So, somehow, in amongst all the sport this weekend, I finished up reading Dan Slott’s Spider-Man run. In three months I’ve read about 250 issues, give or take (can’t remember what number Brand New Day starts at, I skipped One Moment In Time and the two issues just before Red Goblin that are a Venom cross-over mini-event thing).
Overall, yeah, I really like.
I think I was at the Clone Conspiracy last time I posted anything. In fact I know I was because I ranted about how it’s not included in the Worldwide OHCs. I really don’t understand the logic of making all the tie-in parts of an event mini available separately, but only having the main bit available in a collection with said tie-ins. Anyway, I “acquired” it and read it and it’s decent enough. I think it suffers from marketing interference (rather than editorial) trying to make it the next Spider-Verse, when really it should have just been an arc in Amazing. A big, important one, but just a part of Amazing nonetheless.
Bringing back Ben Reilly as the Jackal was an interesting move. I loved the costume and the flashback issue really sells that change, as he’s basically repeatedly tortured death and comes out of it warped but still thinking he’s a hero. That said, I think the event could have been bolder with its result. It’s purposefully vague in the fate of a lot of the villain clones/reanimates, while explicitly showing all the nice people went back to death, which is fine, but I think having one of those allies come back - Jean DeWolff, Gwen or even Captain Stacy - would have been an interesting thing to do. I suppose it would have been hampered by Spidey being in an atypical status quo at the time, of being an imitation Tony Stark, so an NYC cop returning to life and their beat would have been hard to focus on.
The sub-Stark status quo worked for me too, because it’s obvious it’s never going to be long term. I saw a lot of moaning (and not just in the usual quarters that moaned about everything Slott did with Spider-Man, while seemingly still buying it) that it was just ripping off Iron Man and yeah, but that’s kind of the point. It’s, in a way, a deconstruction of the typical Iron Man concept, especially the slightly liberal idealisation of it - ethical businessman who funds lots of charities, uses his money to advance social causes and doesn’t take a big salary. Peter tries all that and… fucks it up, because he doesn’t have that killer instinct for business that Stark does. Stark’s a nice guy, does lots of great things, but he’s also a bastard and continually swallows up start-ups, creatively bankrupts himself etc to keep in business. Peter is far too willing to sacrifice himself to run a business like that and it falls down around him. Part of the reason that works is because it’s a situation he’s found himself in, thanks to the machinations of Doc Ock back in Superior, so it feels less like shitting on Peter, but him having to rise up from yet crap that life has thrown at him.
I was surprised how quickly Slott dismantled all the Parker Industries stuff though, as I thought with his run ending not long after, he’d have left it for his successor to deal with, but I guess he wanted to put all his toys back in the box to a degree and do his own reset of Peter’s life. Except the way he puts him back in the Bugle isn’t a reset but a new angle on an old concept, which Slott does a lot of in his run. I really like is that I don’t think Slott does any story where he undoes someone else’s work on a character, resetting them to their platonic ideal or classic status. Instead, he’s all about having a big new idea for them and moving them onto it, continually reinventing characters in radical ways, but knowing these are only ever going to have short half-lives. The epitome of this is with Doc Ock, who gets as much focus in Slott’s run as Peter really and goes through many changes, but they’re all ones that move him forward rather than resetting him. That’s one of the benefits of a writer having a long run like this, that characters can be allowed to change and develop for protracted periods without being continually reset to default every year or so for the new creative team.
Speaking of Ock and his changes, one of my favourite additions Slott made to Spider-Man is Anna-Maria Marconi. She’s such a fun character, totally on the ball with helping Peter as Spider-Man, amusingly genre-savvy in ways other characters aren’t at times. After the incredibly annoying Carly Cooper, Anna-Maria was a breath of fresh air.
Things start to fall apart a little near the end though. There’s the Clone Conspiracy kerfuffle. Venom Inc I skipped over and have no regrets about, though it plays heavily into Red Goblin, so there is a disconnect going from Worldwide 7 (the tpb) to that. It’s also completely up-ended by Jonah discovering that Peter is Spider-Man which is a huge event that happens in the B-title, Spectacular Spider-Man. There’s no time really for Amazing to address that, it just has to roll with it and it does interesting stuff with it (it’s not a development I’m sure I like, but I’m interested to see where it goes). I was completely thrown by it and had to look up when and where it happened online, which is not what you want. It shows the weakness of having multiple semi-autonomous titles running concurrently vs the Webhead and Big Time eras, when there was just one main book at increased frequency carrying everything. I’m sure Zdarsky’s run was great, but couldn’t it have waited til Slott was done?
One other issue with Red Goblin and the tail-end of Worldwide is that I’ve been increasingly ignorant of what’s broadly going on in the Marvel U, so I found myself a bit puzzled by certain things. SHIELD being dissolved after Secret Empire, for instance. Didn’t have a clue what was going on with the various Venom people after around Spider-Island. That’s not the book’s fault, admittedly, but it came up a few times.
My only real problem with Slott’s writing is that he has a tendancy to over-use phrases. This might just be because I’ve read 250 in three months, but he brings up the “great power, great responsibilty” mantra a little too often for my liking but the real kicker is the amount of times Doc Ock works the word “superior” into dialogue. It’s a bit overdone.
Still, that aside, I think Dan Slott’s Spider-Man work, and the Webhead era before, will stand up as one of the best eras of Spider-Man for a long while.