J Jonah Jameson: Mayor of New York
When Brand New Day first started, a new status quo regarding the Daily Bugle was made. J Jonah Jameson suffers a heart attack. While recovering his ex-wife, Malra Jameson, sells the Bugle - fearing it's the street of that job that caused the heart attack. She knows that he'll hate him for it when he recovers - but does it to ensure Jonah doesn't die. The Daily Bugle is bought by Dexter Bennett, and re-named The DB. Most of the Daily Bugle staff leaves to work at the independent "Frontline" (run by former Bugle reporter Ben Urich). Peter Parker, for years, had been away from the Daily Bugle anyway - only taking photos for the paper when fill-in writers wrote Spider-Man and simply forgot he didn't work there anymore. This revamp of the Daily Bugle actually brings Peter back into the photographing game - first for the DB, and later for Front Line.
While away in the Microverse on an adventure with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man comes back months later, finding out there was a time-dilation effect when crossing universes. Spider-Man and Peter Parker where literally missing for months; with a horrible surprise waiting for him when he got home: J Jonah Jameson was now the Mayor of New York!
Lily Hollister, being unmasked as Menace, had cost her father his spot as Mayor - a special election was held where Jonah ran and won the seat in office. This really was a fantastic move - as it made Jameson even more of a pain in Spider-Man's side -- but also made the character more relevant to Spider-Man's universe. Spider-Man, unsurprisingly, did not take the news of Jameson being mayor well. He attempted to call a truce between them - but instead Jameson initiated an Anti-Spider-Man Patrol, using old Mandroid suits of armor to hunt, or at the very least annoy, Spider-Man. Spider-Man even went on a 24/7 crusade against Jameson - but to get under his skin; all of which was pretty hilarious.
J Jonah Jameson Sr.
A new figure steps into Spider-Man universe -- that of J Jonah Jameson Sr, JJJ's father. Father and son could not be any more different, as JJJ Sr didn't actually raise his son - his brother and Jonah's step-father had raised him. Jameson Sr. is a thoughtful and kind hearted person - and proves especially supportive of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man saved Jameson Sr. and group of others from a tunnel collapse caused by the Shocker. After the ordeal Jameson Sr. revealed who he really was - and apologized for his son's behavior and vendetta against the wallcrawler.
Jameson Sr. went on to be an even more important part of the Spider-Man universe when he began dating Peter's dear old sweet Aunt May. (And yes - he found out about their relationship by by walking in on them both...) Jameson Sr. and Aunt May eventually got married in issue #600 -- causing another HUGE blow to Peter Parker's world: he's now related to J. Jonah Jameson Jr! Neither Jonah or Peter are fond of the idea - but reluctantly accept the union between their two families.
Peter Parker vs. Norman Osborn
In the lead-up to issue #600 of Amazing Spider-Man -- a plot line centered around Norman Osborn's second return to New York -- this time not with the Thunderbolts in tow, but just as himself - the new top cop of America. This was during the "Dark Reign", when after the Skrull Invasion Norman Osborn (who had made the killing shot to the Queen Skrull, in front of cameras) was declared a hero and put in charge of a new organization H.A.M.M.E.R. Osborn caused all sort of misery for the Avengers during this time - like making a Dark version of their team. Suddenly the likes of Venom and Bullseye where being touted as heroes - mockingly appearing as Spider-Man and Hawkeye; respectively.
Seemingly living his worst nightmare, Spider-Man now had his biggest and most dangerous foe in the government. Spider-Man and Wolverine had a nice moment regarding this time -- making a pretty obvious political jab and you-know-who.
The question, though, is wether Osborn in this new position would drive Spider-Man to drastic action. Osborn is madman; could Spider-Man go to far and try and kill Osborn? That question was put to the test.
In the most awkward dinner EVER - Peter found himself dining with Osborn; who was invited to a family dinner between by J Jonah Jameson, who thinks Osborn is a hero. Jameson Sr, Aunt May are of course there - and between Parker and Jameson Sr. more liberal view points, this dinner was hilariously contentious.
It of course ended spectacularly - with Spider-Man hauling Osborn off, and beating him to a blood pulp. I loved the line Osborn had when he was being carried off "Wow. It finally happened... ...You went insane and I missed it."
Spider-Man, of course, didn't take things too far - and let Osborn go before being caught. With Osborn wielding such power in the government, another tactic had to be employed. In a wonderful side-issue, in "Spider-Man: The List", we see Spider-Man dealing with a now Osborn-influenced America. The Avengers are on the run - Osborn if considered a true American Hero; even adorning himself in red, white, and blue Iron Man Armor: calling himself the Iron Patriot.
Feeling he needs to do something, Spider-Man decided to try and expose the truth about Osborn. He managed to steal information that would publicly embarrass Osborn; though Spider-Man was quickly tracked down by Osborn himself. Spider-Man uses his smarts to win and escape - as he knows that the repulser weapon in the armor's chest would not work like its suppose to -- because Osborn was arrogant enough to make it into the shape of a star; something that made the blast malfunction instead.
It wasn't Spider-Man that managed to humiliate Osborn, and release the stolen data - but Peter Parker. Going into an internet cafe, Peter uploaded the information to the internet - and dared Osborn to take him down, in public, in front of witnesses. Not only was Peter a member of the press, but most importantly he was a tax-paying citizen. It wasn't Spider-Man that hurt Osborn that day - it was Peter Parker; Osborn gave up and left.
It Got Worse
In part one, you know how I said the story of Lily Hollister would get worse? Well - it got worse in a big, BIG way. Lily came back into Harry Osborn's life pregnant. At the same time - Norman Osborn was trying to bring his son over to his side. Its a good thing Harry ultimately didn't take the offer - because it was eventually revealed that the father of Lily's baby wasn't Harry. It was Norman Osborn -- who had found and (obviously) befriended Lily. Being infected with the Goblin formula that made her into Menace obviously solidified this union.
Lily's baby, later on, became a focal point for a large number of villains - as the union between two people with Goblin-Serum could yield spectacularly expensive medical results if the kid was dissected. Every villain in New York came out to try and steal this baby - with only Spider-Man between the child and certain death. Harry Osborn was entrusted with his step-brother's care -- though it forced the two to absconded into hiding; both from super villain - but more importantly from his father and mother.
The biggest returning villain in Spider-Man's world was that of Doctor Octopus - who made his return in issue #600. This wasn't the old bumbling Doc Ock -- this was new and more deadly version. And there's a lot at stake regarding Doc Ock's return - as he's dying. Apparently being beat up so often, by so many super-powered individuals, over the years had taken it tole. Octavius is dying. His body had already failed him; with only his mind and keen intellect keeping him going. Encased in machinery and hooked up directly to computers - Doctor Octopus is able to now control any electronics or technology. He sent New York into a tail-spin as he sent all electrical equipment, from lights to utilities, crazy. Spider-Man stopped him - but there are much larger plans on the horizon regarding Doc Ock's larger plans.
Being demonically divorced from Mary Jane, making Peter Parker single again, it stood to reason that Peter would need a new romantic figure in his life. Carlie Cooper stepped into this role; though smartly they didn't do it all at once. (With three issues a month, they had time to wait!) Carlie Cooper is a police forensic officer. She teams up with Spider-Man a few times to solve certain cases. She and Peter don't romantically get involved for a long while -- it finally takes Mary Jane herself (acting still as good friend to Peter, if no longer being in love with him) tells Peter that Carlie is good for him, and that he shouldn't let her slip out of his life.
The three issues a month era of Spider-Man ended on this note, of Peter and Carlie kissing for the first time. With Dan Slott taking over the book himself, with two issues a month, he finally began developing Carlie more. She eventually learns Peter's secret identity - which causes them to split up. Carlie might not be the love of Peter's life (that's still MJ; demonically divorced or not) - but that's ok. We of course don't want Peter going down the marriage road again; even less so with another woman, right? Carlie still proves herself a solid supporting character even after their break-up.
Before finishing part two, and continuing this look back with part 3, I had to mention Flash Thompson. He returned to the Spider-Man universe in a very different capacity. In a special issue he detailed to an army officer a harrowing ordeal he had dealt with while over in Iraq. Flash Thompson has perviously been used in Spider-Man comics to examine real-world conflicts - as when he joined the army and went to Vietnam. (Comic history sort of changes and compresses, the more time passes. Obviously Flash isn't a veteran of Vietnam AND Iraq.) Anyway - Flash credits his idol Spider-Man as the inspiration for the courage and strength he brought onto the battle field. The issue ended with a surprise, though: Flash Thompson had lost his legs saving members of his group.
Doing this kind of political/social commentary on a real event (and real, and all too common injuries) could easily have been offensive if not handled correctly. I think it went off pretty well - as real life soldiers had their letters printed in issues about Flash Thompson's meaningful appearance.
Flash Thompson use to be the bully and bane of Peter Parker's life -- but had grown into a substantial character over the years. Having him join the army and serve in the war (wether Vietnam or Iraq) made his character more meaningful. Also - where he might otherwise have stayed on the side-lines; Flash once again became an integral supporting member of Spider-Man's cast.
The upswing in popularity of the character proved good - as Flash had moved from supporting character to main character, acting as the new host of a Government Sponsored Venom. Again, given Flash's injuries - making him Venom, and giving him the ability to not only walk again, but be a super-hero, could have easily been offensive and blown up in Marvel's face. Yet under writer Rick Remender the character has proven quite popular and important to the over-all universe. I don't know what real soldiers, especially soldiers who came back from Iraq with real injuries, would think of this development -- but I know one thing: as Venom Flash has become a better character than he ever was before. His lack of legs, and the social commentary of it, has simply become a part of his character; not his defining characteristic.