A "big storyline" (released in 2007) in the Spider-Man universe.
Due to Spider-Man revealing his secret identity at the urging of Tony Stark in Civil War, an attempt is made by the Kingpin on Spider-Man's life. Peter, naturally, escapes it due to his spider-senses, but dear old Aunt May takes the bullet. Unfortunately, this is a fatal wound, and May is going to die. After putting back on his old black costume and going on a Darker and Edgier Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Kingpin, he webswings up and down the Marvel Universe trying to find someone, anyone, who can help him. Unfortunately, none of the super-scientists, magicians (one of whom is also a surgeon), mutants, or techno-wizards can fix a single bullet wound.note
Then Mephisto shows up, to offer Peter and Mary Jane a Deal with the Devil. He'll heal May, but rather than take a soul in exchange, he'll take their marriage. Yes, that's right — the entire purpose of this arc was to Cosmic Retcon the Spidey marriage. Ostensibly, it's because "the suffering of two souls in love, forever denied each other, is far better than the soul of one who has given it up nobly in sacrifice of another." Peter accepts, and...
The series picks up after a Time Skip, under the banner Brand New Day. Not only is Aunt May alive and well, but Harry Osborn is alive and well, too. Peter and Mary Jane - never married in this reality but merely living together - have broken up and are hardly speaking to one another. But MJ may have launched her own superheroing career as "Jackpot". Peter's web-shooters are no longer organic, and Spider-Man's identity is a secret again, and he's a single swinger living with his aunt. Or, to put it another way, a thirty-year-old man living in his (foster) mother's basement.
The newspaper strip version of Spider-Man, which had originally followed the comics in dissolving Peter and MJ's marriage (sans Mephisto; it just told stories that happened before the marriage) has bowed to the pressure of thousands of letters of complaint and retconned the "unmarriage" again. See the article. Though according to Roy Thomas, who has ghostwritten the comic strip in the past, the story without the marriage was planned to be temporary all along.
This was followed up in 2010 with One Moment in Time (or "OMIT"), intended to clean up dangling plot threads as Peter and Mary Jane finally get talking again and start going over the history of their relationship. Its reception was pretty much the same One More Day had.
This was followed up again in Dan Slott's run of the comic, which put the Ship Tease angle back between Mary Jane and Peter starting with Spider-Island... Until Doctor Octopus hijacked Peter's body, which screwed up their relationship, even after Peter took control of his body once again. Slott kept sinking and refloating the possibility several times during most of his run. Nick Spencer replaced him in 2018.
However, things weren't as set in stone for the couple outside of the main continuity. The Secret Wars (2015) event has a follow-up to this story called Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. The story features an alternate version of Peter Parker who remained married to Mary Jane, and tells the story of how they raise their daughter, Annie. This version of the character first appeared in the Spider-Verse, however fleetingly. Given that each series in Secret Wars was stated to have an impact on the "All-New Marvel" line, many were hoping that the two will end up together again in the new continuity. While it didn't continue in All-New, All-Different Marvel, it will be continued in Marvel NOW! (2016) as an alternate universe comic.
This story arc provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: We never did find out who that woman was Mephisto hinted at.
- Anchored Ship: The official status of Peter/MJ between One More Day and One Moment In Time.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Parker asked Stark to pay for May's medical treatment, or... or what? Parker, you're in no position to make threats! No, the "or..." was not an "OR ELSE" threat. It was "or else my aunt is going to die in some charity ward somewhere. Is that what you really want, Tony? Is it?"
- Artistic License – Law: Tony Stark can not pay May's hospital, because that would be a criminal help to a fugitive criminal. So, he transferred some millions to Jarvis' personal account, so that he can help May in his name. Problem is, the use of strapersons to commit financial crimes is a regulated crime, and relatives and best friends (such as Jarvis for Stark) are the first suspects in those operations.
- Astral Projection: Just to hammer in how impossible it is to heal Aunt May, Doctor Strange casts a spell on Peter that allows him to talk to every noteworthy scientist, mystic, and healer in the Marvel universe... at the same time!
- The Bad Guy Wins: Any way you try to spin this Joe, it still ends with Mephisto getting exactly what he wants without conditions or consequences.
- Broad Strokes: The events of the marriage years mostly still happened as originally shown; Peter and MJ were still living and sleeping together - they just never made it official. Which means yes, all Mephisto did was erase some wedding photos and a legal document.
- Broken Aesop:
- Breaks the aesop that Spider-Man is supposed to embody, as instead of taking responsibility for his actions, he dodges it by making a Deal with the Devil against the wishes of its main beneficiary and guilt-tripping his own wife into going along with it. However, in One Moment in Time (popularly known as OMIT), this is retconned so that Mary Jane is the one to have made the deal. Word of God is that the aesop is meant to be "It's heroic to do whatever you can to save a life" but to readers, rewriting history just to save the life of a single person who, in addition to wanting to die anyways and was telling you to let go, and is, let's face it, likely to die of old age in a few years anyway is simply asinine. The message then becomes "the ends justify the means", and that instead of learning how to cope with loss and move on with your life, you should hold on to what you have and never let go, even if the cost of doing so might be too high; for you and for others.
- The whole argument by the computer programmer version of Peter about how real life is less interesting than fiction because you can't just pull a sword from a stone and go on a fantastic adventure or strap a gun to your hip and become a gunfighter falls flat on its face when you realize that he lives in the Marvel universe. You can metaphorically pull a sword from a stone here and go off on an adventure, you can strap a gun to your hip and become a gunfighter because there are numerous successful weapons-based superheroes. And laughably enough, he also lives in New York, a city that is attacked by monsters, mutants and/or aliens every single week. Sure, he personally cannot do any of these things with his skill set, but stick around long enough and there is a good chance that he will eventually.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Tony Stark is not Peter Parker's dad, just a parental figure. That did not save him from falling into this when Parker thought that the whole mess is Stark's fault.
- Canon Discontinuity: Despite Joe Quesada's explicit claims that Spidey's unmasking in Civil War wouldn't be undone via a "magic retcon", one of the effects of the deal is that his unmasking was written out of history. Bravo, Joe.
- Comically Small Bribe: Ultimately, this is what Mephisto gets out of the deal. The most powerful and evil Satanic Archetype in all of Marvel comics pulls a Faustian bargain with an All-Loving Hero in order to...erase the marriage of one New York college couple.
- Cosmic Retcon: Peter makes a Deal with the Devil to erase his marriage with Mary Jane in exchange for saving his Aunt May's life. The entire purpose of this arc was to retcon the Spidey marriage.
- Deal with the Devil: Well, A Devil, but yeah. It is one of most infamous example in the comic books.
- Death by Cameo: Only by subtext, but still. After the Parkers take the deal, Mephisto taunts them with a girl he says is the child they'll never have now. Now, there are a lot of reasons that this can't be the baby miscarried back in The Clone Saga (and Word of God asserts it's just an image of how MJ pictured their theoretical kid), but Spider-Girl fans were nonetheless not amused.
- Doing In the Wizard: At first, all the Brand New Day changes appeared to have happened For Want of a Nail because of the marriage thing. But as they were explained one by one, it became clear that they all happened during a Time Skip and Mephisto's effects on previous canon were minor.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Parker does not want Stark's pity. He wants medical care for May, which he can not pay for.
- Fantastic Aesop: The story is essentially a result of Quesada wanting to split up Mary Jane and Peter, but at the same time didn't want to imply a "divorce is okay" aesop. Apparently, he was just fine with implying the impossible "making deals with the devil is okay".
- And in the sequel, MJ states marriage without children is just a piece of paper. So, divorce (unless done by Satan) isn't okay but marriage itself is no big deal.
- The Gloves Are Off: Iron Man can not be stopped by Spider-Man's weak webs. But what if he let it go and emptied himself on him? Yes, that will stop him... at least for some seconds.
- Idiot Ball: Again, just about everyone who appears, exception being Aunt May, though likely only because she's comatose.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Parker blames himself for May being shot.
- In Spite of a Nail: One would think that the nonexistence of the marriage would at least have changed the outcome some of the plotlines in the Spider-Man continuity. Whatever impact that was, however, doesn't seem to have been very drastic. This has less to do with the marriage not having an impact on the continuity, but the creators merely not wanting to explore the changes. It's much harder to rationalize that the marriage didn't have an impact if you can just say that the stories wouldn't have changed, and just leave it at that. Or just that the marriage was all Joe wanted to retcon.
- I Owe You My Life: The doctor in the hospital can't do much for May, but he will at least keep the bureaucracy stalled as long as possible to prevent May from being transferred somewhere else. Spider-Man had once saved his uncle, and he promised back then that someday he would pay that debt.
- It's All My Fault: The whole story is driven by Parker's sense of guilt over May being shot.
- Karma Houdini: Mephisto has managed to avoid receiving any comeuppance from Spider-Man for his actions for years.
- Moral Dissonance:
- According to Joe Q: it's okay to forget all about responsibility, save a woman who wants to die and be with her long-dead husband who she has missed, make a deal with the devil, oh and being married makes you boring.
- Reed Richards and Tony Stark apparently erasing Spider-Man's identity from the memories of everyone on the planet. Didn't they just fight a war with some of their former friends just to make sure that nobody could do that? And wasn't Spider-Man on the opposite side of that war?
- Never My Fault: Parker attacks Stark and blames him for the whole situation, because Stark talked him into revealing his identity because he promised that May and Mary Jane would be protected. Parker forgot that he is an adult capable to decide things by himself, and that he forfeited that protection the moment he went rogue and took them out of the tower.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Up until this story, Mephisto never had the power to alter reality. Since he does, it begs the question why he never bothered to use it for past villainy?
- Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Perhaps the Trope Codifier for Comic Books. Peter acts like a) no one ever lost a loved one, and b) Aunt May had decades more years to live - and c) it's almost as if he wanted to dump Mary Jane to be a swingernote then date Joe Quesada's daughter.
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Fridge Logic mixed with Idiot Ball. So you mean to tell us that Reed Richards (and Tony Stark, and Hank Pym...) is somehow now unable to heal a gunshot wound? Really? Not just Richards, but every scientific mind and mystic in the Marvel universe is unable to heal Aunt May. Hell, not even Elixir of the New X-Men can't help, and his sole power? Healing people. And not just healing people — it's controlling every cell in your body. From a distance. Elixir healed a guy after the dude's heart was torn out. Something that, logically, should have been instantly fatal... May was just shot... By a bullet. That didn't kill her instantly. There is no reason such a wound should be beyond his power. Elixir could literally have revived May over the phone. Oh, but there's more, much more. Peter goes to Dr. Strange first... Dr. Strange who can literally make Gods, omnipotent beings from other universes like the Outer Gods, do his bidding by just saying so. Dr. Strange said he couldn't heal Aunt May. Dr. Strange, who can summon Gods and omnipotents at will, who is in personal direct contact with a pantheon of beings whose entire purpose is being nice guys and helping humans, could not heal a simple gunshot wound (also: He's a surgeon). He even went to Doctor Doom for help. Sure, he would probably just turned her into a Doombot and had a huge string attached, but do you honestly think that would have stopped him for an instant, given who he did deal with? There are no words to describe how hard someone has to try and fuck up this badly. And just to hammer the point home, some of those selfsame people that were useless when it came to gunshots were able to pull Laser-Guided Amnesia out of their rears in One Moment In Time. And CPR manages to save Aunt May, even though between Peter's super strength should have crushed her, and CPR onto a person with an open or barely stitched wound would pump the blood out. Possibly justified by the fact that God appeared to Peter and told him to be with Aunt May as she passed on; it was simply her time to go, she had accepted this, and maybe, on some level deep down, they felt that. Somewhat Hand Waved by explaining it was her time, or fate, to die at this point meaning not even time travel could prevent it. See You Can't Fight Fate.
- Relationship Reset Button: By virtue of a deal with a demon.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Thanks to OMIT, the entire arc gets turned into this.
- Ship Sinking: The whole point of the story was to break up Peter and M.J. in the eyes of the fans. It failed miserably. Almost a decade after the story, people refuse to Abandon Shipping.
- Shoo Out the ClownsParker: In another time and place, I would've responded with a snappy comeback. I don't have time.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Parker tried to enter to Stark's tower with his old password, but Stark has already changed them. No problem, he just tears the whole door apart.
- Silent Whisper: Mary Jane agrees to Mephisto's terms for the Deal with the Devil but quietly whispers something to him before the deal is finalized. We find out what it was she said three years later (real time) in OMIT.
- Stress Vomit: After Peter tells her about the Deal with the Devil Mephisto offered them. Of course, since said deal involved wiping away their marriage from existence and any future kids are presumably a part of that, a common fan theory has that MJ may have vomited for a different reason.
- Superheroes Stay Single: This was the mentality behind the destruction of Peter and Mary Jane relationship. Quesada has actually stated that certain characters like Spider-Man are "more interesting" without their wives.
- Super Loser: Enforcing the "loser" part.
- Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Double subverted; Spidey reaches out to a long list of super-friends (including a group with a healer who rebuilt a guy's heart from nothing after it got torn out by a Satanic sorcerer—no relation) only to come up empty: see Reed Richards Is Useless up above.
- Take That, Audience!: Peter Parker meets an alternate self who was never bitten by a spider, and became instead a complete nerd who wastes his life reading comic books, playing videogames and doing similar stuff.
- Title Drop: Several times.
- Too Happy to Live: The Parkers - we can't have them Happily Married! Then where would the love triangles come from?
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Inverted.note Mephisto claims he doesn't like to buy people's souls if it's part of a Heroic Sacrifice, because those souls "suffer righteously", which is really no fun. Hence why he asks for the Parkers' marriage instead.
- Trap Is the Only Option: It's a railroad.
- Voodoo Shark: With OMIT done, Quesada claims that One More Day was retconned out of continuity and Mephisto never made a deal with the Parkers - so he never saved Aunt May; she got better thanks to Peter's love and determination.
- Watching Troy Burn: Spider-Man steals an artifact from Dr. Strange that allows to go to the past. But he can not Set Right What Once Went Wrong, because he's just a soul. He can't affect the physical world (so, he can't attack the sniper), neither be seen or heard by anyone (so, he can't warn his past self). He can't do anything but watch May get shot a second time. NOOOOOO!!!!!!
- What the Hell, Hero?: Peter's future daughter calls him out on his behavior during the entire arc, telling him how he's been acting like a selfish prick who can't take responsibility for his own actions. It's a pity that Peter doesn't actually listen to her.
- A Wizard Did It: Quesada infamously responded to objections about how the magical retcon works with "It's magic! We don't have to explain it!"
- OMIT eventually explains / retcons what actually happened- Mephisto made it so that they were never married, and Doctor Strange wiped the memory of everyone on Earth so that nobody knows Peter is Spider-Man, not even guys like Venom or the Green Goblin who knew who his Secret Identity before he revealed to the world in Civil War. Aunt May survived because Peter figured out a way to save her on his own (which Word of God states would have happened even without the Mephisto deal, so Mephisto didn't even give them anything). And random Brand New Day stuff like Harry Osborn now being alive has been explained as Death Faked for You- ie. much like Aunt May, he survived without interference from Mephisto, and was Not Quite Dead the whole canon time. Mephisto rewriting history also means that they never made a deal with Mephisto in the first place. About the only effect of his deal, then, is that Peter and Mary-Jane were never married- as in, they lived together and everything in Spidey's history happened exactly as it always did; they just chose not to make their love "official" by getting hitched. And for some reason they broke up off-panel after the events of this story.
- There wasn't even that level of explanation for Peter's loss of organic webbing. It just went away because the web shooters were iconic.
- There was no explanation on why this story didn't create an alternate timeline like all time travel shenanigans do in Marvel.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Set up as a plot point and then averted anyway. Aunt May was Deader Than Dead and nothing (a very inclusive word in the Marvel Universe) would ever succeed, no matter what! Except Mephisto.
- Younger and Hipper: The objective behind the whole story was to make Peter fit this trope again.