dan slott

SEP130696_mEasily the most controversial decision in the Spider-Man universe since One More Day, Superior Spider-Man was definitely a divisive moment for spider-fans.  Admittedly, I had enjoyed Dan Slott’s run immensely up to that point, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  It helped that Steve Wacker was continuing to edit the book and Wacker’s track record on great comics speaks for itself.  Thankfully, my faith has thus far been well-placed.  Despite some early, and arguably questionable missteps, Dan Slott has found his footing and more importantly he’s found Otto Octavius’ voice.  While I certainly want Peter Parker back as much as the next fan, I’ve enjoyed the dichotomy of seeing someone like Otto Octavius (ruthless, vain,etc) grapple with the sense of duty and responsibility that fueled Peter Parker.

Over the last 20 issues we’ve watched Spider-Ock navigate his way through the minefield of Peter Parker’s life, possibly improving it in some ways (finally getting that PhD for Peter) and tearing it apart in others (burning bridges with Max Modell and MJ, alienating the Avengers, and turning NYC into a mini spider themed police state).  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series has been watching the ways that Otto-as-Peter-Parker deals with the various people in Peter/Spider-Man’s life, be it friend or foe.  Otto is invariably more acerbic, misanthropic, and curmudgeonly but Dan Slott has also added an intriguing depth of compassion to underlay Otto’s rather unsavory nature.  We saw it early on with Otto’s extraordinary rage at the Vulture’s use of children and in his relationship with Anna.  It’s that relationship with Anna that a somewhat indirect bit of depth to the conflict in this issue.  Specifically, issue #20 saw the return of Stunner, Otto Octavius’ former love interest, taking the fight to Spider-Man as, wait for it, vengeance for killing Doc Ock back in Amazing Spiderman #700.

Amidst the property damaging battle with Stunner, Dan Slott is beginning to pulling at the seams of Otto’s carefully plotted life.  His PhD is now in question, Carlie Cooper is finally beginning to unravel the mystery behind Spider-Man’s sudden personality shift, and the Green Goblin is slowly moving in.  In short, it’s becoming clearer that we are moving ever-closer to the downfall of Superior Spider-Man.

If there’s a weak spot in the issue, it’s Dan Slott’s penchant for exposition dumps and semi-crowded script.  I occasionally get the sense that Dan Slott had a longer timeline in mind when plotting these stories and for whatever reason is now a shortened schedule.  But, these are ultimately minor complaints.  This is another solid issue in what has been a solid few months of Superior Spiderman.

8.0/10

I’m gonna be honest with you, folks.  I’m not really sure how I feel about Superior Spiderman and you know, I don’t think Dan Slott is either.  I mean, in and of itself, it’s an intriguing idea.  Peter Parker’s biggest and most brilliant villain, in a final assault, hijacks Spiderman’s body and his life.  In a last ditch effort to snatch some form of victory from the apparent defeat, Peter Parker forces Doc Ock to experience all the tragedies and milestones that shaped Parker’s life thereby giving Doc Ock some insight into the overarching concept of “with great power, comes great responsibility” and leading Doc Ock (in an assuredly misguided, misanthropic fashion) to become a superior hero and, indeed, a Superior Spiderman.

There’s a lot of potential there.  But, there are more than a couple of problems and that’s what I’m going to talk about right now.  Are you ready?  Of course you are or you wouldn’t be reading this.  Am I right?

Ok, problem-as-I-see-it number one: we weren’t given time to mourn the death of Peter Parker.

Peter Parker died in Doc Ock’s body at the conclusion of issue 700.  It was realistically understood by most comics fans that Peter Parker would eventually be back from the dead (See Batman, Captain America, Jean Grey like 17 separate times…).  However, given the cultural significance, and general love for Peter Parker, we as fans deserved some time to come to terms with Parker being “dead”.  In fact, I would argue the story needed some time and space with Peter Parker 100% out of the picture.  Instead, Dan Slott brings Peter Parker back in ghost form at the END of Superior Spiderman NUMBER ONE.  No lag time, no teasing.  Just BOOM! Ghost Pete proclaiming his intent to return.

This leads directly to problem number two.  Spiderman and the character of Peter Parker is known for his wit, quick banter and general humor.  It’s Pete’s thing and reader’s expect it.  The obvious downside is that Otto Octavius is not so good with the funny.  The immediate reintroduction of Peter, and his incessant, though often humorous, monologueing  in this issue leads me to wonder if this is going to be Slott’s way to bring that Peter Parker comic relief we all expect?  Clearly, I don’t know.  But, the question is there and I’m not sure that’s good for the book.

These problems aside, it’s a competently written comic.  Dan Slott is a solid writer, so there are some good moments (Spidey-Ock saying out loud that “Everything is proceeding according to plan!” or his robot henchman).  Moreover, the one benefit to the introduction of Pete’s ghost is Slott’s use of ghost-Pete as a mouthpiece for the reader.  Slott is hanging a lampshade on all the various inconsistencies and problems that fans have been clamoring about (for instance the fact that no one seems to notice that Spidey-Ock is NOTHING like Peter).

I guess, on the whole, it’s a solid issue with a caveat here and there.  I’d say it’s worth a look, but Slott has taken out some of the potential impact and suspense by making Peter’s inevitable return so immediately evident.  Like I said, I’m not quite certain how I feel about Superior Spiderman, but I do plan to keep reading…

I-Don’t-Know-How-To-Score-This/10

(P.S.  Intrepid Spidey Fans, can someone please tell me if they recall a SINGLE time that Spiderman or Peter Parker EVER said the words “It’s Crazy-Town Banana-Pants!”  We here at Shortbox Podcast have a collection of Stan Lee No-Prizes in a closet at Adam Russell’s place that we’d be willing to part with if someone can answer that)

Sound off below!

Feeling cheated, robbed, and unsatisfied.

I was ready. I was the target audience. I have the disposable income. A life long Spider-Man fan, I own 606 of the 700 issues in this series and I named my daughter Parker Jane in tribute to the hero. Amazing Spider-Man was the last comic book series that I was buying faithfully. I wanted to love this issue and be excited for the next evolution. It was not to be. Marvel went deep into my pocket and left me unsatisfied.

What did I get for my $7.99? Let’s break it down and keep it spoiler free. The recent Doc Ock story was exciting and left me wondering how it would end in time for Superior Spider-Man to begin. The first chunk of the book is devoted to ending the Doc Ock thread but it was so slow and used the tired trope of “dead Ben talk” to push Peter back to life. This story also had multiple references regarding not hurting the cops. This was just crazy (even in a comic) considering the characters involved. The story moved and built to an enormous crescendo with no pay off. What is teed up instead is a year of stories with this new “Superior Spider-Man” being a jerk. Once the next movie is ready I am sure we will go back to Amazing Spider-Man and this nightmare will end.

The next feature in the oversized issue was very confusing. I kept going back and re-reading to see what I was missing. This made me frustrated and I didn’t care once the reveal came around. This story also made me realize that the Amazing Spider-Man I know will be back. Hey they kept Superman dead for over a year before bringing him back. The Black Cat feature was stylistically interesting but I felt it didn’t warrant a place in ASM #700. If it were Black Cat #700 then I would say yes, I want more Spider-Man for my Spider-Man dollars. The rest of the issue is filled with expanded house ads for the new Superior Spider-Man and an expanded letters page. In the end I felt like John Malkovich at the end of Rounders when he taunts Matt Damon. Save your $7.99 and pick up Avenging Spider-Man 15.1 for $2.99. You’ll get the same story without all the wasted paper.

It took five years, but Dan Slott has finally won me over.

Here’s why I dropped Spider-Man when Brand New Day began: stories that bring a character back to basics are so much less exciting than those that build on what came before and go to new places.

J. Michael Straczinski did that.

Following the abrupt departure of my all-time favorite Spider-Man writer, in a dissatisfying storyline that JMS requested his name be removed from, I was heavily biased against Spider-Man’s 2007 status quo and new writer(s).  There were four of them at the time if you don’t recall, but Dan Slott has always been at the helm.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve come to accept that I’ll always have the JMS storylines that are so close to my heart.  The ones where Peter learned about the tribal origins of his powers under the tutelage of Ezekiel, battled the children of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, and put the black suit back on now live on my bookshelf, but that chapter of Spider-Man is over.

I moved on to other characters.  There’s no shortage of other comics to read, and for a time I didn’t miss Spider-Man.

Except, Marvel used a host of great artistic talents on Brand New Day, which drew my attention back to Spidey.

These artists include: Chris Bachalo,

Mike McKone,

Lee Weeks,

Barry Kitson,

JRJR,

Phil Jimenez,

Giuseppe Camuncoli,

and Humberto Ramos.

If so many of my favorite artists were illustrating Spider-Man post-marriage, I decided I was surely missing something.

When early BND volumes showed up on the discount table at my local comic shop this past year, I knew the time was right to give those stories a chance.

The contrast was immediately apparent between the Spider-man I knew and the one I was reading in those early Brand New Day issues.  Spider-Man was no longer a winner.  He no longer lived with his hot wife in the Avengers mansion and was instead replaced with the perpetual loser from years past who was always broke, couldn’t pay his rent, couldn’t get a girl, couldn’t hold down a job, etc.

Now, the new status quo wasn’t all bad.  We lost the marriage of Peter and Mary Jane, a story element I adored, but traded Spidey’s retractable stingers and organic web shooters for the return of classic story elements, like Harry Osborn and mechanical web shooters.  We gained a few new villains, like Menace, Screwball, and Mr. Negative; along with a host of villain redesigns.

What I didn’t realize before picking up the new storyline was that it did progress in these comics.   It’s just that, while Slott’s main plot point was to bring Peter Parker back to basics, he allowed the supporting cast to evolve in a big way.

Flash Thompson lost his legs…

…and became Venom.

Doc Ock lost his health.

Eddie Brock became Anti-Venom.

J. Jonah Jameson had a heart attack, lost his newspaper, and became mayor.

Curt Connors transformed back into The Lizard and ate his family.

All the while Norman Osborn was head of Hammer, the SHIELD replacement agency at the time.

Those story elements and others like them were what I gleaned enjoyment from at first.  As I read more, I came to enjoy the consistency in the writing style and the long term storyline goals built up over a number of issues leading to a big reveal.  This was supplied by Slott and his editor Steven Wacker.

Slott’s biggest strength is that, rather than tailoring the title to his own voice like many other modern writers would, he customized his style to stay true to the character of Spider-Man.  Keep in mind that this is the same chameleonic Dan Slott that wrote GLA, She-Hulk, and Arkham Asylum: Living Hell.

Here’s the kicker: I avoided Slott’s run for all of this time because I thought the back-to-basics approach was boring.  Now that I’ve read the books I realize that this was a five-year red herring!

As Slott took over as the sole writer of the title for the Big Time storyline, we had already seen Spidey start a relationship with Carlie Cooper and don the black suit.  Peter would soon wear a number of alternate uniforms and work a steady job at Horizon Labs.  Working as a scientist developing inventions inspired by his adventures behind the mask is a believable idea.  It suits Parker and reminds the audience of his character’s academic background.

Plot elements that were seemingly meant to take Spider-Man back to square one, were setting the reader up to be surprised by what is potentially the most exciting point in Spidey’s long and rich history.

Doc Ock has switched his consciousness with Peter Parker!  All sources point to the next storyline being one where he operates as Spider-Man in Peter’s body.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!  The status quo will inevitably shift back towards a more classic approach in the future, but its a welcome feeling to eagerly anticipate each new piece of the story.