WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man #5, by Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley, on sale Wednesday, September 12.
Life has gotten very strange for Peter Parker, lately. No longer a CEO of the multinational Parker Industries, and no longer even the science editor at the Daily Bugle (thanks to a scandal that saw him get fired), now Peter has to deal with the fact that he’s no longer even Spider-Man.
That final drastic change of circumstance came about thanks to a science experiment gone wrong, which saw Peter and Spider-Man’s personalities split into two separate bodies: One with the power, the other with the responsibility. And while you might think this would be good news for his burgeoning relationship with Mary Jane Watson, the latest preview of Amazing Spider-Man #5 seems to tell a different story.
Peter and Mary Jane were happily married for almost 20 years worth of comics until 2007’s "One More Day" storyline saw the heartbroken couple trade their loving marriage to the demon Mephisto in exchange for Aunt May’s life. Since then, with no memories of them ever being married, Peter and MJ have lived relatively separate lives. Peter has had numerous partners since the start of his "Brand New Day," and went on to become the head of his own company (until he lost it). MJ, meanwhile, took a job at Stark Industries and has been working alongside Iron Man, making sure Tony’s life doesn’t completely fall apart (now that he’s alive again).
That all changed in Amazing Spider-Man #796 when, after a disastrous run-in with the Goblin King, MJ and Peter share an intimate moment that felt just like old times. Since then, they’ve been taking things slowly, especially since MJ has made her feelings on Peter’s alter-ego all too clear. The first night they kissed, MJ pulled away after opening Peter’s shirt and seeing the Spider-Man costume. It brought back a lot of memories for her, from the constant fear over whether Peter’s in danger to the long lonely nights while he’s out fighting crime.
In Amazing Spider-Man #1, things didn’t seem any different. It’s clear that they care deeply about each other, and Peter’s narration even admits that his happiest memories are of MJ, but the problem of Spider-Man still seems to hover over them and their relationship like a black cloud. When the opportunity arose for Peter to be free of his web-slinging alter-ego then, the perfect solution to their problem seemed to present itself.
After being fired from the Daily Bugle, Peter went back to college and found himself under the surprising tutelage of Dr. Curt Connors, aka the Lizard. He enlists Peter’s help with the Isotope Genome Accelerator, the very machine that indirectly created Spider-Man. Curt believes that its ability to merge the characteristics of one organism to another (like a spider and a man) can be reverse-engineered in order to free him of his reptilian side for good. When the lab was attacked, however, Peter was caught in the blast and as a result was split into two beings: Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
Since then, Peter has been trying to live life without his superheroic alter-ego, which would -- in theory -- be everything his relationship with Mary Jane needed.
However, when he reveals all to her in the preview for this week's Amazing Spider-Man #5, MJ reveals that it’s just... not right. Loving Peter without Spider-Man wouldn’t be the same, because Peter wouldn’t be whole. He wouldn’t be a hero, and despite the problems that has presented over the years, that’s who she fell in love with. Peter being Spider-Man is why she kept pushing him away, but also apparently why she keeps coming back, meaning that if Peter wants to continue to grow his relationship with MJ, he needs to find a way to be whole again.