Is Spider-Man about to experience an unthinkable tragedy? Marvel certainly wants us to think so. On May 31 Marvel will publish Amazing Spider-Man #26, which is being hyped by the publisher as the most "shocking" issue of the title in 50 years. During a conversation with Popverse, Amazing Spider-Man writer Zeb Wells said that people will be very mad at him once the issue is published, and his editors have advised him to avoid conventions. During the Spider-Man panel at the 2023 C2E2 convention, Wells dropped some hints that the tragedy might involve Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man’s longtime love interest.
While looking at an image of Mary Jane on the cover of this week's Amazing Spider-Man #25, Wells noted to us recently that MJ looked conspiciously healthy, implying that she may be in danger. Marvel has also teased the release of a one-shot called Fallen Friend, which will be published in July. According to Marvel, the identity of the fallen friend will be revealed on May 31, the same day that Amazing Spider-Man #26 is published. If that wasn’t enough, Amazing Spider-Man #25 (written by Zeb Wells, penciled by Kaare Andrews and John Romita Jr.) gave us plenty of reasons to believe Mary Jane’s days were numbered. Let’s break them down.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Amazing Spider-Man #25.
Mary Jane’s final jackpot
Amazing Spider-Man #25 is part of a flashback storyline, taking place between the end of the 'Spider-Man Beyond' storyline and the beginning of Zeb Wells’ Amazing Spider-Man run. This issue solves a few lingering mysteries from that time jump, including the question of how Mary Jane got her powers. Mary Jane & Black Cat #1 revealed that MJ now had powers, which seemed to be tied to a magical slot machine. If Mary Jane had a good combination, then she would get a combat powerup such as flame powers, but if she had a bad combination, she would get a useless powerup like mud control.
Amazing Spider-Man #25 revealed where those powers came from, and how they might set up Mary Jane’s death. During her time trapped in a post-apocalyptic dimension, Mary Jane and her partner Paul spent years avoiding the villainous Benjamin Rabin. To help fight off Rabin, Paul built a device that could tap into a series of mysterious symbols within their realm. If the right combination of symbols is generated, then the user obtains great power.
Mary Jane jokingly compared this to hitting the jackpot, a callback to the iconic line she said during her first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #42 (1966). However, when MJ wielded the device during a battle with Rabin, Paul tried to warn her. Paul’s warning was interrupted by the villain, but it had something to do with three skull symbols. The implication seems to be that if Mary Jane’s device generates a combination of three skulls, then she will die. This line seems to be the comic book version of Chekov’s gun. In other words, Wells would not have included Paul’s warning unless it was going to have some sort of payoff. Does this mean Mary Jane’s luck will run out, and her magical slot machine will give her three skulls next issue?
If this hint wasn’t enough, the issue ends with Rabin monologuing about how he needs to slay Mary Jane in order to complete a demonic ritual. “The Scarlet Woman must die,” Rabin proclaims. It’s worth noting that Amazing Spider-Man #21 (2023) began with Rabin hunting for Mary Jane in our realm, presumably to make good on that promise. Since then, Amazing Spider-Man has been telling a flashback story, so we haven’t seen the resolution of Rabin’s hunt for “the Scarlet Woman.”
Everything seems to be teed up for Amazing Spider-Man #26. We have a villain who has vowed to slay Mary Jane, and we have MJ wearing a device that could kill her. Once you add in Peter Parker’s track record of tragedy, and Zeb Wells’ various warnings, things don’t look too good for Mary Jane.
Would Marvel actually kill Mary Jane?
Mary Jane’s death seems obvious, but almost too obvious. It’s clear that Marvel wants readers to have Gwen Stacy’s death in mind as we approach Amazing Spider-Man #26. The issue is marketed as the most shocking issue of Amazing Spider-Man in 50 years, which happens to be when Gwen Stacy was killed. The cover to Amazing Spider-Man also pays homage to Amazing Spider-Man #121 (1973), the issue where Gwen died.
Marvel wants us to think about Spider-Man losing a woman he loves, but it could all be misdirection. While the various clues point to Mary Jane, this could be Marvel’s way of having readers gravitate towards one scenario, and then shocking us with a different outcome. The question is, what would be so shocking that it’s the biggest surprise since Gwen’s death? What would anger fans so much that editorial would encourage Wells to avoid conventions?
It's hard to come up with a conclusion other than Mary Jane’s death. While Spider-Man’s supporting cast is popular, few characters are as beloved as Mary Jane. Black Cat is currently back together with Spider-Man, but she’s been largely absent from this latest arc. It would be a bit random to bring her into the storyline at this stage only to kill her. The same goes for most of the other Spider-Man supporting characters like Aunt May or J. Jonah Jameson.
Since Gwen Stacy’s death is being used as the comparison here, it’s worth remembering how it was handled at the time. Prior to the release of Amazing Spider-Man #121, the next issue blurb and the letters column gave no hints that anything would be out of the ordinary. The cover for the issue proclaimed that one of Spider-Man’s friends would die, but it gave no hint on who the victim would be. In fact, to avoid spoiling the outcome of the story, the title (‘The Night Gwen Stacy Died’) was not revealed until the final page.
Marvel seems to be taking the opposite approach here, doing everything short of renting a plane to skywrite ‘Mary Jane is doomed.’ The difference is this is 2023, not 1973. Marvel knows that teasing Mary Jane’s death will get eyeballs on the book and could boost sales. In recent years, Marvel has not been shy about advertising a character’s death ahead of time. In fact, the Ultimate Universe version of Peter Parker was killed in a storyline marketed as ‘The Death of Spider-Man.’ It’s possible Marvel is spelling out Mary Jane’s death because that’s exactly what’s going to happen, and they’re hoping the buzz will generate publicity and sales.
Of course, nobody said this had to be a death. We’ve only been told that the moment will be shocking, and there are plenty of ways to shock readers that don’t include the death of a character. Whatever is happening, it’s supposed to be the most shocking event in Amazing Spider-Man since Gwen’s death, which is a very high bar to clear. Since then, we’ve had the Spider-Man Clone Saga, the return of Peter Parker’s parents, the revelation that Gwen slept with Norman Osborn (which has since been retconned), and more. What could be more shocking than all of that? We’ll find out on May 31st.
How did Peter and Mary Jane break up?
While Mary Jane’s future is still uncertain, Amazing Spider-Man #25 did finally solve one mystery. Zeb Wells’ Amazing Spider-Man run began with a 6-month time jump that raised many questions. Peter and Mary Jane were broken up and appeared to be on bad terms. Mary Jane was with a man named Paul, and the couple seemed to be raising two kids. The recap page for Amazing Spider-Man #19 (2023) identified Paul as Mary Jane’s husband, raising more eyebrows.
Since then, readers have wondered what events led to Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s breakup, and how MJ became a mother. Amazing Spider-Man #25 reveals the answer as it follows Mary Jane’s story during the time jump. While battling Rabin, Spider-Man and Mary Jane wound up in an alternate dimension. In order to save Peter from Rabin, Mary Jane used a device to send her beloved back to their home dimension. Mary Jane had faith that Peter would return for her, unaware of the time displacement between their dimensions.
As time passed normally for Spider-Man back on Earth, four years went by for Mary Jane in the post-apocalyptic dimension. During that time, she allied herself with a man named Paul, who was also trying to stop Rabin. MJ and Paul found two abandoned children named Remy and Owen and began to care for them. Years passed, and MJ grew closer to Paul as they raised the children together. The foursome had become a family.
Spider-Man was eventually able to return to the dimension to retrieve Mary Jane, where he was shocked to find that she had become a mother. After returning to New York, Mary Jane told Peter she was not leaving Paul. Peter Parker’s bad luck as Spider-Man has ended many relationships, but this time he could blame his heartbreak on time displacement between dimensions.
This is the end of Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s relationship, but is it also the end of MJ’s life? We will find out on May 31 with Amazing Spider-Man #25 (unless Marvel spoils it first!).
The classic Spider-Man story 'The Night Gwen Stacy Died' is on our list of the best Marvel Comics ever. Make sure you've read all 10 of our favorites, by checking out our recommended best Marvel Comics of all time.