Perhaps it's the question we'll ask each other at some con 20 years down the road: "Where were you when Civil War #2 was spoiled for you?" I was in my Bloglines account, trying to avoid spoilers before I left for the shop. I knew that there had been a leak of some sort in the Retailer Preview Pack the week before, but had studiously avoided the news. This last check, though, I hit upon Comic Foundry and ... well ... I couldn't close the browser window quite fast enough.
The reaction has been pretty strong, especially on the messageboards.
I could only get invested in the debate, if I took it seriously. But I don't - and I'm not intending the standard WeboComicsBlogoNet anti-crossover snark, either. Perhaps there's something wrong with me, but I tend to read by Moore's Dictum: "This is an imaginary story... Aren't they all?"
Perhaps it's my acting background, but I see "character" as eminently mutable. Even defining traits can be interpreted in many different ways. Many see Peter's act as "out of character". For example, there's Tom The Dog:
If there's a plausible -- I said plausible -- reason in the story why Peter would go against 40 years of character development and suddenly both bend over for the government and jeopardize his family's safety, please let me know.
Or MillarWorld poster "Burno":
When would Peter Parker disregard what was his guiding motto in his whole life, responsibility and suddenly put a target on the head of everyone he ever met?
Of course, the other character choice here is that revealing his identity is the responsible thing to do. Responsibility means worrying about greater needs than your own, or even your family's. It's about doing what's right, regardless of personal cost. If Peter believes in the Superhero Registration Act, then this is the responsible action to take.
The other reaction I've seen in a few places is concisely voiced by Newsarama poster "seethruhero":
Bye Marvel. You just lost a long time Spider-man reader. This ruins years of stories.
Millarworld poster "SamMamudi" feels the same:
..the end of MCW#2 basically killed Spider-Man. Oh, sure, there's a guy called Peter Parker who has powers like Spidey did. But the Spider-Man that Lee and Ditko created, and who's been with us for 40 years is gone. I credit Marvel with more integrity than simply planning to retcon this in a year or so, so the unmasked Spidey is here to stay...which, I say again, utterly kills the concept.
I understand the gnashing of teeth here, because the concept of "secret identity" is integral to Spider-Man. It's what makes him tick, more than any other hero (except, perhaps, Superman). The balance of his "lives" is the dramatic tension that's kept the character alive and popular over the years, and without that dynamic the character would be altered past the point of recognition.
On the other hand: It's a storyline. Nothing more, nothing less.
To think this is a fundamental change that will stick with the character is completely contrary to Marvel's track record. Mike's right: this will be retconned quicker than you can say "No more mutants."
And - that's O.K. I'm also not simply dismissing it as a "stunt", because I don't expect it to last. It's a hell of a storytelling beat, should hopefully lead to some interesting situations, and by next summer's release of Spider-Man 3, all the toys will be back in the box. Changes don't need to last forever to be fun reading. Morrison's New X-Men is still a hell of a read, regardless of how quickly Marvel backed away once he left. Peter David's run on Hulk doesn't cease to exist merely because the Big Green One isn't intelligent anymore. And mutants regaining their power within weeks of the end of House of M doesn't mean it sucked.*
I'm enjoying Civil War, and finding myself drawn to the Marvel Universe in a way I haven't for a long time. Hopefully, we get some good stories springing off that last page of Civil War #2 ... that's about all I can ask for.
Because these stories? They're all imaginary.
*OK, it did suck. But it sucked before Bobby got frosty again..