How Civil War Changed Spider-Man
Learn about the complete history of Spider-Man events and crossovers!
With SPIDER-GEDDON coming to its wild conclusion later this month, we're looking back at the most significant Spider-Man team-ups and crossover events of all time!
In Part 1, we dove into the best and brightest crossovers and team-ups from Spider-Man’s adventures in the original timeline of the main 616 universe. Today, we’ll try our hand at crossovers involving time travel and alternate timelines within the main continuity of Earth-616 (while Part 3 will tackle alternate universes and the multiverse, naturally).
Let's dig in...
HOUSE OF M (2005)
The crossover events of SECRET WAR and AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED both went on from 2004-2005, where the end of the latter title showed the growing instability of Scarlet Witch, driven to madness after learning that she used to have two children but they were wiped from existence and absorbed in Mephisto’s soul. From the ashes of her grief emerged HOUSE OF M in 2005, a crossover event where Scarlet Witch’s powers ran amok, altering the fabric of reality to create a world in which mutants were in charge.
The result, rather than creating a new universe (though the temporary timeline was later dubbed Earth-58163 for clarity’s sake, with other universes with similar events as the HOUSE OF M timeline appearing in SPIDER-VERSE and SECRET WARS), temporarily replaced Earth-616’s universe for a brief time until Scarlet Witch reverted everything back to normal.
Before that happened, however, the story saw a world where Magneto ruled as monarch of the world’s mutants. In this world, Peter Parker is known for being an actor, wrestler, businessman, and is publicly known to be Spider-Man (though he masquerades as a mutant born with his powers to appease the powers that be). His Uncle Ben, first love Gwen Stacy, and Gwen’s father George are all alive in the HOUSE OF M timeline; Peter and Gwen are married with a son, but their seemingly perfect life is rattled as Spidey sees horrific visions of the original Earth-616 continuity in his dreams, leading them to eventually join up with the rest of the memory-restored heroes to fight for Magneto and Wanda to put their universe right again before too much damage is done to the fabric of reality.
CIVIL WAR (2006-2007)
In the wake of HOUSE OF M and its aftermath came 2006’s iconic CIVIL WAR. Much went on in this series, from the Super-human Registration Act to the epic showdown of anti-registration Captain America and pro-registration Iron Man.
Spider-Man found himself caught in the middle of the skirmish as a newly-minted Avenger (he resisted joining up for a long time, preferring to work alone). Then, once the Super-human Registration Act got some serious traction, Tony and his new right-hand-man Peter decided to go to the nation’s capital to try and boost the Act going through. Without being willing to divulge his name in order to give testimony, however, Spidey left feeling defeated.
After some soul-searching and consultation with wife Mary Jane and Aunt May, Spider-Man decided to hold a press conference and reveal his private identity to the world to show his support for the Act. Soon everything fell apart and devolved into chaos, with Spider-Man and his family fleeing a cadre of Super Villains under the control of Iron Man. Peter was saved by the Punisher (of all people?!) and joined up with the Anti-Registration side. Cap and Spidey led a valiant resistance against Stark and company, culminating in a fantastic Spider-Man fight scene over the Manhattan skyline. When the Registration went through after all, Cap surrendered himself to the government as Spider-Man led an underground resistance, taking up his old black costume to reflect the dire times.
ONE MORE DAY (2007)
Peter’s secret identity wasn’t out in the open for too long, because next came the four-part crossover storyline beginning in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #544, jumping over to FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #24, THE SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #41, and ending in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #545. This one is a doozy, so hold onto something, True Believers.
Aunt May gets shot and the demon, Mephisto, offers to save her life if Spider-Man gives him his marriage. Not Mary Jane herself, nor her soul, but rather the event of their marriage in the timeline and everything that happened thereafter in regards to their relationship. MJ and Peter decide to do it to save Aunt May with Mary Jane adding the stipulation that Mephisto also change reality so that no one remembers Peter’s secret identity. With that, Mephisto consumes their love; the couple’s history together (plus any knowledge of Spider-Man being Peter Parker) is erased in the world’s collective memory, including the memories of Peter and MJ themselves. A few other changes also take place, including some changes in the personal history of closely adjacent characters like Harry Osborn being alive in the new timeline (he had died in the old continuity).
Here’s how their history went down in the new timeline—while MJ and Peter had been in a long-term relationship, they decided not to go through with the wedding from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #21 and lived together as a couple after that until breaking up on bad terms sometime later. Beyond that, changes in the world include Mary Jane dating film star Bobby Carr, Aunt May being alive and well as Mephisto promised, and Peter having gone back to his original mechanical web-shooters instead of the biological ones. The rest of the events of the Earth-616 timeline are largely unchanged beyond that, however; all of the crossover events happened as they had with the exception that, during CIVIL WAR Spider-Man does still unmask himself briefly but does not reveal his name to the public and so goes unrecognized by anyone who would know him. The Super-human Registration Act is still underway in the new continuity, and the first arc of the new timeline sees Peter taking a hiatus from being Spider-Man for a hundred days because of it.
It was a long road to see them getting back together in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1, but it was well worth the wait.
THE OTHER: EVOLVE OR DIE (2005-2006)
This team-up saw Peter unite with Doctor Strange and set the stage for every other Spider-Verse team-up event after it.
In this one, Spidey didn’t crossover to a different comic series but rather crossed to a whole new genre. J. Michael Straczynski’s run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (his first being issue #30) explored the supernatural origin of Peter Parker, and revealed that his spider powers were more than a mere serendipitous radioactive accident. In the storyline, Peter meets a mysterious man named Ezekiel with similar spider powers (who wasn’t bitten by the same spider and isn’t a clone before anyone asks) who introduces Peter to ideas like the supernatural spider totem, the Other, and how the powerful entity has secretly been the other-worldly mastermind behind all spider-related heroes and happenings in the Multiverse. Ezekiel warns Peter about the totem eater Morlun, someone who seeks to hunt down and drain the power from Peter since he is the one true spider totem in their world. Little did Peter know then that Morlun was to be the least of his troubles...
The battle with the supernatural goes from fights with Morlun—and Ezekiel, the traitor!—in the public arena to the a being known as Shade in the Astral Plane. Here, Peter meets the mystical spider totem for the first time. The encounter also awakens a sworn Astral enemy of the Other, the spider-wasp known as Shathra, who Peter has to contend with on his return from the Plane. With some much-needed help on the Astral Plane from someone who knows it well, Doctor Strange, Spidey elements of this game-changing run—the Great Weaver, Master Weaver, Inheritors, and more—would lead into the development of the Spider-Verse. From there the events of SPIDER-GEDDON would unfurl and knot as timeline met universe met timeline, where none but the chosen of the Other would ever have the power or spirit to untangle the wily webs of fate.
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