Lost amongst the PR for X-Men and Avengers, Marvel Comics also tried to promote a "new" status quo for Spider-Man this week: One where he's unemployed. Does great redundancy come with not-so-great attempts at topicality? Mild spoilers ahead.
Judging by the fact that it gets its own press release, Peter Parker's unemployment is more than just another twist in his ongoing hard luck soap opera:
[W]hen you can't pay the bills, how's a Super Hero supposed to buy web-fluid and fix his costume? Spider-Man's about to learn that with great power and great responsibility comes the great need to be employed — which isn't so easy when you're blacklisted in New York City!
I'm genuinely not trying to downplay the major upset that comes with being fired - I know firsthand how it feels - but there's something weirdly self-serving about Marvel issuing a press release about this particular plot point. It's not just that the idea of Peter Parker looking for work is in no way whatsoever a new one (He was, after all, a freelance photographer until recently, a career he stumbled into because he had no other way of making money; in fact, the job he gets fired from in this storyline is more unusual for him, in that working for Mayor J. Jonah Jameson is one of the few times in the character's almost 50 year history where he's had a regular paycheck and some level of job stability), but also that the press release itself seems oddly disconnected with reality, treating the concept of unemployment as some terrible, exotic thing: Apparently you need to work to pay the bills — And Spider-Man is unemployed! How will he get out of this unusual new life trap?!? Surely that's the opposite of what Marvel was trying to go for, in this situation?
There's a sense of deja vu about this; just over a year ago, Marvel was again talking about the problems of recession, something they were addressing by having the Ultimate Universe version of Spider-Man be forced to work in a fast food shack to make ends meet. Apparently, Peter Parker's everyman status within the Marvel pantheon makes his career path particularly troubled, no matter what universe he's in. Personally, I'd rather read a story where Tony Stark's fortune disappeared (again) and he had to scramble to make ends meet instead of starting another immediately-successful company, or where Steve Rogers was made redundant and he found himself working for the USPS - Because, come on, you know that he would - if only because, well, those stories might offer up something unexpected and new, instead of "Character with bad luck gets fired again, has to suffer job search again."
To add insult to injury - or, really, insult to more insult - Parker is apparently only going to be jobless for two weeks; the promo image for the storyline only lists two issues, making this seem even more like a gimmick than something that addresses the issue in anything resembling real terms.
Don't get me wrong; there's nothing wrong with dealing with things like unemployment in superhero comics. It'd just be great if it was done without it seeming like a short-lived attempt at relevance for cheap publicity (Then again, I am writing about it, so it was successful in that respect), or issuing self-satisfied press releases about it that treat the issue as a minor annoyance that could cramp crimefighting style. Asking multinational media corporations to have some respect for the little guy is naive to the point of stupid, I know, but still: Come on, Marvel.