Much to his frustration, Jameson has the answers, and the old reporter hits upon a novel solution to the dilemma. Spider-Man must agree to a one-hour-long exclusive interview with Jolly Jonah Jameson.
What follows is a narrative masterpiece, a character study that sees Spider-Man and J.J.J. sit down over a dish of lasagna. Although Spider-Man is supposed to be the one being cross-examined, the conversation swiftly turns into an argument, with each accusing the other. The twisted relationship between the wall-crawler and his nemesis is explored in poignant terms, with each knowing just how to wound the other. By the end of it, both men are wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
Zdarsky's study of Jameson in particular is heartwrenching. He explores the character in a way we've never seen, examining the sense in which this proud man has gradually lost everything he loves. All he has left is his hatred of Spider-Man, and little by little, that reason is teased out. We learn that Jameson despises the wall-crawler because of his mask. For Jameson, masks are a mark of cowardice, reminding him of a mugger who accosted him years ago. He hates Spider-Man because, by wearing a mask, the hero has abandoned any semblance of accountability.
Spider-Man looks at Jameson, and realizes that things can't go on like this. He takes a radical step, and unmasks before the former reporter. He literally trusts J. Jonah Jameson with his secret identity, revealing the impact the death of Uncle Ben had on him all those years ago. He trusts one of his worst enemies, the man who created Spider-Slayers and the Scorpion, with the truth of who he really is.
A Beautiful Moment
The comic is a tremendous character study, light on punches but deep on meaning. It explores the heart of two beloved characters in a way we seldom see in modern comic books, revealing their deepest motivations and their greatest weaknesses. It comes to a close with Spider-Man realizing that he has the power to break the cycle of hatred between the webhead and Jameson, and choosing to do so — even at great risk to himself and his loved ones.
We've seen something like this once before, with Spider-Man unmasking during Marvel's "Civil War" event. There, he made a public spectacle of it, and Jameson was furious. Those events were retconned out of continuity when Peter did a (literal) deal with the devil, so the Jameson of the modern #Marvel Universe had no idea who Spider-Man really was.
There's a sense in which this contrasts beautifully with "Civil War." That event was one of pomp and circumstance, whereas this is a single issue and a quiet conversation. In "Civil War," Peter spent days pondering whether or not to reveal his secret identity. Here, he makes the decision spontaneously, recognizing that Jameson needs something to shock him out of the cycle of hatred. It's a classic Peter Parker moment, and so very true to character.
The cat's out of the bag for J. Jonah Jameson, and #SpiderMan's secret identity is now at risk as never before. Zdarsky's script doesn't give us even a hint of how the blogger will respond to this revelation, and that's a smart move, ensuring the issue ends on a strong note of dramatic tension. The relationship between Spidey and J.J.J. has been a long, complex one, but it's about to be completely redefined.
Do you think Spider-Man made the right decision? Let me know in the comments!